How to Write a CV or Resume, Find a Job and Ace the Interview
Writing a CV
How to Write a CV
The first thing to remember is that recruitment is NOT a screening-in process, it's a screening-out process, so when you write a CV it needs to be good. With more than enough applicants for every role, recruiting managers are looking for reasons NOT to interview you, so don't give them any.
Your CV is your marketing tool and it's pretty much all they're going to know about you. If it's not on there they'll assume you don't know it or haven't done it. So here's how to write a great CV and get to the top of the pile.
- Use bullet points on a CV. Make it easy to read. Nothing puts a potential recruiter off more than pages and pages of prose. It makes picking out the key skills difficult so why bother if the other CVs are so much easier to work with?
- How long should my CV be? Absolutely no longer than 2–3 pages max. By all means write a CV that goes on for 5+ pages, but understand it's unlikely anyone will ever read past the first 2.
- What font should I use on my CV? Keep the font to something easily readable like Arial and try not to go smaller than font size 11.
- What do I write on my CV? Highlight your skills, don't just regurgitate your job description. For example: "Responsibility for maintaining spreadsheets" becomes "Skilled in the use of Excel, including the creation and maintenance of databases."
- How do I tailor my CV? Your CV should be tailored for every job you apply for, and I don't just mean re-order your skills, I mean reflect the language of the recruiter in your CV. For example, appraisals may also be known as annual reviews, development reviews, performance meetings, etc. so when I submit my CV I'll make sure it uses the same language the recruiter uses so they know I'll be the perfect fit.
- Where do I put education and qualifications on my CV? If they're recent and relevant then stick them at the front, if not, it's OK to put them at the end. And DON'T write a massive list of every in-house course you've attended; "Attended a wide range of in-house courses to develop both my personal and professional skills" will do just fine.
- Do I include hobbies and interests on my CV? Try to include something interesting. "Socialising" and "Researching using the internet" are not going to impress anyone.
- Should I include keywords on my CV? Online recruitment sites use keyword search engines so here's how to get more hits. Somewhere in the main body of your CV (not headers, footers or text boxes) write out a whole list of keywords associated with your line of work, they don't need to be constructed into a sentence. Once you've done that shrink the font size to 1 and colour them white. Obviously, at this point, you can't read them but the search engines can.
- How much detail should I put on my CV? Back up your claims. Don't just say "Excellent organisational skills" what did you organise? "Excellent organisational skills demonstrated by the accurate management of the entire marketing scheduled for 2011" says so much more.
- Should I include a personal statement on my CV.? No-one's ever going to write "I'm a work-shy layabout and hate working in teams", so keep it short and punchy (2–3 lines) and focus on what you feel are your biggest selling points.
So Where Are All the Jobs Hiding?
How do I find the perfect job? Now you know how to write a CV you now need to know how to find a job. In the current climate, it's easy to think there are no jobs out there, but there are, so here are a few ways you can find them.
- Job websites. Obvious and easy, lots of jobs there but everyone knows it and is looking in the same place. Worth doing but good to find other ways to eliminate the competition.
- Local papers. Not just the jobs section, check the editorial. Has a supermarket just got planning permission to build nearby? Has a local business just won an enterprise award? Look out for any articles that indicate any potential for employment and get in ahead of the game.
- Build your network virtually. Online sites like LinkedIn are fabulous for building networks and I know of several successful recruiters who conduct their business entirely on there. Get your profile up to date and get some recommendations.
- Build your network face to face. Ask people, talk to people, tell friends and family you're job hunting, it's amazing who knows who and how often this method turns up useful leads.
- Should I use a recruitment agency? Get the price off your head. Recruitment agencies will charge prospective employers anything between 15% and 25% of your starting salary. Most organisations are trying to reduce costs so do a spot of detective work. If the agency website describes a "Top financial services organisation in the Preston area" then start searching for exactly that on the internet. Most employers will put jobs on their own websites and if you can apply via that route then you'll be saving them a lot of money and making yourself a more attractive prospect.
- Shop windows. Do you need to work for a large employer? If not check out some of the local adverts in newsagents' windows; many small local employers still use this route.
- What do you love doing? The outdoors? Working with animals? Write a list of all the possible organisations that are connected with something you enjoy and start trawling their websites for jobs.
- Volunteer. If you're out of work then there's no excuse not to do some volunteer work, even if just for a few hours each week. It will help you to develop new skills, give you the chance to meet new people and very often turn up connections that can lead to jobs. Plus it looks great on your CV, employers like to see people who've made an effort to keep themselves busy.
- Listen to local commercial radio. Many's the time I've been driving along and heard an advert from an employer looking to recruit.
- Who's bucking the trend? Even in a recession, there are many employers booming. Read the press, check the trade journals, find out who they are and go directly to their websites. Even local councils are still recruiting so check their websites too as they rarely pay to advertise elsewhere.
Acing the Interview
Interview Tips and Techniques
Now you've got an interview and of course, you're nervous, everyone is, so here are a few interview tips to get you through.
- I'll start with the obvious; do a dry run beforehand if you can, get there early and dress smartly but make sure it's comfortable—you want to be focusing on the interview not your painful new shoes.
- Do your research. In this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for not researching the organisation beforehand. I recently conducted 5 interviews in a day and 3 of the candidates had done no research, didn't understand the issues we were currently facing and didn't get the job.
- Think about your body language; firm handshake, smile, eye contact. When you sit down don't perch on the edge of the chair and watch out for fidgeting. When I'm nervous I fiddle with my bracelet and rings, but at least I'm aware of that and can control it. What are your nervous tics?
- Don't twist questions. You may not like the question but tough, it's been asked, don't twist it and give a different answer instead.
- Most employers these days ask "Behavioural Questions" which focus on drawing out examples of things you've done. For example "Can you tell me about a time when you've had to deal with an angry customer?" Before your interview, go through the job description and think of an example you could use for each bullet point.
- Take in an interview pack. In all my years I've only ever known of 1 interviewer objecting to this. It's an interview, not a memory test so take in a copy of your CV, the job description, an example of some research you've done on the organisation and maybe a certificate or 2 to prove your qualifications. Don't go over the top—just enough to let them know how seriously you're taking this.
- Focus on 'I' and try to avoid 'we'. You want to make it very clear to the interviewers what you personally have achieved. By all means, mention your team but don't downplay your role in it.
- Think of some good questions for them at the end, two or three should do it. "How will my performance be measured?", "How has the vacancy arisen?", "How is the department viewed by the rest of the organisation?" and "Are there any concerns you have that I could clear up?" are all pretty good and should impress.
- At the end thank them for their time and clarify the timescales. Remember to update them if any of your contact details have changed.
- Send a follow up thank you letter or email reiterating your suitability for the role—I've popped a picture of one below to give you some ideas.
- Good answers to tough interview questions.
With 17 years of experience in training interviewers, here's what they've told me they're looking for when they ask those tough interview questions.
- 20 Great questions to ask in interviews
It's the end of the interview and you've dazzled, but now the interviewer asks you what questions you have. You want to sound smart but your mind just went blank—so what can you ask? Here are 20 great questions to ask at the end of an interview - y
Over to you!
So there you go, now you know how to write a great CV or Resume and ace the interview. And there's so much more I could write! Let me know if you have any questions, I'll be happy to help as much as I can. And tons of luck with your job hunting!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.