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Brightwater's CV & Interview Masterclass

15 Oct 2020

Brightwater's Gordon D'Arcy and Eimear Walsh Associate Director of Talent Acquisition & Training sharing industry knowledge and insider secrets to getting your CV to the top of every hiring manager's list!


1. CV Guidance:

2. Making an Application

3. Interview preparation

Webinar Slides | Brightwater CV Prep Slides
Free CV Templates 
| CV Template 1 | CV Template 2 |

CV Preparation

There are a number of points to focus on here:
(a) Presentation
(b) Structure
(c) Career History
(d) Interests/ Hobbies

Presentation basically means how the CV looks - this takes into account the colour used, the font and formatting. The rule of thumb is to keep it clean and concise, use the same font throughout with clear headings and use bullet points rather than write any long essays. This will enable the employer to scan it easily and be able to pick out the relevant points quickly. 

Structure refers to how you've structured the flow of information throughout your CV. As a general rule, you would put your personal details first, eg. your name and contact details. After that, it's a good idea to put a brief profile of yourself to highlight your achievements and fit for the job. 

Always tailor this part to each individual job / company for which you are applying. 

The 3rd item in your structure to put in, is education; list out your educational achievements with the most recent ones first. However with degrees, you only need to list the overall result rather than grades from each year. Don't be tempted to lie about results, companies, especially the big multinationals will look for transcripts. Then list your qualifications so that the employer can easily see them and understand how qualified you are for that job and their organisation. 

Remember to put your professional memberships on your CV, they show how engaged you are in your profession and may be a source of conversation during the interview. 

Career History - always put this in reverse chronological order (the most recent employment first) Give a brief bio of the company that you're working in (to show relevance to the potential employer) as well as your job title and dates of employment. From there, list your role and your responsibilities in a clear and concise manner for each role. 

Interests & Hobbies - there is always a debate about this. Do you put hobbies/interests in or not? It does show employers a more rounded person if you do have hobbies, particularly unusual ones but again, don't lie!

CV pitfalls and how to avoid them

As recruiters, we see mistakes time and time again so we know what the common pitfalls are so we'll go through the most commonly occurring errors on a CV. 

Dates - incorrect dates or leaving gaps on your CV is a major bugbear for employers. Check that you're putting the correct dates on jobs and qualifications. If you don't have the correct date and it's caught during interview, then it makes you look careless, not an impression you want to leave with a potential employer. Likewise with gaps, never leave any time unaccounted for. If you were travelling or looking after dependents or studying, just list it on the CV so employers aren't left to figure out gaps on their own. 

Spelling/Grammar - incorrect spelling or grammar is always going to look bad on a CV. It leaves a bad impression and with all the tools on MS Office, you don't have an excuse. It automatically will point out errors for you. Get a friend or family member to check it over also. Sometimes it pays to have fresh eyes on it. 

References "on request" - you don't necessarily need to put your two references down on your CV. However you should always have up to date references available on request. 

Incorrect OR out of date information - Always make sure your information is correct especially when it comes to exam results or professional qualifications or your job title. Make sure they're up to date. If you've recently qualified in your chosen field but still have "Studying towards" on your CV, make sure you change it. 

Saving file - Always save your file with your name on it so employers can easily find it, eg, if Jane Smith was applying for a job, save your CV as "Jane Smith CV"

General Vs Tailored CV  - our advice would always be to tailor your CV both to the role and the company. This usually means tailoring the profile section and highlighting the order of your responsibilities in the job. Have a generic CV for yourself that you can use to create all the different versions but tailoring your CV is what is going to get you that interview and ultimately the job. 

Good CV Vs Bad CV

We've outlined 2 examples of CVs in our presention, one good and one, well, not so good! The good one abides by all the rules we've set out above and it's easy to see all the information at one quick glance. We would also advise on limiting your CV to two pages, perhaps three if you're at executive level roles. What you can also do is list "Other Skills" on your CV at the end which may include fluency in a 2nd language or a first aid qualification or any type of computer skills. 

Social Media

Employers do tend to look at social media profiles of applicants even if they say they don't. They want to make sure you're a good fit culturally as well as in technical skills for their organisation. There are so many social media channels but the main one for professionals is your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn - we would always recommend job seekers to have a LI profile. Take your time to do up a professional profile, it's just as important as your CV. Include all experience as per your CV and write a brief profile that highlights you as a professional. Always use a professional photo, it's lovely to have photos of you with your partner/kids/friends/pets but keep those for the more "social" channels. On LI, post a professional photo.
In order to make connections, there is an option to tag "Open to Opportunities". This allows potential employers or recruiters to find you and give you insight into roles you may not have known were available. Use "key words"  in your profile, words that recruiters or hiring managers can use to find you. You should also connect to your network, using college alumni, colleagues and your professional network to broaden your connections. 

Other social media - This includes Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to quote the most popular ones. We have one hard and fast rule about social media channels, "Keep it Professional or keep it Private". 

Making an Application

Now we're into the details of actually making your application. Always research and apply to roles where you have suitable skills. Don't waste either yours or the potential employer's time. If the job advert says "Skills Required", make sure you have at least 80% of those. Never spray and pray with your CV - this is a term most commonly used in recruitment where it's clear that the candidate has not taken the time to do any research into the company and/or role. If they just want "any role" then they may not stay long and it's not worth the potential employer's time and energy. Always keep a record of where your CV has gone, either via your own channels or via a recruiter so you're prepared if an interview is set. 

Always follow the appropriate application process, ie what the employer has asked you to do whether it's online, via a company portal or via LinkedIn etc. They've asked you to do that for a reason so adhere to their guidelines. 

