Career Advice including interview tips and how to write a good CV.

To land your dream job you first have to secure an interview. Here we offer some advice on how to construct a CV that will assist you in being selected for interview and on how you should then prepare for that interview. We cover the most relevant “do’s and don’ts” for both CV writing and interviewing. It should be noted that this is not a definitive guide but we do hope you find it useful.

When applying for a job the quality of your CV and cover letter (if appropriate) are vital to securing an interview. If you don’t get it right you are unlikely to get the opportunity to present yourself face to face. Remember, an employer is possibly recruiting for several vacancies at once and potentially screening 100’s of applications in a week.  They want to find the information they are looking for quickly so they can put your application in the correct folder. You don’t want to land in the  “I couldn’t be bothered reading this because it wrecks my head” folder.  No, you want yours to go in the “Wow, this one clearly demonstrates suitability” folder.  Here is a basic guide for writing a good CV.

C.V. Layout

A CV should ideally be no more than 2 or 3 pages long.  Avoid over formatting with grids, boxes, etc. These can be difficult on the eye can often be corrupted when processed through an employer’s candidate tracking system. Word or PDF format is best. If you are applying through a recruitment agency, a word format is preferable. This will allow the necessary formatting changes to be made before they send it to their client. We suggest the following layout starting from the top down.

Personal Information

Include your Your name and contact details (address, phone number and email address)

Personal Statement

A good personal statement can be of more benefit than a cover letter since it is more likely to be read by the relevant parties.  Make it brief though, just a short paragraph about you– should not be longer than 5 lines of text. Provide a summary of your relevant skills, personal attributes and career objectives. For a specific job application, make sure it does not conflict in anyway with the role you are applying for. You can tailor the statement to suit a specific job but make sure you keep a copy so you are singing off the same hymn sheet at interview. Include any major career highlights if relevant.

 

Education / Professional Qualifications / Training

Dates, institution, name of degree / diploma / certification, a professional body membership.  If you have a third level qualification there is no need to go into too much detail about your 2nd level education. If you are a recent graduate you can fill this section out and include more details on final year projects, thesis etc. If you graduated some years back and you now have some serious work experience then this section is less important. You will need to leave space to showcase your experience.  By all means highlight anything of particular relevance to the job/company you are applying to but don’t offer excessive detail.

 

Employment History / Career History

Dates of employment, name of employer, job title, responsibilities, career achievements.  This should be detailed in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent employer first. Be specific about dates, don’t leave an employer wondering. EG. If you say you worked at Myjob.ie from 2014 to 2015, what does that mean?  Did you work there for 2 months (Dec 2014 to Jan 2015) or almost 2 years (Jan 2014 to Dec 2015)?  This may be an extreme example but trust us, if you are non specific an employer will be left wondering.


Other skills

E.g. Languages, computer skills, full driving licence

Interests / Activities

Do’s and Don’ts

The Do’s:

  • Make sure your CV is relevant and current.
  • Use clear job titles, detail your responsibilities and highlight your achievements.
  • Make your CV easy to read – use clear professional font, correct font size, headings and formatting such as bullet points, bold font or italics.
  • Be completely honest in your achievements, experience and qualifications.
  • Use power words where possible .
  • Spelling and grammar. Check, then double check and then get someone else to check.

The Don’ts:

  • There is no need to date your CV.
  • We do not recommend putting your photograph on your CV.
  • As mentioned previously, avoid using grids, frames or boxes as these can be corrupted when processed through candidate tracking software.
  • Avoid using jargon.
  • It is not necessary to attach references.
  • You should not include personal details such as your age, height, marital status etc.

Preparing for the Interview

Interview Preparation is essential! Once your application has passed the screening process, and you have been selected for interview, then you must start preparing.  The old adage “fail to prepare then prepare to fail” couldn’t be more true. Remameber,  great career opportunities don’t happen every day so make the most of them when they do.

Location: Know the exact location of your interview and how best to get there. Make sure you arrive fifteen minutes early in anticipation of any unforeseeable delays.  First impression is critical and arriving late is simply inexcusable.

The Interviewer: Check the name and job title of the person(s) you are going to meet. Research on LinkedIn if possible but be sure your profile is set to anonymous.

Dress code / Appearance: Regardless of the company’s working dress-code, remember this is an interview so you need to look professional and business -like.  Never wear jeans. It should go without saying but make sure you are well groomed and pay attention to personal hygiene.

The Position: You must thoroughly understand the role for which you have applied. Read the job spec carefully and research the company as much as possible. You should be familiar with exactly what they do and how and where they do it.

Plan your answers: Based on your research of the job and the company, prepare answers for topics that you think may be covered.

CV: Ensure you are fully familiar with your own CV and be prepared for specific questioning in relation to it. It is a good idea to bring a copy with you to interview.

Prepare questions for Interviewer: An interviewer will usually ask you (at the end of the interview) if you have any questions for them. It is a good idea if you have prepared some intelligent questions in advance. Do not ask about topics that have already been covered but do feel free to ask for clarification.  Avoid asking things which are irrelevant or obvious. Well thought out questions demonstrate an interest in the role and in the company.

Interview Questions

At each interview you will be asked about previous career experience, training, academic education & qualifications. You will also be asked questions related to your career goals and questions that assess your personality. For details of some sample interview questions visit the interview tips page on Bond Personnel’s website.

Do’s and Don’ts

The Do’s:

  • Switch off your mobile phone as soon as you arrive
  • Make a good first impression! Give a firm handshake to all interviewers and look them in the eye
  • Have confidence in yourself and your abilities
  • Let the interviewer know you are enthusiastic about the job
  • Take care to listen to exactly what is being asked and don’t rush your answers
  • Relax and speak calmly
  • When formulating your answers, bear in mind they should be relevant to the position
  • Refer to the job description and give examples of how you have demonstrated similar skills in your past experience
  • Discuss what you feel you can contribute to the company and the particular position
  • Have at least 2 intelligent questions prepared for the interviewers
  • Always thank your interviewers for their time and leave with a smile

The Don’ts:

  • Be quietly confident, not over confident.
  • Don’t stray from the point when answering a question.
  • Avoid simple Yes or No answers where possible, elaborate on your answers  and provide relevant examples if appropriate.
  • Under no circumstances should you speak negatively about your present or previous employers or colleagues.
  • Don’t ask about salary and benefits, particularly at first interview. If you are asked about your requirements you need to be careful not to position yourself “out of reach”. If unsure, simply state your current salary and package and state that you would obviously like to make an improvement on that but at the end of the day it is not the main driving force.

Post Interview

If you applied directly for the job (not through an agency) then don’t be afraid to  follow-up!  Warning! Don’t go over the top and appear desperate as this could frighten off a potential employer.  A short email/note thanking the interviewer for their time and reaffirming your interest in the position will suffice. If you applied through a recruitment agency it is vital that you follow up with them (not the interviewer) by telephone as soon as possible with your feedback, regardless of how you felt the interview went. They are the experienced professionals and may be able to allay any concerns you have with a quick call to the interviewer.

If you are called back for a second interview then stick to the winning formula.  Yes, you are one step closer to a potential job offer but do not go in thinking you “have it in the bag”.  It is most likely that the you will meet additional people and you will need to impress them in the same way as you did at the first interview. The same rules apply.  This is your opportunity to build on that success and also to make up for any areas of poor performance you may have had in the first interview.