CVs

I see lots of people giving lots of advice on CVs…What to have on there and what not to have, CV cardinal sins etc and whilst they are generally helpful they all pretty much say the same thing. I think my own personal view is slightly different – here goes…

CVs do matter so you should put as much effort into it as you can. If you are not a person who is good with a computer or spelling then get someone who is to help you! 

The order of the information on the CV (to me) doesn’t really matter. Whether qualifications come at the end or the start or whether information is in reverse chronological or in paragraphs about core skills/attributes or greatest achievements. The main point to note is that the information you think is pertinent to that role, the information that you want to communicate is on there and is clear to read and/or extract. Over the last few years I have seen CVs in every shape, size and format – some conformed wonderfully to my OCD tendencies ie Nice font, all the same size, applicant not gone rogue with commas and apostrophes but then again others were very different!! Some candidates used lots of text and we’re VERY wordy, some used bullet points to present information in succinct bite size chunks. I’ve seen tables, I’ve seen CVs covered with numbers and percentages and CVs that came with photographs attached…I’ve seen them in all manner fonts and text sizes and lord knows what else but guess what?? These people all got jobs! I was viewing these CVs as the candidate had been successful in securing a position. Ok, maybe not the one with the photograph on (I believe that was a speculative CV) but yeah, most of them got a job. (Just want to point out here that I’m not saying don’t add a photograph – in some areas of employment I can imagine this is standard).

I mean of course there are things that you must have on your CV – Contact details are a biggie!! (I have seen them with out of date addresses and phone numbers on) And there are things you definitely shouldn’t do with your CV like tell massive porkers but isn’t that common sense?!?! I mean you will get found out & you more than likely will lose your job over said porker so why risk it?
Anyway, I think the point I’m trying to make is that we all know that a CV is a reflection of ourselves (whether it be over 2, 3 or 4 pages!) and we are all different so why should our CVs be the same?? If you have found a way to make your CV stand out from the crowds then I say go for it…!!  😀

Oh yeah and just whilst we’re on the subject of getting your CV to stand out……Heres a little trick I picked up from my step-dad. If you are loading your completed, all singing, all dancing CV onto an online recruitment site ie CV Library, Indeed, Monster etc then in small font at the bottom of the last page, make the text colour white so it can’t be seen and then add as many key words that you didn’t manage to work into your CV as possible – that way when anyone who is trawling that site using key words or phrases will pick your CV up much easier! Your welcome 😉

Job Interview – Part 2 (The Interview)

The day came of my interview and I had prepped myself to the n’th degree, I was ready!  And to be honest, I was more excited than nervous or worried.  I wanted to show the Company just how good I could be and showcase my skills in the best possible way. 

I set off in good time, I didn’t need to recce my route as I already knew where the interview was being held, (I would’ve done a dry run if I hadn’t been sure of the location).  I arrived at the Company about 20 minutes early and parked up, this gave me chance to read through the interview notes I had made before heading off to the reception to book in. 

I arrived at the Reception and gave the ladies on the desk the biggest smile and warmest hello whilst booking in, these people are often in good positions with Managers and MDs etc so it can’t harm to charm the socks off them.  The intern who came to pick me up to take me to my interviewers got the same treatment. 

After climbing a mammoth amount of stairs (thank god for the sensible shoes!) I arrived at the interview room and with my interview panel…that’s right, an interview panel of 3 people.  They all were Managers of various seniority and after the handshakes and introductions we sat down and got down to business.  I offered them my newest CV, they declined and I took out my notebook and pen to jot things down should I become flustered. 

Each Manager asked me different types of questions.  First set of questions were generic ie Tell me a bit about yourself? Tell me why you left your last job? Then the second set were Competence based questions ie. Tell me about a time you worked in a team? Tell me about a time when you checked your own work? And lastly were the more personal questions ie Why should we employ you? Why do you want to work for us?  Rather than try and baffle them with intricate wording and my wide vocabulary I just spoke to them, in my normal tone using normal English.  One of the questions they did ask was ‘What is my biggest weakness?’  Be as honest as you can without ruling yourself out of the job.  I said that my lack of experience with the Time Management System they use was mine, however, I informed them that I had researched Time Management Systems as part of my Preparation and understood the mechanics of it, therefore turning a negative into a positive.  I managed to get in all the pertinent points that I’d researched into the interview and I knew I would be memorable because of them.  My questions about professional development and the Redundancies went down well too. 

