This page is intended to give you some guidance on writing your CV and preparing for job interviews. It’s not intended to be prescriptive – they are only suggestions. We are always happy to talk you through CV and job interview techniques in person, but these guidelines should be a good starting point.
Preparing your CV
It’s important to give your CV some thought and spend some time on getting it right. A well-presented CV which clearly details your skills and experience can make all the difference in getting the job you really want.
Your CV should be between 2-3 pages in length and include the following sections:
- Personal details
- Employment history
- Education and qualifications
- Key skills/strengths
- Referees/references on request
Make sure your CV is well laid out so that it is immediately easy to read and understand.
- Use a standard font size, which is easy to read, such as Arial 10
- Keep it simple
- Leave plenty of white space
- Focus on information that is relevant to your own career goals
- Use concise, unambiguous sentences, avoid exaggerations and a flowery writing style
- Do not make false claims; honesty is always the best policy
- Use bullet points to highlight relevant skills and experience and to break up text
- Stress your past accomplishments and the skills you used to get the results you achieved
- Put your highest level of education first
- Put your most recent job first and work back chronologically in time
- Ensure all dates are accurate and include months as well as years
- If you are making a career change, stress what skills are transferable to support your new career objectives
- Explain any long career gaps such as travelling or maternity leave. These will need to be explained to our clients
- Keep to the same tense
- Customise your CV for specific vacancies by focusing on previous experience or skills that are relevant to the role
Most importantly, always thoroughly proofread your CV or ask someone to do it for you.
Job interview techniques: General hints and guidelines
It is important before a job interview to think about all the reasons why you are attending and what you have to offer the organisation. Be ready to discuss both short and long-term career goals in general terms.
Gaps in CVs
You will also need to explain gaps in employment. If you worked in a temporary capacity but haven’t put it on your CV, remember the details of which companies you worked with, what you did for them and the length of the assignments. If you did not work but were searching for a job, give some examples of the research you did regarding job opportunities and the process you went through to find a position.
Reasons for leaving
Prepare to discuss the reasons you left your previous job(s). If it was for a better opportunity, explain why it was better. If you left involuntarily, present the reason in the most positive light you can. Make sure your responses are honest and be positive.
Research the job
Before attending any job interview it is vital to research the organisation and familiarise yourself with the following:
- Size of organisation, number of employees
- History: how long have they been operating? Do they have any affiliated organisations or belong to an umbrella group?
- General information about their services/products/aims
- Major competitors or other organisations operating in the same field
- Job description – understand the skills required for the position
- Relationship between the open position and other members of staff. Try and get a sense for the department
It’s a good idea to prepare some well thought-out questions that would help further your understanding of the organisation, for example: ‘How will the organisation be affected by the new legislation on xyz…’ or ‘How do you see the organisation developing over the next three years?’ Ensure that you also have questions that relate to your contribution to the organisation and its goals. Make sure that you tell your consultant how you thought the interview went and whether you would be interested in the job if it were to be offered to you.
What is the employer looking for?
Employers use interviews to confirm that an applicant has the required knowledge, skills and willingness to contribute and fit into the organisation’s culture. They also want to see if your career goals are in line with opportunities available with their organisation. They are looking for the potential in prospective employees to become valued, trusted and productive team members.
Think about how you can display your skills and experience in a good and honest light and provide employers with the evidence that you are the right person for the job. Here are some brief points to consider:
- Are you a self-starter, able to work without constant supervision?
- Can you be depended upon in critical situations and follow work through to completion?
- How do you cope with working under pressure?
- What drives you to want the job and why do you want to work for this organisation in particular?
- Can you manage your time effectively?
- How do you structure your day’s work?
- How do you handle sudden unplanned work or crisis?
- Can you handle constructive criticism in a productive manner?
- Are you objective in evaluating yourself and others?
- Can you work well with a variety of people?
- What would you do to help a team of people work together better?
Recruiters look for an objective analysis of your abilities. They want to know about your strengths and where they have been demonstrated. They also want to know about your weaknesses, and what steps you could take to improve.
