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CV & Interview Guide

Lilie Koningsberger Career Advice

How should I organise my CV and what content should I include?

Structuring your CV

The objective of your CV is to help you stand out from the crowd and gain you an interview either with a potential employer or a recruitment consultant. It should create a positive impression about you in the mind of the interviewer before you meet.

Some advertisements have significant response levels so the initial review of your CV will probably not last any longer than three minutes at most. Therefore it needs to be professional, business-like and easy to read; focusing on your key achievements. The covering letter needs to be clearly tailored to the description of the position and the candidate specification.

It is a good idea to split your CV into four sections: personal information, qualifications, employment history and interests.

Personal information

  • Full name
  • Full address
  • Telephone numbers (day/evening/ mobile - as appropriate)
  • Email address
  • If relevant, state whether you are eligible to work or need a work permit
  • Always include any language capability and state your proficiency (do not exaggerate your fluency, as an interviewer may decide to interview you in the language concerned).

Qualifications

If educated to degree level (or have a higher qualification) it is only necessary to briefly list earlier academic qualifications with appropriate grades. Any degree should have the name of the establishment from which it was gained and the level/grade obtained.

This section should also include any professional qualifications. Additionally, employers often look for any work related training - especially if it has led to a particular qualification.

How should I organise my CV and what content should I include?

Employment history

  • It is generally accepted practice to put your employment history in reverse chronological order and this section should include dates, size and scope of responsibilities and achievements.
  • Remember at all times that potential employers are looking for evidence that you can add value to the job and the organisation.
  • Give most space to your most recent job
  • If you do not work for a well-known organisation it might be appropriate to insert a brief description of the company and its business
  • Dates – it is only necessary to put the month and year of joining and leaving any employer. Your current position should be ‘to date’
  • State your title
  • Group your experience according to type of work e.g type of deal
  • Use short, bullet-pointed paragraphs to state the value of the deal, brief details of the transaction/key points of the matter
  • List specific project responsibilities/ involvement in projects
  • Do not leave out any period of employment for whatever reason - ensure that your time is accountable and that you can explain any gaps at interview 
  • Do not give reasons for leaving any of the jobs on your CV – it is far better to explain your moves in person at interview
  • Do not embellish your CV or be economical with the truth (i.e. overstating your experience or accomplishments) – you will be found out at interview
  • Salary information should be left off the CV but you should be prepared to discuss your salary with recruitment consultants at an early stage, so they know you are in the right range
  • Only use technical/professional jargon where necessary.

CV presentation tips

Do:

  • Restrict the length preferably to two pages, three at most
  • Keep lots of white space around the edges of the text making it clear and readable
  • Limit each text block to no more than six lines (3-4 is better)
  • Make headings clear and consistent
  • Use bullet points where possible
  • Include your name on each page, and number all pages
  • Make sure all events are dated, including qualifications and employment with both month and year
  • Make sure there are no gaps in the dates - if there are, provide an explanation
  • Proofread the final CV several times for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Don’t:

  • Make your CV double-sided
  • Use gimmicks or bind your CV
  • Enclose photographs
  • Include your personal mission statement
  • List irrelevant personal details such as names or ages of children
  • Enclose photocopies of references or school certificates
  • Make sweeping statements about how wonderful you are e.g. great with people etc.

How do I prepare for an interview?

Now for the interview

Congratulations – you have an interview for a potential role. The interview is your chance to impress and first impressions count. But a successful interview is more than meeting the requirements of the job description and a lack of preparation can let down even the best candidate for the job. Understanding the interview process will allow you to plan for each eventuality, to relax and to be yourself. Here are some pointers that can help you prepare and secure that all important position.

Know the company. Depending on the role, it may be appropriate to concentrate on their products/services, competitors and recent and future business growth. Review their website for relevant investor information and press releases on acquisitions/disposals, appointments, awards and events. Also look at their blogs and social media sites if applicable. Trade publications may also be helpful. Speaking to anyone you know who works at the organisation will also give you an edge.

Check if they have a careers section or video content which may give you information about their values and culture. It will certainly tell you how they want to be seen by prospective employees.

Do you know where you are going? Check the address and save it in your phone. If you don’t know the area and can’t find it  on Google maps, call your consultant for directions. Give yourself lots of time and aim to arrive 10 minutes early, particularly if you relying on public transport.

Do you know who you will be meeting? Check the profile of the interviewer via the organisation’s website and Google.

Call your recruitment consultant at least the day before, and get a briefing on the job including who you are seeing, and go through any job description. They should also be able to help you with the type of interview, the personality of the interviewer or with any other information that you may need.

Make sure you know what is in your CV. It is important to be able to discuss any aspect of your CV such as why you studied a particular course at university, or the part that you played in a particular project/deal (also make sure that you can discuss any overall business aims). Make sure you remember any relevant dates or qualifications.

Ultimately the interview is a two way street. As well as ensuring that you ’sell’ yourself to best effect, you should also be considering questions for the  interviewer  on  aspects of the role, such as prospects for career development and the corporate culture.

