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 (I have seen them with out of date addresses and phone numbers on) And there are things you definitely shouldn’t do with your CV like tell massive porkers but isn’t that common sense?!?!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 😉

Interview as an internal candidate…

So the time has come when my 12 month fixed term contract is almost at an end (just over 3 weeks to go to be precise) and I essentially need to be looking for another job.

Now I know that you might be thinking that I have left it too late and potentially I have but I just don’t feel the same level of anxiety about maybe being jobless that I did when I left the Army. Rightly or wrongly I am quietly confident in my own knowledge, experience and ability to believe that I will get a job when I start applying.

 In the mean time the position that I have been employed in for the last 12 months has now been added to the Company headcount but to ensure fair process the job had to be advertised, hence I have essentially had to apply for my own job! So ok, it’s not exactly the same role – there are new responsibilities added into the mix but the bulk of the role is what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months. So, like any other applicant I filled out the application form, revamped my CV and submitted them to my current manager. The deadline passed and thankfully I was invited to an interview.

 Interview day came and strangely I found that I was more nervous than I was for the initial interview. The interview panel consisted of my current team leader, my current supervisor and an employee from Corporate recruiting who I have sat opposite for the last year – all people I know not only professionally but personally and socially. I decided to play it as professionally as I could given that I knew everyone on the panel as friends not only as colleagues. I did the same amount of prep, wrote notes, took all my certificates etc exactly as I did the first time. The interview started a bit tentatively for myself but as I noticed my voice wobble after question number one I kind of just told myself to ‘get a grip’ and that ‘I knew these people and not to panic!’ One of the biggest difficulties I faced came when answering their questions – I knew that my Team Leader and Supervisor know what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months because they have been there doing it with me but you HAVE to act as if they don’t and tell them all the necessary details as if they are total strangers. There was also the reluctance to ‘blow my own trumpet’ about things I’d done to my current Managers for fear of sounding arrogant….but I blew it anyway!! After a few questions I felt myself (and them) relax and the interview began to flow. It lasted an hour and half and I felt relieved when it was over.

 I still haven’t had the outcome of the interview so can’t say it went fantastically, the interview could’ve gone terribly for all I know but I didn’t get that vibe…even if I haven’t got the job I know that I did my best and I just wasn’t the right person for the job.

 Another part of the situation that was bizarre and another first for me was that the only other applicant / interviewee for the position was my best friend in my team and we both knew each other were applying from the off. It wasn’t like in the Army where they keep everything a secret from you and you have to keep it from each other – we had complete transparency. It was initially a bit awkward between us but we’re both grown ups (just about!) and after a little chat one lunch time about it all was normal with us again…The fact that each of us genuinely wanted the other to do well was probably the main reason for that.

 All in all it was quite a unique experience that I’m glad I’ve gone through.

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…..

Applying for Jobs…? Get Organised!!

Image

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!

Recruitment Consultant Interview – Wed 29 May 2013

Approx 6 months before I was due to leave the Forces I started looking at Recruitment Agencies that found work specifically for Human Resources people like me! 

Using the internet I found Agencies local to where I intended to settle that found work for Human Resources professionals.  I sent emails with a detailed covering letter and Generic CV attached to them all and waited for them to get back to me.  After a little while the Companies all got in touch one way or another.  Some gave me brief phone interviews asking my experiences, what I was looking for in a job and just generally getting a feel of who I was and one Agency asked me to go and have an interview. 

I was a little bit nervous before my interview as I didn’t really know what to expect.  I wasn’t sure whether to go suited and booted or just smart/casual but I opted for the smart/casual.  With regards to everything else, I decided to  treat it like a job interview.  I set off in good time to give myself time to get parked and locate the Office.  I arrived about 15mins before my interview which although it was probably a little too early it worked out well as the Receptionist handed me a stack of forms to fill out and he also needed to copy my proof of ID, proof of address and NI Number. 

When the Recruitment Consultant came out I stood, shook her hand and introduced myself.  We then sat down and we started discussing what I was looking for with regards to work.  Full time, Part time, Permanent, Fixed Term etc  This is where you need to be forthright, put all those years of humility and self-deprecation behind you and tell them exactly what you want otherwise they are going to be matching you to jobs that you don’t want to do.  It wastes your time and it wastes their time so it’s best to be as direct as possible right from the off.  The Consultant also asked for a copy of my CV and a list of reference so ensure you have these with you.  I also took my portfolio of Qualification certificates with me should they wish to see them/make copies.  The Consultant was also very interested to hear details of my previous employment i.e. Individual jobs/positions and what the roles and responsibilities entailed which made me thankful I had prepared for this prior to the meeting. 

After being in there for just under an hour the meeting came to an end.  The recruitment consultant seemed extremely happy with me and as I was leaving informed me that she would be marketing me to her clients as a ‘Start Candidate’ due to my Qualifications and Experiences.  I walked out of the Office and I felt fantastic.  After 13 years of only being told you were any good at appraisal time it felt very strange for this stranger to be heaping praise on me, telling me how employable I was and that Companies would be fighting over me it was a very different experience. 

Now that the interview is over I don’t intend for that to be it, to sit back and rest on my laurels.  I plan to phone back weekly so I’m always at the forefront of their thoughts should that perfect position come in!!