Why do we believe that CVs are so crucial – admittedly only at certain times of our life? When we feel that we need one (or that we need to update our own), there is an almost manic sense of it being “mission critical” - the first thing that we ought to be doing. Whether you will feel like that having read this is your decision. We would just say – be careful! What's a CV good for? What is your CV to you? What does it represent? Why is so used? Who uses it and for what reasons? Our experience of CVs and the answers to these questions make us sceptical. There are so many assumptions running about how important and useful CVs are. What do you believe? CVs have become a passport. If you want to travel, drive a car or buy an alcoholic drink you need evidence of who you are and your entitlement to do the thing that want to do. It is literally your entry ticket. Why do you need your CV to be your entry ticket to a job? Admission for one The first answer is that the recruitment brokers need it. Whether you deal with high street recruitment agencies, selectors handling newspaper/online advertisements or head-hunters working in the shadows, they all treat the CV as an entry ticket. If they haven’t got one, what can they do? It is their currency. These “brokers” work in a transactional way. Their job is to match a job spec from an employing organisation with the CV of an individual who can do the job. It is a paper marriage – imagine job specs flying through the air in search of the “ideal” CV. When you boil it down, that is what the recruitment process is. It is highly lucrative for the brokers. The more transactions that complete, the more % of the job holder income they can earn and they are happy. The organisation that is recruiting; has a job that needs filling is happy too. Send me over the CVs that you have got, they say to the brokers, and we’ll let you know who we want to see. In a situation where demand for jobs matched supply, this might be a satisfactory state. This situation rarely occurs. Right now, there are many more people searching for work than there are jobs available. Before the recession, and when we come out of it too, there will not be enough talented individuals in the market relative to the demand for them. On both sides of the job market equation, it appears to us warrant an examination of whether we use CVs in the same old way. What do recruiters do with it? So what happens to your CV if you give it to a broker? If you indicate to a recruiter that you are available, they will ask you for your CV. When they receive it, they scan it or copy it and it lands on their database. They will manipulate it for word search and it will appear on their search as and when a “relevant” role appears. Relevance is their definition and that is part of the issue. All of us know how tough it is to tell the story of our life in 2 pages. Every person that we ask to comment on our CV has a view. It is a difficult process. Now we have the added issue of recruitment brokers using our life story for their own ends – creating the transaction that turns the deal for them, whether it is ok or not for you. Needle in a haystack Many recruiters have hundreds of thousands of CVs sitting on their databases. The databases drive the broking process in a way that matches CV to job. It has to be at a pretty simplistic level. It can’t have depth. It can’t really understand if you, as a unique individual, really fit this role well. It is basic and quite elementary. It is also a lottery. When you allow your CV into this process, you join hundreds of others who, through the broking process, ping out as potential candidates. There is only the most basic consideration given to “soft” qualities, This process is driven by basic, measured data points – have you done a job that is titled similar to one that the recruiter is matching? No wonder the recruitment industry has the reputation as one of the most conservative in the business world. Bottom line Your CV is your own personal passport. It is part of a back story rich in variety, experience and skill and a great indicator of your potential. You should guard it and use it sparingly – only with those that you trust not to abuse it. Simon North is the founder of Position Ignition – a careers company dedicated to taking you to the next step inyour career. Simon is a career and transition expert with over 25 years of experience in helping individuals with their personal and professional development. He is passionate about helping people whether it is to find a rewarding career, make a career change or identify the right career plan and direction. For more information visit Position Ignition, follow Simon on Twitter [url=http://www.twitter.com/posignition">@PosIgnition.
Do you know how to sell yourself in interview? Have you found yourself freezing up? Have you ever had a question where you have not been able to work out what the interviewer was asking – or you could give an answer, but didn’t know if it was the right one? Here are my top 10 interview tips for this month. As someone said on Twitter, these are not rocket science, but really timely reminders of the basics. Interview Tips # 1 Research the organization Everyone gets nervous in interview. It’s a big occasion and you should be nervous. However if you start with some thorough research, you start to build a case in your own mind of why you should be sitting in that interview room or in front of a panel. Having some confidence is a solid first step to overcoming nerves. You can actually tell a lot about an employer from the employment pages of their website. Things such as the values they have, how easy it is to find out about potential jobs and their responses to you when you apply, can all tell you about the way they handle their recruitment. This in turn may be a reflection of what it’s like to work there. If it’s friendly and easy to apply for a job, then chances are they have given some thought to why you would want to work for them. The web is a such wealth of facts, but what you need to do, is turn this into information. You can look at annual reports, media releases and product and service information. Online directories have company information and Google indexes the latest media news and references from other sources. If a career page has an email contact for an employee, and invites contact, then do it. Often companies will use testimonials that way to attract new people. Use sites such as linked in to research companies. When you look for this information, you are not just looking for a set of unrelated facts. You should be looking for reasons that you want to work for that employer. You’ll really impress the interviewer if you find some simple yet compelling reasons as to why you want to work for the employer and what appeals to you about the role. Interview Tips # 2 Research the role One thing that constantly surprises me is that how few people really have any understanding of the role that they are applying for. Job advertisements are partly to blame for this. They are often misleading. The person writing the advert is often not the person that you’ll be reporting to. Things always sound different on paper compared to what you will actually be doing in the role. I’ll give you an example from an earlier post: One of my clients recently applied for a job in the public sector. The position description said: “Building effective communication strategies with a variety of stakeholders and colleagues to ensure information exchanges are timely, accurate and useful.” This is what this statement meant: “providing advice to staff and students on the status of their research applications.” If you see something like the above, try to talk to someone who knows about the role. A good question to ask is “what does a typical day/week look like?” Once you know what’s expected of you, preparing for the interview is instantly easier. Also important is a real insight into the role and the recruitment process. Dig deeper than the advertisement. Put a call through if a contact number is provided. You can find out which of the skills that the employer requires are actually the priority. You can determine what you can do without and importantly you can start to make yourself known (in a good way) to your future employer. Even if the advertisement doesn’t invite it, you can still contact the recruiter. If there are no contact details, be scrupulously polite, it usually means the employers are expecting a deluge of applications. Ask them questions about the recruitment process, what the steps are, how long each step takes, and whether they’ve had many applicants. You’d be surprised at the information you’ll receive if you sound polite and interested.
