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The 10 Most Common Job interview Questions - and how to handle them!

 

 

Job interviews are daunting, and its scary to be thinking about how to handle all the questions employers often like to ask. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of the most common interview questions alongside a few insider tips on how to handle them, so you can come up with your own original answers. 

 

But, firstly, let us let you in on a little secret - the secret for answering any interview questions, even the tough ones - is to simply listen carefully to what the interviewer is asking you, don’t be tempted to think ahead, and just try your best to make your answers feel real, and part of a natural, flowing conversation. 

 

As tempting as it might be to come prepared with ready made answers you’ve spent hours memorising, you not only run the risk of sounding a bit like a robot, but you'll probably end up with the same boring answer as the candidate before you. 

 

Below are some techniques that can help you develop your own answers for various types of questions. Think carefully about how each example question relates to you, your experience and the job you’re applying for. 

 

Help yourself to feel more confident with your responses and practice ahead of time with friends and family. And then on the day of the interview, trust yourself to answer the questions in your own voice and personality. Remember, the employer is trying to discover who you are. 

 

Remember, listen carefully to the interviewer and stay in the moment, don’t force your brain to get ahead of itself and spout out a memorised response. Once you get the idea, you can usually use similar techniques on any questions thrown your way. 


1. What’s your greatest weakness?

 

This question is often used by people new to interviewing, but since it can show how a person handles the obvious, even longtime job interview pros may ask it. Aim for a response that sounds sincere, but winds up positive, using the basic format of (1) this is my weakness; (2) I’ve worked on it; and (3) now I’ve learned to turn it into a strength.

 

It can vary from that, but mainly you want to leave a good impression of how well you face and then overcome issues. What you don’t want to do is play the old worn-out “I work way too hard” weakness card. You might get away with it, but it shows no creativity and possibly leaves a taste of someone who thinks they are outsmarting the interviewer – or trying to.

 

2. What’s your greatest strength? 

 

There are many good ways to answer this question, but when you prepare think ahead of time about what the new job requires, by carefully reviewing the job description, and what you’ve done in the past - check over your CV for this. Think of a strength of yours that fits nicely with the job you want. And make sure to have a quick story as an example of how you successfully used that skill or strength in a prior job.

 

You don’t want to brag, but you also don’t want to seem like you’re uncomfortable talking about your strengths. Again, just answer naturally.

3. Tell me something about yourself 

 

Often a favourite question to ask a job candidate. It’s usually used at the beginning of an interview to get a feel for the candidate – and to see what they choose to tell about themselves. Remember that there are a lot more questions to come, so you don’t want to start with “I was born on a Sunday… ” And you definitely don’t want to focus on overly personal things like marriage status, health issues, or unrelated hobbies.

 

This is a time to tell your short career story, perhaps starting with education, and touching on key points in your career that ideally lead up to this moment – and the reason you're their ideal candidate. The best things you can tell them about yourself are things that make them think “we can use someone like that.”

4. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

 

This is one of those questions with no one-size-fits-all answer. It all depends on the type of company and job. Some interviewers look for strong signs of ambition. Others, for a person who will be content to grow slowly, taking on more responsibility as the need arises. And some, although they may not tell you this, are fully aware that you may not see yourself at all in this company in 5 years, but are just looking to see how you handle the question.

 

Hopefully your research prior to the interview will help you decide what is best. A good answer usually paints a picture of a person who will look to build solid working relationships, and do their best wherever they are and whatever challenges they are given. Someone looking to become an essential part of the company and take on new projects and opportunities as they arise. You may also want to mention some particular goals or things you’d like to take on at some point based on the type of job.

5. What do you know about our company?

 

Companies like to know that you took the time to research them and learn about what they do, and perhaps something about their values and stated mission, if they have one. The last thing you want to do is show up and say that you don’t know much, but are very willing to learn. That tells them you’ll have the same passive attitude as an employee.

6. Why do you want to work here / why are you right for this job?

 

Once again, find a way to use your career story to point to exactly this job at this time. Really think about this ahead of time. You don’t have to prove that this is all you’ve ever dreamed about since you were a little kid – unless that’s true. But even then, try not to be too over the top.

 

And try not to make your answer completely about what this generally represents such as I’ve always dreamed of working in the creative industry, as opposed to explaining why this company in particular fits so well with your career goals.