Points to consider throughout the interview
- Be prepared with answers to the standard job interview questions. Rehearse your answers with a friend who will give you honest feedback about the content of your answer and body language
- Aim for clarity, brevity and above all, honesty. Give honest answers with a positive tone
- Concentrate on the employer’s needs, not yours
- Emphasise how you can help the organisation achieve its goals
- Describe your past responsibilities and accomplishments
- Explain why you approached projects in a certain way
- Explain how the skills you bring will benefit the organisation
- Explain your past successes; the more you can clearly describe the experience, the people involved, the challenge and the solutions, the more you’ll stand out in the interviewer’s mind
- Don’t downplay your accomplishments or attribute them to luck
- Be specific with your answers. Avoid rambling or going off on a tangent
- Ask for clarification if you are unsure of the question
- Take responsibility for communicating your strengths. Don’t rely on the interviewer to pull it out of you
Types of job interview
There are several different types or styles of job interview that you may come across. It is important to remember that no two job interviews are the same and you can always improve your interview style and preparation.
The traditional job interview – sample questions
Following is a list of questions that may arise in a more traditional job interview. It is a good idea to reflect on the sort of answer you might give, but it is unwise to memorise answers as you risk coming across as unnatural. It’s a good idea to back your answers up with examples taken from your own work experience.
- Why do you want this job?
- What qualities do you think this job requires?
- Why do you want to work for this organisation?
- What have you got to contribute?
- What can we offer you that your previous organisation couldn’t?
- How long have you been looking for a new job?
- What do you know about this organisation?
- What interests you about this organisation?
- What are you looking for in a new job?
- What sorts of jobs are you considering at the moment?
- What did you do on a day to day basis?
- What do you not like about the job?
- How did you make a difference to your last organisation?
- What was your greatest success and how did you achieve it?
- What has been your biggest failure?
- How did you progress in your last job?
- How do you handle criticism?
- How do you work with others?
- Are you accepted into a team quickly?
- What motivates you?
- Are you competitive?
- What are you like under pressure?
- What are your career goals?
- How did you get on with your last manager/colleagues?
The panel job interview
In an effort to get a well-rounded perspective on candidates, many companies ask numerous people to participate in the selection process. You may interview with an HR specialist, the hiring manager, the hiring manager’s boss and even staff members who would be your peers. In small companies you may have to sell yourself to the entire staff.
- You will need to connect with each person. Make eye contact with the person asking the questions and glance at the other team members while answering to be sure that you are connecting with each individual.
- Be sensitive to the dynamics in the team. If they seem to want to control the interview, relax and flow with it. But be sure to offer information and ask questions.
- Take responsibility for ensuring that the group understands what you have to offer. Don’t be aggressive and take over, but do interact and show your enthusiasm.
- Each person’s opinion can be weighted equally; in some cases, just one team member’s opposition can disqualify a candidate. Sometimes it is unclear what role or position each person holds, so be respectful to everyone you meet.
The behavioural/competency job interview
The interviewer asks specific questions to seek information about a candidate’s skills, character and preferences based on examples of past behaviour. In this type of interview, questions are directed toward specific experiences. Here are some examples:
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person at a work.
- What proactive steps have you taken to make your workplace more efficient and productive? Specifically describe a policy, project or system you created or initiated.
- Describe a high pressure situation you had to handle at work. Tell me what happened, who was involved and what you did in terms of problem solving.
- Some situations require us to express ideas or opinions in a very tactful and careful way. Tell me about a time when you were successful in this type of situation.
The key in behavioural job interviews is to paint a picture of the reasons and thinking behind a decision or behavior, without bringing in unnecessary details. It is expected that forming an answer will take time, so think your examples through.
Be aware of the tendency to become too relaxed and reveal information that you didn’t intend to share. You need to do your part to foster the conversational tone, but don’t become so relaxed that you start straying from the point. Be friendly, but stay professional.
Questions from you
Try to think of some questions to ask at the interview. If you have done your research, you will be able to come up with some questions concerning the organisation. You may also like to find out more about your responsibilities in the role, the organisation’s long and short term aims, training opportunities and what they would hope you to achieve in the first six months.
Other things to remember:
- Find out what happens next in the interview process and express your interest (if you really are interested, that is!)
- Let your consultant know your feedback. It is important for us to know what you thought of the organisation, role and people you met and how you felt you performed. Please also let us know if you are interested in taking the job if it were offered.
For more information or queries regarding CV and job interviews, please contact one of our consultants on 020 7378 7068 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.