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REED recruitment boss: Top CV and interview tips

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Written by: James Reed
24/07/2020
It’s estimated that UK unemployment could reach 15% should there be a second wave of Covid-19 and as such, many people will be reviewing their CVs and preparing for interviews.

With so many more people on the hunt for new opportunities, what steps can you take to sharpen your CV and stand out from the crowd in an interview?

Avoid common mistakes

Employers look at a CV for just seven-seconds on average before deciding whether to progress with an application. Therefore, you must avoid any silly grammatical or spelling mistakes in your CV. It’s easy to miss them, so always triple check it and ask your friends or family to sense-check the document before you send it off.

The design of the CV should also be considered. Blind applications are now popular among employers, in which case a photo of yourself on your CV won’t necessarily be helpful, you could end up in the “no” pile before the seven seconds is up.

You should also avoid jargon or cliched answers, employers hate them. Try to avoid tired phrases and words, such as “team player” and “seeking a new challenge”.

Don’t discount previous experience

You shouldn’t discount your previous experiences – even if they are in a different sector. Many skills are transferable, although sometimes this fact isn’t always immediately obvious. A sales executive has much in common with a customer services manager, for instance.

The relevant skills you have learnt in previous roles, be they voluntary or paid, will be invaluable for any future position. You will have learnt more than you perhaps realise. Identifying these, highlighting them in your CV and tailoring your application to the prospective role is what you need to do now.

Show your personality

Don’t forget that employers will be assessing your character and personality as well as your experience when they are reviewing your CV. How can you make an employer who has already dedicated a large amount of time to reading CVs pick out yours?

Coming across as robotic is a fast track to the recycling bin. You shouldn’t be afraid to show your personality and outline how you would fit into the company’s culture – adding individuality into your application will help you stand out from the crowd.

Use resources

Knowing where to start can be daunting for some jobseekers. Why not use free online tools to help you draft your CV and cover letter? REED’s selection of CV templates will help with a range of formats available based on your current working situation, and the CV advice section is also useful.

Look to do voluntary work

Another way you can make yourself more attractive to recruiters is by undertaking voluntary work. These opportunities are fantastic for career building and will help to add a new dimension to a CV. There are many voluntary roles available, and if you take one on, you’ll have the added benefit of doing something worthwhile and fulfilling, while also boosting your career and CV.

Don’t be afraid to send speculative applications

Sending a speculative job application to a business that is not currently advertising a suitable role shows initiative and creativity, and gets you in front of the queue. But, there is a skill involved. You shouldn’t randomly send out your CV, instead, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the potential employer and design your CV and cover letter to communicate why you should be hired despite the lack of vacancies.

Demonstrate added value and show that you’ve researched the business carefully. Being able to demonstrate your knowledge of the business is priceless – it shows you are genuinely interested in the role and are excited by the prospect of the job.

When it comes to interviews, practice makes perfect

Never underestimate the importance of preparation. It is one of the best ways to master the interview process and quell any nerves, but it’s often overlooked. Anticipate common interview questions and prepare answers you can use. Practice these in person with a friend or family, and don’t get frustrated if you make any errors.

Don’t panic over curveball questions

Quirky interview questions are quickly becoming the norm in the recruitment process, and these can cover anything. Examples might include: “if you were an animal, what would you be?” and “how would you explain what a TV is to a person from the 1400s”. Understandably, given its random nature, quirky interview questions are the stuff of nightmares for many jobseekers.

But the only way you can go wrong on quirky questions is to seize up and get uncomfortable. Recruiters ask these questions because they want to see your personality, and therefore, you must show it to them. Try to have fun – there are very few wrong answers.

Research the format

Recruiters often use a variety of methods – from one-on-one and group interviews, to role plays, position-specific tests, and psychometric questionnaires. Each one requires a different type of preparation and will likely see different types of questions being asked.

Often, the format is outlined when a jobseeker arrives at the interview, but there’s definitely no harm in asking for further information ahead of time to help you prepare.

Despite worrying job losses caused by the pandemic, things are looking up. With over 100,000 new jobs currently available on reed.co.uk and vacancies increasing weekly, there are signs the economy is opening up.

There are live opportunities in a wide range of sectors that fit a variety of backgrounds, so don’t give up if your first application is not successful. Be patient, the right opportunity will come and, when it does, make sure you’re prepared with these handy tips.

James Reed is chairman of REED employment agency

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