 

Again, doing your research ahead of time can make all the difference. And remember when you answer to keep their needs in mind. “I would love to help you to ___.” (Fill in the blank based on your research.)

7. Why did you leave, or are thinking of leaving, your last job?
 

If you’re still in a job, then your answer can say something about looking for a more challenging job, or realising that what you really want to do is what this new job offers, or you’re looking for advancement. The main thing is to make it positive and NOT knock your current (or former) employer.

 

If you were fired or quit your last job, it’s especially important to think about your answer ahead of time. You don’t want to badmouth the last employer, because it makes the interviewer think that one day you’ll be saying this about them, even if you assure them it’s not true.

 

If something went wrong that they may hear about, be honest (you don’t need to go into major detail here), and follow up with what you learned from it and how you’re more determined than ever to do a great job now. If it’s just that it wasn’t a great fit, you can say that – adding something about why you think this job is.

8. What’s your greatest accomplishment up to now?

 

Think about everything you’ve ever done – both in the workplace and elsewhere – and then choose one experience that speaks to the job you’re applying for in some way. Most of you will think of things from other jobs, but there are also things you may have started or taken charge of that you’re especially proud of that can apply. Try to fit the skills of that experience, and the way you tell the story, to the new job.

9. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever had to overcome?

 

If possible, you can use the same story from the previous question (odds are they won’t ask both), and simply adapt the story as needed. Or, there may be some other thing, especially from a prior or current job, where you saved the day despite some really tough circumstances. Where I’d be careful is taking a story from your personal life.

 

You don’t want to let them too far into things that should stay personal at this point. So while your biggest challenge may have been overcoming cancer, disability or a serious accident, this is probably not the time to bring that up, unless of course it relates directly to the job you’re applying for.

 

Just as an fyi … from a legal standpoint, illness and disabilities are not areas the interviewer should go into. And if they do, just bring it right back to your skills and work abilities.

10. Do you have any questions you’d like to ask us?

 

If you don’t already know this, most interviewers end the interview by asking what you’d like to know about them or any other questions you might have. So come prepared with some questions that show you understand the company and job. You can ask things like what an average day on the job might be like or what challenges they see for the department over the coming year or something specific that you got from your research. Please don’t stick with just those. Use them to help spark your own questions!

 

As a rule, a first interview is usually not a good time to ask about salary or benefits, unless they raise the issue – or unless you’re sure this is your only interview and the salary wasn’t stated anywhere you could see it. At the very least, don’t try to negotiate salary at this point unless an offer is made.

 

 

In the end, it’s important to remember that it’s not so much the exact words you use when answering questions, but more the overall impression you leave. So answer each question as well as you can, but don’t get caught up worrying about what you just said. 

 

Keep it flowing and conversational. Remember to stay pleasant and have good energy, and leave with a smile and a firm handshake. 

 

The rest is about how well you fit within the company’s goals and culture, and those are things a good interviewer can get a feel for no matter how much you try to figure them out and adjust.

 

All you can really do in any interview is to help them see the best real you – and the potential match!

 

 
Soft Skills and why they matter

 

 

What are soft skills, and why do you need them? Soft Skills are the personal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. 

 

While job-specific ‘hard’ skills always look great on your CV, employers are increasingly looking for soft-skills in candidates. So, regardless of the job you're applying for, you’ll need at least some soft skills.

 

These can be anything from being able to demonstrate you’re a good team player, to having great flexibility or strong organisational skills; they’re the characteristics that essentially make you, you!

 

Boosting your soft skills can give you a unique selling point and a competitive edge over another candidate – they may even be instrumental to your career success, so it’s definitely worth adding these to your CV or mentioning them in an interview – just make sure to provide specific examples that support your claims. Here are just a few of the soft skills in particular demand.

 

Must Have Soft Skills for Success

 

Confidence 

If you don't believe in you, who will? Not everyone is blessed with natural confidence, but the good news is that you can appear confident even if you don't feel it. With a little practice, you can fake it ’til you make it! 

 

Communication

You’ll be hard pressed to find a job that doesn't require communication on some level. Brushing up on your communication and relationship building skills can improve everything from confidence to sales and efficiency. 

 

Collaboration

Team work makes the dream work. Ok we know that’s a bit cheesy. However, being able to work and collaborate with others is a vital skill for success. You may think you can do it all alone, but working with others can bring new ideas to the table. 