The interview flowed well with no awkward pauses and there were even times when we were laughing together.  When I walked out of the room at the end of the interview I knew it had gone well, I wasn’t arrogant enough to think ‘I’ve got it’ but I knew that I had given myself a really good chance of getting the job.  I was content with the way it had gone and couldn’t think of anything I would change given the chance, if I didn’t get it there was simply a better candidate.  They had informed me they would let me know by the end of the next day if I had been successful. 

As soon as I got home I rang the recruiter to let them know how I thought it had gone and then the wait began, that was probably more of a nervy time than the interview itself to be honest. 

The next day came and I was checking my phone every 5 minutes wondering why the hell they hadn’t phoned me, had I missed their call, had the signal dropped out and it had gone straight to answer phone?  Then the call came about 3pm, I felt sick with anticipation….I made some polite chit chat with the Recruitment Consultant and then he continued to tell me that the Company had been extremely impressed with me at the interview and wanted to offer me the position.

I’d got the job – I was so pleased that all the hard work had paid off, the hours of preparation, slogging away in front of the computer. 

PS  I start on Wednesday!!  🙂

Job Interview – Part 1 (Preparation)

I was called out of the blue by a Recruiter who had seen my CV online at cv-library.co.uk.  He explained that he was recruiting for a vacancy and he would like to put my CV forward to his client.  I asked about the role and he gave me a brief description of what I would be expected to do.  I decided I had good experience of most areas of expertise they were looking for and agreed for him to forward it on. 

A couple of days later I received a call back saying that the Client was interested in me and would like to call me forward for an interview.  I was ecstatic!!  At this point he gave me the details of the Company.  I immediately went online and had a look at both of their Company websites.  An industry leading International engineering firm – I was very impressed. 

I went out and bought a suit from Next, nothing too expensive but it looked good, smart, but the most important thing was I felt comfortable in it.  I bought a nice portfolio from Staples to house all my certificates in so they were presentable should my potential employer ask to see my qualifications.  I also placed an up to date CV in the front of the portfolio and some business cards I’d had made.  Shoes with a sensible heel and a professional looking bag topped off the look. I now had all the material things I needed.  All I had to do now was learn about the Company, learn about the job (especially the things I had no experience in) and practise those interview questions. 

The Company I was interviewing with was huge so I decided to learn a small part about where and when the firm originated and how they started out.  I then looked at what they do now and where they do it but just within the UK.  I also read and learnt their Vision, Mission and Values verbatim.  I would later align these points with my own personal Values & professional Mission when the ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ question if it came up. 

I then googled the Company to find out what else was going on away from the Company specific website.  Here I found out about some Charity/Voluntary work that the Company were doing in the Community and also about some current Redundancies that were taking place on one of their other sites in Daventry.  I would incorporate these finds into my interview to show that I had researched the Company on a wider level.  I printed all the useful information off and made a little interview pack that I could take with me and read over on the day just before going in.  I then re-read and re-read this information until it sunk in. 

Then I practised my interview questions using the STAR method.  This is a good format to use when answering competence based interview questions (ie Please tell me of an occasion where you dealt with conflict in your working environment?) as it helps you avoid rambling and enables you to provide structured, concise, relevant answers. It breaks down as follows: 

  • Situation  (What was the situation?)
  • Task (What needed to be done?)
  • Activity (What did you do?)
  • Result (What was the outcome?) 

I now just needed to put together some relevant questions about the Company that didn’t revolve around money or benefits and I was sorted!  I’d chosen to ask if the Company would support any professional development I wanted to do in the future and also if the Redundancies down South could move to the Huddersfield site.  I’d hope that these questions would show I was ambitious and that I was up to date with current affairs. 

Find out how I got on in my next post…..