Think about the questions that you are likely to be asked, since some of these can be quite predictable.

How should I conduct myself at interview?

First impressions are vital so make sure that you are dressed smartly in a business suit (even if casual/ ’dress down’ is allowed).

Remember that it is not just your experience and skill set that is being examined at an interview but also whether you will fit into the organisation’s culture.

As well as trying to be yourself it is important to remember these do’s and don’ts:

  • A firm handshake and an engaging smile are vital.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout. Looking around the room and avoiding the interviewers’ eyes gives a bad impression.
  • Be to the point and answer the question succinctly. Be aware of rambling in your answers. Stop talking when you have answered the question.
  • Don’t fidget and be aware of your body language throughout the interview and at the same time monitor your interviewer’s body language. This may give you a clue as to how you are doing e.g. if the interviewer is looking bored or restless perhaps you are digressing too much!
  • Do not overly criticise your current employer (despite the fact that you are looking to leave).
  • Do not reply to a question with monosyllabic ‘yes/no’ answers
  • Be positive and enthusiastic about the role for which you are being interviewed. Any reservations you may have should wait until you have received the offer and/or discussed it with your recruitment consultant
  • Do not mention salary in the first interview unless expressly  asked. Try and leave salary discussions until later interviews
  • Always ask questions if you have the opportunity to do so. Some question examples are on page 8
  • Do not say anything that cannot be supported by examples
  • Be natural. If you obtain an offer by acting then you’ll have to ’act’ for the duration of your employment
  • Respect the interviewer, even  if they are a relatively junior. Do not be overconfident because first interviewers will often have the power to say no
  • They will  often  be  judging  not only your technical ability, but also whether they would feel comfortable putting you in front of clients, so be professional, friendly and succinct.

Video and telephone interviewing

As well as many of the points made on the previous page about how to conduct yourself at interview, there are a number of general guidelines which may be of use to you if you are having a video conference or telephone interview.

  • Noises that you may not notice in a face-to-face interview can become distracting in a video conference. Avoid tapping on a desk or shuffling papers. If on the phone, keep your CV and any supporting documents to hand, but try not to shuffle with them
  • Clear the room – evict the kids/ parents/pets. Ensure the room is quiet and close the door
  • Have a pen and paper handy for note taking
  • Do keep a glass of water handy
  • Be natural. Try not to move around too much. You will come across as far more confident and relaxed if you remain fairly still rather than nervously shifting in your seat
  • Look directly at the monitor as often as possible when speaking. Be yourself, speak naturally and think of the participant at the other site as being across the table from you
  • Smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice
  • Speak slowly and enunciate clearly
  • Take your time; it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts
  • At the end of the interview thank the employer for the interview. Hit the mute button and leave the room.

What questions could I be asked?

These are all deliberately ‘open’ questions, in other words you cannot answer them with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

  • Why do you want to leave XXX organisation?
  • Why are you interested in joining YYY organisation?
  • What will you miss most in your current position?
  • What types of people do you work well with/not work well with?
  • What would you say have been your greatest successes in your current position?
  • What would you have done differently in your current position? 
  • Give us examples of how your management style has been effective?
  • What have you learnt over the course of the last 5 years?
  • What have you done that shows initiative in your current position? 
  • How would your team describe you?
  • What are your career goals?
  • How are you at prioritising? 
  • Give examples of your delegation skills?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is the most difficult thing you have ever done at work?
  • Will you be available to travel during the week?
  • What would your colleagues say about you? 
  • What do you think your current firm will do when you resign?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What salary are you looking for?

If you are interviewing for an international vacancy, you may also be asked:

  • Why are you looking to move overseas/ to this location?
  • How long do you see yourself here for?
  • How quickly can you relocate?

What questions could I ask?

These are examples of some great questions to ask at an interview:

  • Why has the position become available?
  • What is the culture of your organisation?
  • What is the policy of your company on training and development?
  • What are the future plans of the company?
  • Who do you regard as your main competitors?
  • What type of employee is historically successful in your company?
  • How do you appraise the performance of your employees?
  • What would I expect to be involved in during my first 3/6/12 months?
  • What are the long term prospects for the successful applicant?
  • Ask about the interviewer’s background. People always like to talk about themselves and this gives you the chance to gather your thoughts.

How should I close the interview?

It is important to leave the interviewer with a positive impression - thank them for the opportunity to meet with them and for their time. If you are still interested in the position make sure that they know. If they ask if you are interested, don’t say “I’ll think about and get back to you”. Be positive and say yes.

Immediately afterwards, note down your thoughts on the interview and any questions that you might have while they are still fresh in your mind.

Call your recruitment consultant as soon as you can with honest feedback. The sooner you do this, the sooner they can speak to the organisation to find out what they are thinking.

At all times stay in touch with your recruitment consultant who should relay positive or negative feedback. They will prepare you for the next meeting and give you help and advice at all stages. Remember that recruitment consultants will be highly experienced in the complete recruitment life cycle from interview through to offer, acceptance/rejection and resignation. Use all their knowledge and experience to help you make the most of the recruitment process.