 

Can Do

Success takes effort, so you've got to be ready and willing to put in the work. Sometimes you’ll have setbacks, but your can do attitude will keep you gong along the road to success. 

 

Criticism 

We don’t like hearing about our weaknesses or failures. However, being open and receptive to constructive criticism can help you better yourself. Listening to feedback gives you an excellent chance to learn.

 

 
10 Time Management Habits for a more successful you

 


You won't be able to find your dream career or job if you feel there’s not enough time in the day. 

To be able to master your next career transition, you have to be able to master your life right now, and that begins with good time management. 

 

We’ve put together some time strategies to help you master your time and productivity, so you can look at your to do lists and feel happy, not stressed.

 

1. Always have a plan 

 

One of the biggest time management mistakes we often experience is doing whatever comes your way, instead of having exact times when you will do certain things in your week. Discipline and planning are necessary if you want to achieve your career goals. Try and have a weekly review session where you review what you’re doing each day of the week and schedule it into your calendar. 

 

2. Set boundaries for Social Media, Family Time and Personal Time

 

Social Media has become such big part of our lives that we often forget to take time to enjoy life and be in the present. Take a break from the internet and carefully guard a day, Sunday for example, for family time. It’s important to realise what your priorities are and to guard that time as much as possible. 

 

3. Categorise your time

 

One of the most important time management habits is to categorise your time. Write down the tasks you do at work and then highlight those tasks that really are going to get you promoted, up your salary, or make you more happy at work. This is time to focus on, so try to devote entire days to this if possible. 

 

As in all our lives we must set aside time for administrative stuff. We have to do this whether we like it or not, but these items don't necessarily focus on the results of your job and don’t always lead to quick successes. 

 

Finally, as mentioned above, there must always be a spot in your calendar for personal time, hobbies and family. Planning personal time into your schedule will make you more effective in your career. 

 

4. Batch your time 

 

Batching is when you group similar tasks into blocks of time. During this time you’ll have no distractions. Did you know that every time you are distracted, it takes 15 minutes to regain complete focus again? 

 

Try looking at your emails or social media at certain times of the day. Shut off your distractions and only work on your job searching efforts.

 

5. Remember your calendar doesn't control you

 

This comes from the idea that you are where time comes from. You can make as much of it as you want. Shifting to this way of thinking will help productivity, creativity and enjoyment. Once you acknowledge that you are the source of your own time, stress will disappear. 

 

6. Discipline is required to achieve career goals

 

When you want to sleep in or go to bed early during an important career change or job search, remind yourself, a little bit of discipline will separate you from the rest. It doesn't require that much time, it’s just sometime and that is where your discipline comes into play. 

 

7. Free up your time 

 

Because your career goals are so important right now and are really going to determine the rest of your future and happiness, you need to be very focused and selfish with your time management. Just because your sister wants you to babysit and you are unemployed does not mean that you can babysit. Your full-time job needs to be job searching. 

 

8. Give yourself a morning ritual 

 

The first thing you do in the morning shouldn't be to check your emails. Most likely it will ruin your entire day. No one should have to wake up like that. 

 

Instead exercise, plan, meditate or whatever will help you change your outlook on the day ahead. 

 

9. Wake up earlier 

 

Talking of morning rituals, people usual make their best decisions and do their best work first thing in the morning.

 

10. Find your best time 

 

Not everyone can jump out of bed in the mornings and merrily skip to work. Not everyone can do his or her best work from 1am - 4am. When are you the most focused? Morning, afternoon or night?

 

Don't spend your best time watching tv or mindlessly scrolling through social media. Spend your best time focusing on what is the most important thing for you right now - job searching and getting your career unstuck. 

 

 
The Importance of First Impressions

 

 

The first meeting with a potential new employer sets the tone for what could be a lasting relationship. Remember, it only takes a few seconds for someone to form an opinion of you based on just your body language, demeanor, mannerisms and dress. So it goes without saying that first impressions are extremely important; there's never a second chance to make a great first impression. 

Below are 6 tips to ensure you feel well prepared and put your best foot forward at your next interview. 

