11 or 12 point size, but headings can be larger, use bold, italic and underlineappropriatelyCAPITALS CAN BE UGLY
putting the CV together
sweet spot – middle of first page – should have your best aspects
get someone else to check it before you send it – especially if English is not your mother tongue
spelling and grammar must be perfect
never rely on spell check e.g. hobbit
never tell lies
everything on the CV must be true
not everything that is true must be on the CV
blow your own trumpet but no hyperbole
some signs of a bad CV
more than 2 pages long
poorly word processed or printed
section breaks over page
gaps in chronology
spelling or grammar mistakes
irrelevant, trivial details
employers’ pet hates in CVs
inappropriate e-mail addresses 35%
no section on key skills 30%
more than two pages 22%
decorative paper 20%
with a photo 13%
“I have a real passion for learning and I approach all tasks with great enthusiasm. I am a responsible and reliable student who is willing to work hard in order to develop my career.”
actual statement from a student on 72% overall
“I have a real passion for learning (obvious – you got a first) and I approach all tasks with great enthusiasm (where is the proof?). I am a responsible and reliable student (repeated what you just said in the first sentence) who is willing to work hard in order to develop my career (can you imagine someone saying that they are not willing to work hard to develop their career?).”
use the “not” test
I am a hardworking and honest individual and an excellent timekeeper
I don’t work hard, I’m not particularly honest and I am a poor timekeeper
but when might these three attributes be worth putting down?
sending CVs to employers
use original print hard copies not photocopies
send to named individual with cover letter
electronically use a PDF
grab the reader’s attention and interest
highlight the relevant skills and experience in your CV
show you have done your research on the job/activity and employer
demonstrate why you want to work for that employer
could be applying for a vacancy or speculative
writing the cover letter
no more than ¾ of a page of A4
addressed to a named individual
specific for particular application even with a template
written in formal business style
well laid out, clear and easy to follow
perfect spelling and grammar
good quality paper
cover letters are formal
written English is not spoken English written down
some words to avoid
don’t, can’t, I’d, Dad, shouldn’t, it’s (which only means it is!)
don’t start sentences with “and”, “but” …
typed, not handwritten but signed by hand if a paper copy
could use an electronic signature for letter sent by e-mail
short sentences each with a verb, subject and object
typical structure of cover letter
your address and the address of the company
subject e.g. professional placement/ job title
para 1 introduce yourself, what job you are applying for, where you saw it advertised
para 2 why do you want to work in this job/activity?
para 3 why do you want to work for this company?
para 4 why you are a suitable candidate, what relevant skills and experience you bring
you may not be able to view the whole form before you start
you may be required to complete the form in one go
you may get timed out of a page
options in drop-down menus may not be the choice you want
may not be a spell-checker
keep within any set word counts
likely questions to expect on application forms
why do you want to work for us?
show me that you understand the business/industry/job
what are your interests?
give examples of when you have had leadership positions or shown leadership
why are you the best candidate for the job?
what are your strengths/achievements/additional qualifications?
examples of working in a team
examples of problem solving
what have you learnt from previous jobs/work experience, volunteering?
give examples where you have provided excellent customer service
“the following questions are designed to encourage you to provide evidence of specific abilities”
analyse the competencies required by the company and think of occasions when you have used them
choose the best examples from all aspects of your life –education, employment, volunteering, interests not just coursework
use different scenarios to answer each competency question
keep your examples to the last five years
draft answers in Word and spell-check then copy
application forms - style
short, punchy sentences, no waffle
action: verbs in active not passive (improved, not was improved)
answer questions with evidence of your skills not opinions
your motivation should be what they can get from you, not what you hope to get from them
explain why you want the job and what you will bring to it
don’t use the word “I”
be truthful and positive - without exaggeration
typical competency question #1
“describe a challenging project, activity or event which you have planned and taken through to a conclusion. Include your objectives, what you did, any changes you made to your plan and how you measured your success”
structure your answer using STAR
task = objective
action = what I did
result = what happened
typical question #2
“describe a team in which you have worked with other people. How would you describe your contribution?”
