CVs and Interview Techniques

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Getting Ahead: CV and Interview Techniques

CVs

  • Quality not quantity Keep CVs to no more than 2 pages long. Leave out information which is not relevant to the role you are applying for. Use a cover letter to expand upon points relevant to the role at hand (keep this to around a page). Any longer, and the assessor will get bored.
  • The basics It sounds obvious but do make sure to include relevant details such as name, contact number and email address. Beyond these, it is up to you whether you want to include details such as your age or address, many people choose not to, especially if the job you’re applying for is in another city!
  • Check, check and check again! Poor spelling and grammar will put a potential employer off. If your English isn’t great, use spell-check and get a friend or family member to read over it before you send it.
  • Layout Print your CV off and see what it looks like on paper. It should be clean and simple, but not too boring. Avoid graphics/colours unless you’re applying for a job where an eye for design is required.

Personal Statement
This is a statement at the top of your CV which sells you in a couple of sentences and makes it clear what your career aspirations are.

Skills-based vs Chronological
There are 2 main types of CV. Chronological is when you list your work experience in chronological order and skills-based is when you list your most relevant skills and experience. Chronological is usually the most common, but skills-based is useful when you have a lot of work experience that isn’t relevant for the role you’re applying for.

Your CV should change for every role you apply for. Research the organisation. Look at the skills and experience asked for in the person specification and ensure that you address each one directly.

Speculative applications
These are CVs and covering letters sent out to organisations which haven’t advertised a vacancy. You won’t have a person spec to work to but if you research the organisation and think about the kind of role you would want to work in, you can still list your relevant skills and experience.

Interviews

  • Do your research Know the organisation’s aims and mission statement. Be able to summarise what you know about them and explain why you want to work for them.
  • Be familiar with your CV/application, they may well ask you to expand on things you’ve said.
  • Dress smartly No matter what the job is, dressing smartly for interview shows that you are keen. First impressions do count!
  • Eye contact, positive body language and a confident handshake can go a long way.
  • Think about the types of questions they might ask you and prepare answers for them. Thinking of good examples of team-work/problems overcome/leadership etc is a good idea as you can bring these up in the interview where relevant.
  • Know yourself Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and particular areas of interest will help to create a positive impression.
  • Smile! Be positive, enthusiastic and speak clearly (no mumbling!)- which can be hard when you’re nervous, but you want them to envisage you as someone they would like to work with.

Finding out more

The Guardian careers site has lots of useful information, including forums, CV clinics and regular Q&A sessions.

If you’re a student or graduate, make use of your university careers service. If not, ask your local library whether they offer a careers service.

Use the internet! Googling ‘Common interview questions’ for the career of your choice can bring up some useful results.