 

DO YOUR RESEARCH 

 

It is more than likely that the first question you will be asked during an interview is "What do you know about the company?" So it's crucial to read up on both the organisation and the position you are applying for beforehand to make a positive impression. Looking at some of the company's recent news or blogs will show that you've done your research and will create some good topics for conversation. If the role is something new to you, it won't hurt to Google what's typically expected and let the interviewer fill in the gaps. Your research will also help to form questions to ask the interviewer, which will further highlight your preparedness and keen interest in the opportunity. 

 

BE ON TIME 

 

This should be obvious. Being punctual is vital for a good first impression. If you're late for your interview, how can you expect the interviewer to believe you'll ever be on time for work? If you really can't help running late, make sure you call up and let them know your reasons as soon as possible. Never leave them waiting for you. On the otherside of the coin, you don't want to turn up too early either. Arriving five to ten minutes before your scheduled interview time is good etiquette and will give you a little time to prepare yourself. 

 

DRESS TO IMPRESS

 

The interviewer will begin forming an opinion of you the moment you are introduced. Dressing appropriately and professionally is key to making a good first impression. Even if you know the job will allow you to dress casually, it's best to make the extra effort and dress as smartly as you can to show you're dedicated and serious about wanting the job. 

 

BE PREPARED TO TALK ABOUT YOURSELF

 

An interview is the employers way to get to know you and find out if you're the right person for the job. Therefore it's only natural for you to be the main topic of conversation. Make sure you know your CV inside out so you are confident in discussing your previous experiences and skills naturally, and the reasons why they could help you in the role. Prepare yourself by looking up some common interview questions to get an idea of how you'll answer them, then keep practicing! You can find some useful tips here

 

HAVE QUESTIONS READY

 

It's important to remember that interviews are a two way conversation, and that the interviewer will always provide an opportunity for you to ask any questions you have. Make the most of this and prepare these prior to your meeting. Not only is this your chance to find out more about the job and whether the company is the right fit for you, it shows that you've spent time to properly think about the opportunity and will make you stand out from the crowd. 

 

COMMUNICATION IS KEY 

 

Demonstrating good communication skills and body language is integral to make a lasting first impression. Remember to smile when you introduce yourself, and offer a firm handshake. It's completley normal to feel nervous, so allow yoursef a little breathing time between questions. This will help you gather your thoughts and respond clearly and succinctly. Eye contact is also essential and shows that your engaged in the conversation. 

 
The hardest interview questions and how to answer them

 

 

It’s pretty much always the case that the hardest questions you’ll have to answer in a job interview are also the most common. Understanding how to tackle them without hesitation will put you ahead of every other applicant. 

 

We’ve put together a brief list of some of the most common and most difficult interview questions that you’ll come across. Let’s find out the best way of approaching them. 

 

Tell me about yourself 

 

Ok, so perhaps not a question in the proper sense, but still a tricky one to tackle. Usually a candidate will use this time to ramble on about their personality and non-relevant hobbies and interests, which are completely unrelated to the job they are applying for. Avoid this at all costs. 

 

Instead, try to word your response as a slightly more detailed version of your CV. Elaborate on a bit more of your early life, education, work history and recent relevant work experiences. 

 

But don’t get carried away. Keep your response to about one or two minutes in length. This is usually an opening question, so you’ll have the opportunity to provide further details as the interview process continues. 

 

 

What are your weaknesses?

 

The best way to approach this one is always with a positive. Being self-deprecating in an interview situation may seem a little strange and counter-intuitive, but it’s valuable information for the interviewer to understand how you deal with your own shortcomings. 

 

Explain what you struggle with, for example impatience, and then go into detail about how you overcome this weakness. Focusing on how you manage this shows you ability to improve and grow within the company you’re applying for. 

 

 

What was wrong with your last employer?

 

The interviewer will want to know why you’re leaving behind a perfectly good job in order to join their company. Your answer will help them to understand what you expect from the job role and whether or not that’s something their company could provide. 

 

Remember DO NOT use this as a chance to bad-mouth your old job. Nothing is less attractive to an employer than someone who shifts blame onto others.

 

Instead, express a desire to move on, evolve and take on a new challenge. Spin your response to reflect the positive aspects of the job you’re applying for, and how it will help you develop your career. 

 

 

Have you ever had to work with a difficult person?

 

The response to this type of competency styled question will show what kind of person you are to work with. 

 

As with the weaknesses questions, this will test your ability to overcome adversity. Recall a specific time, and elaborate on how you dealt with it. Talk about what you learnt from the experience, and how it has improved your interpersonal skills. 