We're often asked about LinkedIn applications versus Email of a cover letter and a CV. An employer will always eventually ask you for a CV anyway so make sure both processes are covered and ready to go. 

Find connections in that company, either past or present to get both an insight into the company and/or role or to get a recommendation. Sometimes it really is "who you know" that can boost your application ahead of others. 

Interview Preparation (Theory) 

So your hard work put into your application has finally paid off and you've secured the interview. What now? 75% of the interview success can be attributed to the research you do prior to the interview so make sure you put the effort in.

Research the company - check out their location(s) and gauge your commute. Familiarise yourself with their functions, products and services so you can talk articulately about them in interview. This can be done via the company's website, social media channels and industry publications. Always be aware of the company's competitors as well and what they're doing in the same sector. 
Research the role: go through the job description point by point and match it up with your own experiences and skills. Talk to your network, people in similar roles or with similar qualifications and get some tips from them. Look carefully at your relevant and transferable skills to see what you can bring to the table. Be conscious also of your own strengths and weaknesses to see where you need to upskill or develop. 

Research the interviewers - Once you get the names of those interviewing you, use the company website or LinkedIn to get the inside track on their background, career progression and qualifications. If they're in HR, then they will be more focused on general questions (unless you're applying for a HR position) but if they're your line manager, then you know you will be asked some technical questions as well. This gives you great insight into the types of questions that will come up during the interview. Find some common ground with the interviewers as well, perhaps the same college, similar qualifications, shared interests. That will give you some talking points as well. 

Interview Preparation (Practical)

This will focus mostly on remote interviewing as that's the preferred method during this pandemic. We have a few helpful tips and tricks for you. 

The first is technology. With remote interviewing, companies are all using different technology tools to carry out the interview process. Make sure you're familiar with the correct technology. Download it in advance. Always test the link and passwords beforehand and make sure you have picture AND sound. In case of emergency, always have the contact number of the interviewer on hand. Ensure your wi-fi is running at full speed (prevent others in the house downloading at the same time if necessary) and ensure your laptop and/or mobile is fully charged. 

You and your space: This is hugely important when it comes to remote interviewing. Have your laptop set up in a quiet place in your house where you won't be disturbed. Make sure your family / housemates understand that you need quiet during this time. While employers are mindful of those working from home, an interview is hugely important so do make sure you won't be disturbed. Keep notes and a copy of your CV / job spec to hand so you can refer to it if needed. 

Dress professionally (top and bottom). While working from home, the temptation is to "ZoomCall Dress" which is professional from waist up but old gym clothes from waist down. We've all done it but in a professional interview setting, you should be mindful of your whole appearance just in case you need to get up during the interview. It will also help you get into the proper mindset. Check your background as well. If you can't put an artificial background on like in MS Teams, then make sure the background is tidy, clean and has nothing that's a distraction from the interview itself. Make sure you're sitting comfortably and avoid any distractions or things like pens that you will fidget with during the interview itself. 

Interview Tips and Tricks

Be on time for the interview and be alert, ready to talk about anything. Be prepared and by that we mean, be ready for the types of questions that may be asked. Your recruiter or the hiring manager arranging the interview should be able to tell you about the style or format of the interview in advance. There may be a competency based interview involved where they ask you to quantify your answers based on your own experience, technical tests or simply a review of your experience. Whatever the type of interview, you need to be prepared for it mentally. 

In order to be as comfortable as possible during the interview, make sure you have a glass of water to hand and go to the bathroom prior to the interview. Employers do expect interviewees to be nervous so if you are nervous during the interview, take a deep breath and explain that. If you need to ask them to repeat a question or you don't understand the question, just ask them to explain the context and then you'll be able to give an honest answer. 

The most important thing during the interview is to be yourself. Be honest, transparent and upbeat and you can't go wrong. 

Interview Pitfalls

We're often asked about interview pitfalls and there are plenty if you're not prepared. Don't limit yourself to short answers. Use examples, detailed scenarios to add a bit of flesh to your answers. This is the ideal time to show how you have dealt with different scenarios and how you can engage with colleagues, peers and clients. Always relate your answers to real life situations  to highlight your skills. 

Often we can be guilty of using internal jargon particularly when it comes to business. Try and avoid using internal jargon and acronyms if they're not widely understood outside of your current employment. 

Don't sell yourself short - this is a great opportunity to showcase your skills and show how you're the perfect person for the job. Practice demonstrating how you have developed certain skills in your career to date. Use key achievements, awards or promotions to highlight your skills and potential value to the company.  Give the interviewers details on how you go "above and beyond" your daily responsibilities in your current role. If you think it would be appropriate, reference client or customer testimonials. 

Closing the Interview

This is important, this is their lasting impression of you so it's crucial to leave them with a good feeling about you and your interest in the company and role. You never know, they may not want you for this particular role but they could remember you and bring you back when another role arises. 

(1) Always have 3- 4 good questions for the interviewer so when they ask you "Any questions", you're not stumbling over your words. 
(2) Be ready to discuss your salary (current and expectations), notice period and starting availability. This could put you ahead of your interview competition and could be the deciding factor. 
(3) Always ask about the next steps in the process or when you can expect feedback from them.
(4) If you feel the interview went well and you want the job, it's vital to tell them. Reiterate it at the end of the interview. You'll leave them with a great impression, that you truly want to be part of the organisation and add value there. 
(5) Always thank them for their time. 

There were plenty of Q&A in this webinar about different situations but if you do have any further questions, need career advice, help in preparing your cv or just a chat about what options are available to you now and in the future don't hesitate to contact us on [email protected] or 01 662 1000