The Telephone Interview

The phone interview…It’s no big deal, right? Easiest thing ever as I talk to people all the time on the phone, right? It will be a piece of cake, wont it? How wrong was I?! 

One morning I received a phone call from an unknown number, I always assume it’s a potential employer calling so I answered as clearly and politely as possible.  It turns out its a Recruitment Representative from Jet2 with regards to a vacancy I have applied for.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember the details of the post so I explained it wasn’t the most convenient time and asked them if it was possible to phone back in 10 minutes.  They were more than happy to oblige.  This gave me enough time to whizz upstairs, open up my job application spreadsheet, click onto the link to the role and have a quick read over the job specification.  By the time the Rep called back 10 minutes later I was completely clued up and feeling confident with my notebook and pen at the ready. 

After the initial pleasantries the Rep then got straight to it and started asking me a lot of competence based interview questions…What could I bring to the Role?  How would I rate myself on Excel?  What project work have I done in the past? I was completely unprepared.  I’d not done any prep on the Company or the role and it showed.  I was trying to base my answers on the job spec I had in front of me on the computer screen, trying to tell her what I thought she wanted to hear, it was all a complete bluff.  I could feel myself getting more and more flustered and found myself giving long winded answers that weren’t even relevant to the question – I was quickly talking myself out of the job by waffling!  

Once the realisation hit me that I was letting this amazing opportunity slip away, I somehow found it inside me, mid-telephone call to compose myself and just speak, normally.  I started to give clear, concise and short answers to the questions and even better, I provided examples of times when I’d performed certain tasks.  I was back on track! 

The call ended about 20 minutes later and in the end it had gone well but it was a big wakeup call that perhaps this job searching wasn’t going to be as easy as I had originally thought.  I had very nearly wasted a good chance of getting a job that I was more than qualified and wholly suitable for because I couldn’t get my act together over the phone.  After this event I did a lot of research on commonly used interview questions and pre-planned my answers carefully using examples of each competence to prove I was capable/experienced. 

I was called back a few days later and was informed I had made it through to the next round of screening.  On this occasion I was lucky, very, very lucky but I vowed never to be that unprepared for anything ever again.  The Military talks a lot about the 7 P’s – stick with em!

Applying for Jobs…? Get Organised!!

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The following post is about my experiences of applying for positions and a few things that I have found handy.

In the early days of my Resettlement leave I wasn’t applying for too many jobs, just the ones that I really fancied or a random one that sounded interesting or a role that was a bit of a stab in the dark.  So, as you can imagine it wasn’t too hard to keep a track of what I had on going.  However, as the weeks progressed and I came closer to my discharge date I was applying for more and more jobs and was worried about losing track of my applications.  Could you imagine being contacted for a position by an employer and not having a clue which role they were talking about?!  Not the most  impressive or professional way to start with a potential employer!

So, I decided I needed to be organised and made myself and excel spreadsheet with the details of all the jobs I was applying for.  This information was collated from the initial job advertisement and the receipt of application email normally sent.  My column headings were as follows:

  • Job Title
  • Recruiting Agency/Website
  • Recruiter Contact Details
  • Web Link to the Job (if applicable)
  • Job Reference Number
  • Salary or Hourly Rate
  • Date of Application
  • Current Status of Application

I filled this spreadsheet in religiously as I went along and even went as far as using colour for the status of the application. For example.  Red Cells if it was longer than 6 weeks since application or I had a rejection letter/email, amber cells if I had just applied for the position and green cells if there was some interest from the employer.  This made it then very easy to see where I was at with each individual application and also if the phone rang I could just hop on the computer and be completely happy with which position I was discussing and who I was discussing it with.

I also made a ‘Job Applications’ folder in my Professional email Inbox (you have made a separate professional email account right??) so that I could keep all my applications together.  That way as I needed certain emails they were easily and quickly located and I wasn’t trawling through hundreds of emails to find them with an employer/recruiter hanging on the phone.  And once that application was ‘redded out’ for whatever reason I could delete them.

I found that this system is simple and effective and it proved that it worked when I was called by a Recruitment Representative from Jet2 with regards to a position that I applied for BUT that is a different post all together!