You will be expected to work alongside different people within your role, so it’s important that you’re able to demonstrate how well you work as part of a team. 

 

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

 

This is an extremely popular question that interviewers like to ask. It tests your research abilities and your general knowledge of the career path you’ve chosen. 

 

They won’t want to hear about how much you love the company and want to work there forever, but neither do they want to hear an answer that is unrelated to the job itself. 

 

Make sure your response incorporates your own skills and experience with your career aspirations, and relate this to what the company does and how you could thrive within it. This will make you look enthusiastic and well-versed in your chosen industry. 


 

What should I hire you?

 

Usually the final question, it’s a chance to sell yourself as the absolute best choice for the role - so it’s crucial you rehearse what you’re going to say. 

 

Often it’s this very common question that catches people out because they don’t read the job description carefully enough and fail to go into any relevant detail about why they are the best person to choose for the job. 

 

Make sure that you carry out research on the position - nail down the responsibilities and link them to your own expertise and past experiences to prove you are the best candidate, as opposed to just vaguely passionate. 


 

Being confident, honest and doing a bit of research will take you far in any interview. There’s no reason you couldn’t answer these questions as long as you do your homework on the business and know exactly why you’re the best possible candidate for the job.

 
Agenda's Guide to Getting Ahead: The Competency Based Interview


 

Congratulations! You’ve landed a job interview, that’s half the battle.

 

You've been informed it's a competency based interview - We'd like to arm you with some helpful advice so you can get ahead of the game! 

 

A competency interview is a way of questioning that looks at real life examples of how you've demonstrated a particular skill. The best way to prepare for these sorts of interviews is by going through the job description. Focus on the key things they are looking for, then go through your own CV and write down some example experiences of a situation and how you demonstrated that competency. Don't forget to highlight the positive end result, such as, the project was a success, or the client was happy. 

 

TOP TIP

 

It's also important to remember to talk about 'we' when you're discussing experience working in a team, but also talk about 'I' to ensure you are highlighting your own specific involvement and experience in a situation 

 

The interviewer may ask these types of questions and remember they are looking for real life examples to show how you have demonstrated a specific skill. Examples can be from a previous work experience, school or even from your personal life, including hobbies, sports and volunteer work. 


The best way to answer these questions is to describe a specific example that demonstrates your ability in that area using the “STAR” technique to structure your response:


S – Situation

T – Task

A – Action

R – Result

 

Great answers to interview questions are:

 

  • Relevant
  • Succinct
  • Able to show clearly what you did and how you did it
  • Delivered with an appropriate level of energy and enthusiasm
  • Not “waffly”!

 

Here are some examples of Competency Based Interview Questions:


Adaptability

  • Describe a time when you altered your own behaviour to fit the situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a new working environment.

Client Focus

  • Give an example of how you provided service to a customer/client that went beyond their expectations.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a customer problem.

Communication

  • Give an example of a difficult or sensitive situation that required extensive communication.

Problem Solving and Judgment

  • Describe a time when you had to analyse a problem and generate a solution.
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a problem or make a decision that required careful thought. What did you do?

Results Orientation

  • Tell me about a time when you set and achieved a goal.
  • Tell me about a time when you improved the way things were typically done on the job.

Teamwork

  • Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as a member of a team.
  • Describe a situation in which you were a member (not a leader) of a team, and a conflict arose within the team. What did you do?

Leadership

  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a group to achieve an objective.

Relationship Building

  • Give me an example of a time when you deliberately attempted to build rapport with a co-worker or customer.

Self-Management

  • Describe the level of stress in your job and what you do to manage it.
  • Describe a time when you were in a high pressure situation.

Remember when coming up with your answers, there should be a balance between selling yourself and being honest about your experience. Honesty is the key because you want to end up in a role that is right for you. If you strategically prepare for your interview, you should be in a good position to give answers that both highlight your skills and acknowledge areas where you might have room to grow. 


The above list of prompts is certainly not complete, but might be helpful to use whilst prepping for this particular sort of interview. Even if you aren't asked any of these questions verbatim, they will help direct your thought process and act as a bank of answers for other similar styled questions. 


Need some further guidance or advice ahead of your interview? Speak to your recruiter at Agenda Creative and Digital Recruitment, we're here to help. 




