A little extra help

Consilium has produced a number of career guides to help you along the way; leaving you
to focus on finding the right job and being as well prepared as you possibly can be.

 

The perfect CV

To make your CV as effective as possible, think about what skills and qualities they may wish to invest in and why. You can then organise and present your information in a way that is likely to interest the employer.

Use your CV as a personal marketing tool. It serves as a platform from which to promote yourself to a prospective employer and, as your life is constantly changing and your career developing, it’s imperative that you update this information. The most effective CVs are those that are tailored or customised to a specific occupation or application – an employer will only spend 20 to 30 seconds glancing at a CV, so you need to highlight your main attractions at the beginning.

It is important to remember that ultimately there are no rules to creating a CV, only conventions and guidelines. You must decide what you want to include that will reflect your good points in relation to the job requirements. This article aims to clarify some of the main steps to creating your perfect fit CV.

To make your CV as effective as possible, think about what skills and qualities they may wish to invest in and why. You can then organise and present your information in a way that is likely to interest the employer.

Self-assessment

The first step in your CV writing process should be to assess yourself against the criteria of the role. You should have been provided with a detailed job specification – either upon request from the company or through your recruitment consultant. This offers you insight into the requirements of the employer and is your first opportunity to display evidence of your suitability to the post. By working through a specification and noting examples of when and how you displayed particular skills plus achievements, you create an application that highlights all the key points an employer is looking for.

Content

Make sure your CV is interesting to read and flows in a logical manner. Include personal details such as name, address, telephone number and email address. If you wish to include a personal profile, then it can follow on from these details. A personal profile is an optional paragraph but its purpose is to provide a short, punchy summary of your individual qualities. Through this you can clarify your career plan and highlight your key attributes.

Education and qualifications

This section provides details of your educational achievements to date, giving particular prominence to those most recent / relevant. It normally includes names and dates of attendance at school, college and higher education. It is often best to list your education and qualifications in reverse chronological order – and don’t be modest, give your educational achievements the glory they deserve! Don’t assume employers will know about your particular degree or qualification, be prepared to offer a description of what the course entailed and the training you received.

Skills, training and memberships

It is important that you include all your skills plus vocational training relevant to the role such as workshops & seminars attended. Specific software skills, applications and operating systems, plus details of any languages and level of proficiency should also be included.

Employment and experience

Details of employment, placements and even voluntary work should be included in a specific section of your CV. List positions in reverse chronological order and provide a brief description of the key tasks and skills you developed in each role. Include details of each employer, dates of employment and your own job titles. Use concise sentences or bullet points to save space and ensure the document is aesthetically pleasing.

Even if previous roles are not directly related to the one you are seeking, you can draw attention to examples of transferable skills such as: communication; financial awareness; flexibility; organising and co-ordinating; team work; initiative; supervising and time management. Never leave gaps – if you took a year out, or carried out interim assignments, then say so. It is also advisable that you don’t cite your reasons for leaving a job on your CV – keep it positive and leave this topic for discussion in an interview.

References

It is normal to provide the contact details of two referees. These could be one from university and the other from an employer, or if you have gained extensive experience since finishing full time education, could be from two previous employers. If possible, select referees who are appropriate to the specific job for which you are applying and always ask permission from the people you intend to include on your CV before you do so.

Presentation

The quality and presentation of your CV is vital when selling yourself. The appearance of your CV is an indication to a prospective employer of the type of person you are. The most effective way to present your CV is with bullet points, bold headings and underlining. These simple methods achieve a clear, structured, user-friendly style. Use headings and sections to signpost your reader to the information they are seeking. Be consistent in how you organise information, for example providing both educational and employment details in reverse chronological order.

Unless your experience spans a considerable number of years, you should try to make sure your CV is no longer than 3-4 pages although there are no hard and fast rules.

There are a few common mistakes people make when creating a CV: lack of care in particular can be heavily penalised. The importance of checking over your CV for spelling and grammatical errors cannot be emphasised enough. Ask a friend or family member to check over it too, as mistakes will not always be obvious to you.

 

Winning interview preparation

Regardless of the type of interview, most will incorporate the following stages: establishing rapport; exchanging information; and closing the interview.

The first part of the interview is crucial and can set the mood for the meeting on a positive or a negative. It is often suggested that a hiring decision can be made within the first five minutes of the interview. Listen to the conversational style of the interviewer. Is it upbeat and chatty or minimal and formal? Whatever their chosen interview style you should try to mimic this tone.

Smile and make eye contact to reassure the interviewer that you are engaged and interested and if the interviewer offers their hand, shake it firmly. Wait until the interviewer sits or offers you a seat before sitting down.

Throughout the exchange of information this is your opportunity to let the interviewer know what you have to offer. Make eye contact when answering a question and show enthusiasm about your background. Failing to demonstrate enthusiasm is likely to mean that your interviewer won’t be enthusiastic either. It is important that you are aware of your body language during the interview, avoiding closed positions and trying to relax. Your energy, interest and passion for the job will be enhanced by asking questions when given the opportunity to do so, separating you from candidates who depend on their CVs to speak for them.

Insightful questioning

When the interviewer has completed gathering the information they require and offers you the chance to ask questions, use this opportunity to find out further details about the job role and working culture of the company. Also discuss opportunities for job progression and investment in professional development. Typical questions are:

  • What are the company’s future plans?
  • What is the likely career development pathway in the next few years?
  • What possible training could I receive in this role?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?

All job interviews have the same objective, but an employer can reach that objective in a variety of ways…

Types of interviews

The screening interview is used to ensure that candidates meet minimum qualification requirements. Computer programs are among the tools used to eliminate inadequately qualified candidates and their purpose is to identify factors that might disqualify you from the post, so gaps in your employment history or pieces of information that look inconsistent will be questioned here. You must highlight your accomplishments and qualifications, speak directly and succinctly, and have vital information (previous experience plus skills acquired and an example or two of an occasion when you applied that skill) bullet pointed with you on notepaper to avoid leaving out anything important that will add to your personal value.