structure of your answer
what skills did you demonstrate?
consequences of your actions
interactions with the team
typical question #3
“Describe your most significant non-academic achievement. Why did you regard it as significant?”
structure of your answer
importance of the situation for you
evidence of a goal
what skills/aptitudes have you gained from the experience?
typical question #4
“why do you want to apply for this job? What do you have to offer this role?”
sell yourself – but don’t hype!
know the work involved and have researched the company
self assessment of your strengths
think what contribution you could make to the aims of the business
some more examples
tell us about an occasion when you dealt with conflict. How did you resolve it? (100 words)
what is your greatest achievement? (50 words)
give an example of a time when you successfully led a team (200 words)
answering open ended questions
follow the instructions to the letter
plan your answer logically
right amount of detail
make sure the form explains
why you want a career in this area
how your skills, interests and experience make you suited to the job
“describe a situation where you had to negotiate to achieve a desired outcome”
“give us an example of an occasion when you have come up with a new idea or process”
“tell me about an occasion when you have persuaded others to adopt your course of action”
“describe a time when you have had to deal with a changed direction or deadline mid way through”
follow the STAR
what was the situation in the example?
what was the problem, goal or challenge?
what action did you take
be specific about your role
what was the outcome?
what would you do differently next time?
example of a
role specific competency question
for a role in customer services
“describe a situation where you had to deliver excellent customer service.”
hard questions (actually asked!)
if you were to win £1m what would you do with the money?
what do you think is the most useful function in Excel?
what is it about this job that you would least look forward to?
tell me about a time when you failed at something
how would you explain Facebook to your Grandma?
what have you done in the past to get out of a tricky situation?
what do you mean by “leadership”?
who is your biggest hero?
do you think the quality of our menswear products is as high as our home department products?
by what criteria do you judge your own performance?
what are your weaknesses?
how would your friends describe you?
where do you want to be in five year’s time?
what makes you get up in the morning?
obscure questions (actually asked!)
how do you fit a giraffe in a frig?
would you rather fight a horse sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
why is 99% not good enough?
how many ways can you get a needle out of a haystack?
in a fight between a lion and a tiger, who would win?
at least as important as verbal
firm handshake and genuine smile
appearance – neat, clean, polished
make and hold eye contact with the interviewer
confident tone of voice
speak clearly, measured pace and project your voice
sit with an alert but relaxed posture
first impressions count – the first five minutes are crucial
your questions for the interviewer
always have some interesting questions ready
do your research on the company – especially recent news
who, which departments would I be working with?
how do you see the company developing in the future?
what is the best thing about working here?
don’t ask about questions already answered in material sent to you e.g. pay, holidays
performing in the interview
keep calm, slow down
don’t fill the silences
never be derogatory – be positive
have answers to the obvious questions ready
give evidence for any assertions you make about yourself
positive body language
sit up straight, smile
try not to fold your arms or cross your legs
look at the interviewer
common causes of rejection at the interview stage
examples all from the same part of your life
not enough detail
too much detail
verbose, vague or woolly answers
not answering the questions asked
not convincing as to why you want the role
mumbling and muttering
poor body language
Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?
“Yes. I had a temp job over the summer and my boss was away a lot, which meant I was basically expected to do her job as well as mine, and I was completely overloaded with really boring, mundane tasks. I posted something about the situation on my Facebook page and got the sack.”
what is wrong with this answer?
how could the question have been answered?
a better answer
“I had a summer office job and my boss was away a lot. That meant that I had to take responsibility for her work as well as mine, which gave me a lot of interesting experience. However I also had to do my own job and there was no extra support, so I was working late most evenings (without extra pay) and occasionally at weekends. I eventually found it too stressful and decided to leave. But I learnt a lot from that experience about managing time and the need to prioritise.”
end of the interview
thank them for seeing you
remain confident throughout
reflect on and learn from the experience – what went well/less well, what will I do next time?
note any difficult questions
ask for feedback if you get rejected
be flexible in arranging a time
take the call in a quiet room, no interruptions, table in front of you with paper and pen