 
Agenda’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Writing Your Cover Letter



Tips and Tricks for Writing your Cover Letter

 

The sheer volume of submissions can make it tough to read all of the applications in detail. So, in an effort to grab the attention of a potential employer or recruiter, here are a couple of tips we’d recommend for your cover letter.

 

  • Stand Out. 

 

Find ways to articulate what makes you stand out. Ask yourself whether the sentence you’ve written is a sentence that everyone else would write. If it is, scrap it.

 

  • Personalise. 

 

Ideally, when we read your cover letter, we want to walk away feeling like we know you a little bit better. It’s not to say you have to chat to us like a friend, but we like to get the feeling that we got an authentic read on the type of person you are. Remember, as much as you want a job, you also want to be sure that the company is right for you too. If you’ve been authentic (about what you want, what motivates you, what makes you happy), you'll more likely land in a role that's a great fit for you.

 

  • Brevity. 

 

Bear in mind that we read A LOT of applications, CV’s, and cover letters. Be concise. Of course if it’s immensely compelling and well written, then we don’t mind if it’s a little longer.

 

  • Content.  

 

Understandably, people have a hard time coming up with a compelling hook for their cover letter. While you might take an interesting or humorous tone or slant, your cover letter shouldn't feel gimmicky. Exercise judgment here. Ask yourself a couple of questions: Is there a personal reason why you’re applying? Is there an angle or approach to the job that is interesting? Do you have a reason why you love the company so much, or find that it’s such an ideal fit? Spell out why you want to work there. If it’s a company you love, but a position you’ve never had before, considering telling the story of your transferable skill set.

 

 

 


 

And here's What Not to Do

 

None of these are written in stone, but here are a few things to think about:

 

  • One of the most common mistakes we see on CVs is that people have a tendency to use the same old words. By this we mean words that everyone uses (and overuses) to describe themselves. These words soon start to become meaningless. Think about the words you use and ask yourself if they are actually adding any value to your sentence before including them. Do the words that you are using uniquely describe you?

 

  • This is funny, but common. Many people include a section called “Additional Skills” on their CV in which they include things like Microsoft Word, Email, or Excel. Take these out. At this point in time, it’s a given that most people have these skills! If you are knowledgeable in a highly specialised software, this is the place to put it, but if it’s something that many candidates know how to use, then it doesn’t belong there.   

  • Keep school details out of it (unless there is something particularly unique or compelling). We’ve seen GCSE’s on CVs for people who have been working for many, many years.  

 

  • Don’t lie about your skills. We love reading interesting things about candidates, like proficiency in a martial art or fluently speaking multiple languages. However, don't overstate these. For instance, if you are a Web developer, only list the sever-side languages that you are prepared to work in (or disclose varying levels of expertise). If you claim expert-level knowledge and are tested on it but can't answer, it makes us doubt the legitimacy of the rest of your experience.   

 

  • Don’t weigh down your CV. If there is something that you can say in five words, don’t use twelve.   

 

  • Don’t blanket send your CV and apply to 9 different roles within one company. Choose one or two positions that are relevant and craft a targeted CV, cover letter, and objective.  

 

  • This may seem insanely obvious, but proofread your CV and cover letter over and over again. You can’t claim attention to detail if you have errors in either of these. We get so many cover letters that are obvious templates and are addressed to the wrong company! It would be a shame to have a great cover letter and CV, but errors that distract from the content. Some companies take typos more seriously than others.

 

  • Don't send links to your LinkedIn profile, personal blog, website, Facebook page, etc. UNLESS these links add insight and value to your application. Is your LinkedIn profile fully fleshed out? Exercise good judgement; what would a potential employer want to see?

 

  • Clean up your social media profiles. Be aware of how you might come up in a search on Google. Know what is visible to the public about you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Alter your privacy settings if you need to. Better to not be evaluated on anything other than your on-point application, great experience, and polished interview skills. 

 

Coming up next week in our Guide to Getting Ahead, some helpful tips for interviews....

 
Agenda’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Writing Your CV

 

 

Before you get started….

 

Many job seekers come to us hoping that we hold the key to making their CV stand out amongst a sea of people with similar experience. We’re sorry to say there isn't a silver bullet. What we can tell you though, is that the best thing you can do for yourself is to have a CV that clearly and succinctly communicates your experience. Finessing this difficult task will set your CV apart from the others right from the starting block. 

