CVs get stale. Like decor and 1980s sitcoms you may think all is still fresh, but when you look again – we mean really look – you find it’s time for change. So the most vital part of creating a killer CV is not settling for the CV you used last time. And the time before that.Take the time to give your CV an overhaul and you’re already on the way to creating a better impression.
How long should my CV be?
As a general rule of thumb, 2 pages of A4. Shorter is fine. One page of power is better than two of padding, but avoid stretching margins and reducing font sizes in a desperate attempt to cram it all onto one page. Longer, unless it’s a CV where you’ve been asked to describe specific experiences, probably won’t get read. It’s a CV, not an autobiography.If have to use two pages, use two pages – a 1½ page CV looks unfinished.
Is there a correct font for a CV?
No. Lots of research has tried to answer whether some fonts get better results than others and none of it is conclusive. Stick to something regular (Ariel, Calibri, Verdana are fine) so you know that your CV will render out correctly at the interviewer’s end, and keep font size nice and legible – 12pt is good.Whilst there’s no right font for a CV, there are a few wrong ones. Don’t use Comic Sans, Chiller or anything similar if you want your CV to be taken seriously.
What about layout?
Keep it simple. Spending hours on shading and boxes may look great on paper, but after it’s been sent through the email mangle things can start to look out of shape pretty fast.
What should I put in my personal statement?
A personal statement is your chance to set the scene – to show who you are, what you stand for and, crucially, the difference you can make to your prospective employer. Don’t simply rehash what will appear in the information that follows; show some personality, because it’s the one point in the CV where you can.A single para (or two short ones) should be more than enough.
How much career detail should I go into?
Employers want to know about your achievements. So concentrate on showing the difference you make/made, as opposed to listing ‘the stuff you do/did’. It’ll help you keep things concise too.
What order should information appear on my CV?
Put the most important information on the first page where it can make the biggest impact. As fascinating as it may be, your obsession with rock climbing/scuba diving/stamp collecting will be of less importance to a prospective employer than your career to date. Always start your career section with your current or most recent role first and work back. Be your own harshest criticIf there isn’t a reason for a piece of information to sit on your CV then get rid of it. Remove repetition. Edit out irrelevance. Try to find ways of saying more using less. And if your CV is still running to three pages, start removing the less important/less recent elements.Check it! If you don’t spot that embarrassing typo someone else will. Print your CV and read it slowly, out loud. You’ll spot more.
(so prep the answers in advance)
You can’t predict everything that will crop up in an interview. But you can predict more than you might first imagine. Plan and rehearse your responses to these questions and you’ll leave the interview free from those “I wish I’d said that” feelings
Tell me about yourself
This (or something very much like this) is usually the opening question, and it’s your chance to make a big impression provided you stick to this formula:
- Keep it brief (under 5 minutes)
- Cover the big, impressive, headline features of your CV. If you took your last business from humdrum to amazing in 6 months, don’t let it pass unmentioned.
- Follow the format of your CV (major roles/achievements; highest academic qualification; personal interests) but keep it concise. You don’t need to cover everything on your CV (that’s what your CV’s for)
- Be enthusiastic in your responses. How you say it is almost as important as what you say.
- Waffle, get side-tracked, or let the most important parts of your CV become tagged on at the end of 10 minutes of less important stuff. If you don’t consider your most impressive achievements worthy of a headline role, neither will your interviewer.
- Keep it detail-light. It’s your interviewer’s job to dig deeper as the interview progresses. They may ask for more detail at this stage. They may come back to it later.
What are your strengths?
Try and pick three and make sure you can support each with evidence. The strengths you select should mirror the requirements of the employer. So look at the job description, supporting information and the company website to identify the three strengths you possess that would make the biggest impact.
Try also to balance the strengths. Delivering results, man management and resolving customer issues suggests a more rounded, more valuable individual than a person whose strengths are all confined to, for example, product knowledge.
What are your weaknesses?
Some weaknesses are better than others. “I crumble under pressure,” or, “I just can’t close sales,” are weaknesses you’re probably best keeping to yourself. But admitting to needing IT training, for example, is a weakness you’ve already demonstrated a willingness to overcome.
Never, ever say, “I don’t have any weaknesses.” Your interviewer won’t believe you and it smacks of arrogance. Even if it is true.
Why should we hire you?
The perfect answer to this question is a mix of what the employer wants to hear with enough authenticity that shows you really mean it.
Look again at the job description. Think about why you want the job. The answer lies where the two intersect. When you answer, say it with passion. If you really want the job it should show in what you say and the way you say it.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
The interviewer is looking for that appealing mix of ambition, determination and loyalty, so talk about the sort of role you’d like to move into (within the company) and the development/experiences you need between now and then to get there.
Avoid any suggestion that in 5 years you’ll be working elsewhere.
Why do you want to work here?
Doing your homework is key to a successful answer. What does the company stand for (check the website)? What are its values? What opportunities does it offer you and how does what it offers match what you’ve said in your CV?
There’s no single right answer – the interviewer wants to know that you’ve given the matter some serious thought.
There are, however, plenty of wrong answers: “I just want to get out of my old job” and “The money and benefits” are phrases you should avoid at all costs.
What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
No one likes to brag, but somehow it seems easier when you can use someone else’s words. Think of the things that would benefit your prospective employer and try to provide examples that show a breadth of capabilities (eg one task-focused, one team focused, one customer focused).
What salary are you seeking?
Try to avoid specific figures as they can become rather restricting later. Talk in terms of salary bands, and if you do your homework beforehand you’ll know the sort of salary range your skills and experience can command.
Do remember that if you’ve put a salary expectation in your CV, you’ll need to stick to it.
The leftfield question
“If you were an animal what would you be?” “You can invite any three people from the present or past to your party. Who would they be?”
The point in these psychological profile-type questions is to explore your personality and examine your capacity for thinking on your feet. Bear in mind that your interviewer has heard answers to these questions a million times before, so avoid inviting the Pope, Nelson Mandela or Richard Branson to your party because they’re already busy at everyone else’s.
Choose interesting and different (in a controlled, sensible way) over safe and boring, and if you can link your answers to the requirements of the job, then so much the better.
You’ll find lots more interview advice here.
You’ve found a new role with a new company and only one thing stands between you and it: you have to tell your boss you’re leaving. And then something happens that you didn’t see coming. He/she offers you a raise if you’ll stay. Here’s why your answer should be “Thanks, but no thanks.”
If your boss thinks you’re worth the new amount, why weren’t you offered it previously? You may even have asked for a raise and been declined. If you’re being offered the money now, chances are it’s because of a combination of these factors:
- Your work won’t do itself
- Your leaving would cause disruption
- We don’t want you joining a competitor
- You were always worth more money – your boss was just keeping wages on a tight reign.
Money can’t buy it
There’s a reason you’re moving on. Perhaps it’s the 2 hour commute at either end of the day. Perhaps it’s the opportunities to advance. Perhaps it’s simply because you’ve been where you’ve been for too long and you need a fresh start. Whatever the reason, does the fact you’re being offered more money really change anything?
If you’ve done your homework, submitted the CV and gone to the trouble of passing the interview you’ve made an awful lot of effort to get this far. Don’t waiver.
Opportunities like the one you’re taking don’t come along every week. If they did you’d have taken one long ago. Yes, it’s flattering to have your ego massaged by the offer of a payrise, but this opportunity won’t wait. If you’ve committed to a new job, commit to it.
For further advice or to speak to one of the team, call us on 0845 319 6000 or e-mail us here