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From CVs to interviews: what do the experts say?

Joanne Pickering, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) has experience of recruitment in a range of sectors. Here, she shares with us her advice from writing an effective CV to impressing at interview.

Your CV is your personal ‘sales pitch’

  • Your CV is your opportunity to sell yourself so make sure it really works for you. Keep it clear, concise and easy to read. Bullet points can help with this. Employers won’t generally have long to look at each CV they’re sent, so aim for no more than two pages in length.
  • List your experience in chronological order with the most recent first. Show the dates you were employed in each role, for example, Feb 2014 to present.
  • It’s good practice to provide a covering letter telling the employer why you are the ‘right fit’ for the role. This can also help the interviewer when it comes to short listing candidates for interview.
  • Above all, proof read! Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or ‘text speak’ in your covering letter or CV.

Don’t be afraid to make speculative applications

  • If there’s somewhere you’d really like to work, you could make a speculative application by approaching the employer to ask about opportunities that have not been advertised. You never know, they may have just the role for you.
  • Start with a bit of research on the company. If you feel they have roles you think you could fill based on your skills, knowledge and experience – why not send them your CV with a covering letter explaining your reason for writing to them? While they may not have any vacancies right now, they could keep your details on file for future vacancies.

Attitude matters as much as experience

  • While experience does count, a willing and ‘can do’ attitude can give someone a distinct advantage over another applicant.
  • The CIPD, for instance, encourage HR (Human Resource) professionals to ‘recruit for willingness, train for skill’. This is something a lot of recruiters will have in mind during the interview process. A prospective applicant, who shows a willingness to learn and develop, can often be trained in the skills required for the role.

Gain a competitive edge

  • If you get an interview and it comes down to a choice between you and another candidate, there are a number of factors employers will consider when deciding who to offer the job to.
  • You can gain a competitive edge by making sure you present yourself well, both in terms of looking smart, and having positive body language and the right attitude.
  • You’ll usually be asked at the end of an interview if you have any questions. It’s a good idea to prepare questions about the company or the role in advance. Perhaps do some research about the employer so you can ask questions that show you’re serious about wanting to work for them.

Joanne has spent the last 16 years working in the legal sector as the Director of HR, Training & Quality for Forbes Solicitors, a large regional law firm with offices across the North of England. 

Watch our CV tips video to understand further what a CV should and shouldn’t include and how to make yours work harder for you.