Interviewing - Getting That Job

by Jane Tredgett

Your CV or application form

If there are many applicants for the position, an interviewer may only spend a minute or two on your application and may, consequently, select heavily on the layout/neatness of the application. Clearly this may mean

  • The candidates with the most relevant experience and/or most relevant qualities may get overlooked
  • The candidates selected for interview may not be appropriate, leaving the manager in a position of making ‘the best choice from a poor bunch’.

A good interviewer should be using this stage of the process to

  • Distil the number of applicants to a manageable number
  • Assess whether there is any evidence that the applicant matches the criteria on the role profile
  • Provide an objective benchmark and therefore reduce the risk of discriminating
  • Select the best candidates to interview.

Make sure your CV stands out

To make sure that your CV will stand out, it should ideally be

  • Neat and tidy (a candidate who has rushed an application may give the impression they are disorganised, low on detail consciousness, or not really that interested in the job)
  • Accurate and well structured, with clear headings
  • Logical
  • Easy to glance through and pick out key points
  • Typed , rather than hand written (unless the job application specifies hand written)
  • No more than two sides of A4 long
  • Spell checked before being sent
  • Read by someone other than yourself before being sent, to check for remaining errors
  • Tailored to the position and organisation and to the key qualities you think they are looking for.

Your CV should contain:

  • Your address details
  • A brief summary of your education, including studying done at evening classes
  • Relevant qualifications (this may include holding a clean driving license, job specific exams you have taken and so on)
  • A chronological summary of your work experience, from the most recent, working backwards
  • Experience of a similar job – while not always an accurate predictor of success, it does mean you are more likely to be aware of the challenges and demands and may require less training
  • A brief summary of interesting hobbies (reading, sleeping and watching TV don’t generally get you an interview...); try to list hobbies that demonstrate qualities linked to the position – for example, if a job requires you to be a team player, emphasise any team hobbies you have, such as playing football
  • Some contact details for references or, at the very least, a note that references can be supplied separately on request.

The work experience chronology should form the largest part of the CV, and the most recent jobs should have the most detailed content. Make sure you include dates, key responsibilities and results achieved (rather than just tasks carried out). These may include sales, satisfied customer reports, financial successes, outstanding performances and so on.

Make sure you try and include aspects that illustrate a close match to the job description/person specification criteria and to any skills and qualities mentioned in the advert.

You do not now need to include your age, marital status or number of children, which traditionally used to be mentioned.

‘Red flags’ that may generate concern

In addition to the points above, the experienced interviewer will be looking out for the following things. These ‘red flags’ may not prevent you from getting an interview, but you are very likely to be asked about them if you reach that stage.

Moves job frequently

This may suggest you find it hard to settle, have a short attention span, or don’t like it when ‘the honeymoon period’ finishes and you are expected to show improved performance results.

Gaps in employment history/missing periods of time

There may be good reasons for this that make you more, not less, employable (for example, because you were off doing a year of charity work). If this is the case, try and make it clear, or the interviewer may assume that you are hiding or falsifying information. A gap not mentioned, while you were employed somewhere, may indicate this was a job you did not enjoy and would prefer not to talk about, so you can bet this will be just the job an experienced interviewer will select to focus on...

Tip

When asking for an application form, ask for two copies in case you make a mistake on the first one.

Application forms

Most of the rules that apply to writing a CV also apply to submitting a good application form. The main difference is that you are prompted to put certain information in specific boxes. Within the bounds of this restriction, try to stick to as many of the other key principles highlighted above as you can.

Always keep a copy of your application form.

A fun moment

Strange things NOT to put on your job applications (that other people thought were a good idea!):

  • Personal: I’m married with nine children. I don’t require prescription drugs.
  • I am extremely loyal to my present firm, so please don’t let them know of my immediate availability.
  • I intentionally omitted my salary history. I’ve made money and lost money. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I prefer being rich.
  • Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping’. I have never quit a job.