 

When potential employers and recruiters read your CV and cover letter, they’re trying to get a solid understanding of the skills you bring to the table, a sense of aptitude and willingness to learn, and some insight into your personality.

 

It can be overwhelming to think about strategically summarising what you do everyday, or what you did in a previous role in just a few bullet points and a cover letter. We hope this guide will help to get you started. 

 

Writing your CV 

 

Because what you do everyday at your current job or previous job can be overwhelming, we’d recommend starting with your job description. Think about what you want to highlight and bring to the forefront and focus on those things. Ask yourself if they are in line with what the company your applying to sees as beneficial. Recruiters and employers are trying to get to know you through your CV and cover letter. Help to show us your personality, your strengths, your skills, and how we would benefit from hiring you.


  • The Objective Statement.

 

Before you start, think about the position that you are applying to. You may want to craft a compelling (and succinct!) Objective Statement at the top of your CV. This is particularly effective if your current or past experience isn’t directly related to the job for which you are applying.  

 

While we’d like to think that all recruiters and employers are reading your whole CV and thinking critically about where you might add value, the reality is, they might be buried in submissions. Don't leave them to their own devices to discern how your skills are transferrable. Tell them! Explain why you want to make the transition and what makes you relevant. Think of the Objective Statement as the lens through which you want the reader to view the rest of your experience. If you are aspiring to make an industry change or a career shift, this is the place to explain WHY you are interested and HOW your past experience makes you a good candidate. 

 

You also don't HAVE to have an objective statement. If you think you present a compelling case in the cover letter, or your fit in their company is obvious, or you feel you don't have anything to say that is interesting / compelling / adds value, then no problem! Skip it. 


  • Bullet Point Descriptions of your Role and Responsibilities.

 

Think about what you want to highlight about your current role, and what experience might be the most relevant for the role you are trying to land. We often recommend, for the sake of brainstorming, that you start by casting a wide net - create a master list that has everything you do (or did) in that role. You can pull from your master list and edit your CV based on the role and company to which you are applying. 

 

  • Do Your Research and Customise Your Submission. 

 

Once you have a well crafted objective and lists of what you did in each job, tailor them for each submission. That is not to say that you should fabricate or sugar coat the experience that you've had, but you should think strategically about what to highlight. 

 

Reading a prospective employer's job descriptions, looking at the profiles of their current employees on LinkedIn, and doing your research will help give you clues about the best way to customise your content. What are the types of adjectives they’ve used on their website or in the job description? Work those words into your CV. At the end of the day, you should be spelling out exactly what your experience is and taking out the guesswork for the CV reader.

 

Formatting Your Resume

 

We get asked a lot of questions about CV formatting. While this can vary from industry to industry, here are some general rules:

 

  • The One Page Rule. 

 

Going over one page for a CV isn’t a real problem. If you have compelling information that you feel is pertinent to the job at hand and need to go over, go for it. But, if you feel like you are trying really hard to extend your CV and fill in the page, then don’t push yourself to get there. The content of the CV is so much more important than the length. 

 

  • Education. 

 

Depending on the field you are in, the correct placement for your education might vary.  Rule of thumb: If it’s not directly relevant, we don’t need to know all your universeity activities.

 

The exception here of course is if you are just out of school and don’t have much job experience, then go ahead and put this first. As you get a more varied body of professional work, move your education to the bottom of your CV.

 

  • Consistency. 

 

Another tip is to remain consistent in your tenses. We have no preference, but our inclination is to speak to your current job in the present and your past experience in the past. You can also use bullet point answers, but do keep an eye out for consistency. That is, if you are going to add a period at the end of a bullet point, then add a period at the end of each and every bullet point.

 

  • Contact Info. 

 

Add easy contact info at the top of your CV. We should be able to figure out how to contact you very quickly. This is also for your benefit! 

 

  • File Type. 

 

Many employers use what they call Applicant Tracking Systems to keep track of their pool of candidates. We can appreciate a beautifully designed PDF CV (as long as the focus is on the content and it's easy to read), but these CV’s aren't searchable in a lot of these systems. If you send a beautifully crafted PDF file, consider also sending a Word Doc too.

 

 

In tomorrow’s Guide to Getting Ahead we’ll explore the cover letter and also the What not to do’s on your CV.

 
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