An informational interview is a meeting you initiate to seek the advice of someone in their current or desired field as well as to gain further references to people who can lend insight. During an informational interview the jobseeker and employer exchange information and get to know one another better without reference to a specific job opening. In order to be prepared, attend with thoughtful questions about the field and the company. Gain references to other people and provide the interviewer with your business card, contact information and CV. Afterwards send a thank you note/email to the interviewer.

The directive interview is a rigid format used to ensure consistency between different interviews. When interviewers ask each candidate the same series of questions they can more readily compare the results. Directive interviewers use their questions to obtain the information they wish to know. During such interviews, follow interviewer’s style, taking your lead from their conversational tone. If you feel you have missed out important points about yourself, ensure you communicate them where appropriate.

In behavioural / competency based interviews (depending on the responsibilities of the job and the working environment) you might be asked to provide an example of a time when you used a certain skill; what the situation was and how you dealt with it, etc. General questions like this would involve describing a time that required problem-solving skills, adaptability, leadership, conflict resolution, multi-tasking, initiative or stress management. To prepare, anticipate the transferable skills and personal qualities required for the role, review your CV, and reflect on the demands of the role to develop your own ‘stories’ that highlight specific skills.

The follow-up interview usually takes place to confirm the decisions of the interviewer. They may be having difficulty deciding between a shortlist of candidates or might require a second opinion before a hiring decision can be made. If you are meeting with the same person again you can focus on building rapport, understanding the company’s values and ethos and reiterating your confidence in your ability to do the job. You could also find yourself negotiating a salary package. In this instance, be confident and ask appropriate questions.

To close

Shake hands with the interviewer and thank them for their time. Follow up any interview with an email of thanks, showing appreciation of their time and reiterating your continued interest in the post. Finally, if your interview is unsuccessful, don’t take it to heart; aim to improve upon each time in order to increase your chances of securing the right position.

Handling the counter offer

You have successfully created interest from an employer with your CV, impressed them during interviews and negotiated a salary and benefits package that reflects your capabilities. You have received written confirmation of a job offer and have handed in your letter of resignation to your current employer.

So how do you prepare for the possibility that your resignation might be met with a counter offer from your employer who doesn’t want to lose the skills and experience that you have brought to your existing role? Whether it is in the form of a salary increase, additional company benefits or a promotion, a counter offer involves your current employer attempting to rival the one you received from your future employer to try to persuade you to stay.

When handing in your resignation, consider what will go through the mind of your manager. If they see your resignation as a dramatic inconvenience to them, the likelihood of them making a counter offer will undoubtedly increase.

Why counter offers happen

Reasons that companies make counter offers include: not wanting to have to fill a vacancy within the timescale dictated by your notice period; cost implications, such as advertising fees, agency costs, training expenses, etc that will be incurred as a result of your departure; organisation of necessary cover while a replacement is being sourced; the loss of staff reflecting badly on the company and affecting morale; and finally the time taken to bring a new recruit up to speed.

There are a variety of methods employers may adopt to try to persuade you to withdraw your notice: announcing their shock at your decision and insisting on a discussion about why you are unhappy; unveiling new plans for your current role that make it appear as though the new challenge that you have been seeking lies within their company; moving your annual pay rise forward; and even making derogatory comments about the organisation you will be joining.

If you have formed emotional attachments with current work colleagues, it can be even more difficult to make the move to another company and might increase the appeal of accepting a counter offer. However, it is important to remember that moving rarely requires ceasing all contact with the people you have formed friendships with. When considering a counter offer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did I need to look to another employer in order to satisfy my career progression?
  • Is an increase in salary really enough in the long term or do I need a new challenge?
  • Will my resignation be interpreted as disloyal if I decide to stay?
  • Is the counter offer a way for my employer to buy some time while they find a replacement?
  • Does the counter offer eliminate my original reasons for wanting to leave?

Rational thinking

Remember why your new position appealed initially and think about the opportunity you will be missing by accepting a counter offer. It might be that the position is just better for you – whether it is more pay, greater opportunities, increased training, a shorter commute, flexible working, international travel, project diversity, pensions, healthcare or other such incentives. There are many reasons that could prompt a move but the importance of each depends on you as an individual.

Handling Counter Offers

Think about the past, present and future. How has your current company performed and behaved with you? What are your prospects for the future? Then consider what you know about your potential new employer: Do you know anyone there? What has your research about the organisation revealed? These ‘intangible’ aspects of behaviour can be a significant determining factor when choosing a new company or accepting or rejecting counter offers.

It is a good idea to list the advantages and disadvantages of each situation and discuss these with someone whose opinion you value as you will need to make a decision about whether to accept or decline the counter offer. Usually the most suitable option for you will also be the most suitable option for your employer, whether or not this is immediately apparent to them.

Taking action

If you have been headhunted or are working with a recruitment agency then they will often advise on counter offers. They will be experienced at such tactics that may be employed by your current company and will know how to best manage them.

If you do decide to refuse a counter offer, ensure that you take charge of the situation. Thank your employer for the opportunity but reiterate your intention to leave. Deliver your written resignation to your manager in person, as this will help you to stay in control. Let them know that you have considered the merits of the two positions and have chosen the new one. State specifically that you neither seek nor want a counter offer and hope instead for an amicable departure.

If, after considering the counter offer, you do decide to accept it and therefore remain with your current company, it is important to remember that even though you have accepted, your resignation has not been forgotten. You will need to work to regain your employer’s faith and a good deal of effort will be required to recreate the trust within your company.

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