Interview Tips # 3 Research yourself Employers want you to be self aware. If you have any doubts about this buy the book "What do they Really Want". OK it’s a blatant plug, but it contains information straight from an employer’s mouth. We interviewed 25 top employers to find out what they looked for when they hired and promoted staff. Every single one said they want people to understand what they can bring to a company. So have a long hard look at what you have achieved, the way you have achieved that result and the skills you developed or demonstrated along the way. This type of reflection helps you understand your strengths. It gives you confidence and helps you overcome nerves. Interview Tips # 4 Interviewer Insight No two interview processes are the same. Depending on the organization and the role, you could be interviewed by a recruitment consultant, the HR department, the line manager, all three individually, or any combination. Each will have a different agenda for the interview. This is important to remember as your approach with each should be slightly different. The recruitment consultant is always the first screener. Their role is to match you to the employer’s requirements and sell you as an applicant. The consultant establishes their credibility with each good candidate they put forward to the employer. Take time to woo them, even if you think they don’t know their stuff (as is a common criticism). Their role is essentially a sales one: to sell you the job and, if they believe you are right for the role, to sell you to their client. Make the consultant’s role easier by focussing on your strengths and achievements and point out why you are a good match. The HR consultant is usually the recruitment procedural expert. One of their jobs is to ensure the organization meets its legal requirements. They often set up the recruitment process and have a strong attachment to ensuring it is working. It’s a safe bet that you will face a more structured interview from them, than you will from a line manager. They are often the employer’s first screener and may need to sell you further, depending on their position and influence within the organisation. The line manager will be the person who is most concerned about finding someone for the role. They may be a person down or not meeting their organisation’s objectives by being understaffed. In the interview it will be the line manager who has the greatest sense of urgency about filling the role. Focus on your workplace achievements when fielding their questions. Work hard to build a rapport with them. They will be assessing your fit for their team. It may sound obvious but treat each interviewer as if they don’t talk to each other and know anything about you. You’d be amazed at how little communication sometimes goes on between each party.
Interview Tips # 5 Practice Most organizations now use behavioural questions – which means they will be expecting you to provide specific examples of where you have demonstrated the skill they are seeking. See my tips on these for further information. I strongly suggest practicing for an interview and seeking professional help. A professional is skilled at drawing examples out of you and finessing the ones you already have. However never rote learn your lines as you can never predict all the recruiter will ask. Memorising answers will make you stressed in the interview if you can’t recall what you want to say. Worse still, you may even be not be answering the questions the interviewer asks. Interview Tips # 6 Build rapport Be friendly. People like that! One of the best ways to relax is to assume the interviewer is on your side. Good interviewers are not interested in tripping you up. In fact, most of them are on your side, or are at the very least they will be approaching the interview in a professional manner. It may even help to you to relax if you think of the interviewer as someone who wants you to do your best Interview Tips # 7 Give yourself time Leave plenty of time to get to the interview. Rushing breeds panic. No matter what excuse you have, lateness is noted. It creates a negative impression and it puts you behind immediately. Allowing waiting time for an interview gives you time to compose yourself, gather your thoughts and be mentally prepared. Interview Tips # 8 Please be yourself That is please be yourself. You will be doing yourself no favours if you try and suppress your personality, or pretend to be something that you aren’t. Interview Tips # 9 Relax While you think this may be the perfect job for you, it may be that it’s not. There are other jobs out there. If you keep this in mind then you’ll remove some pressure from yourself that this is your only chance to perform. If you think the interview is going badly, relax and use it as practice for the next one. You never know, you could even recover if you take this approach. Interview Tips # 10 An insider’s tip The interview is just the formal means of assessing your suitability as a candidate. However you are not just assessed there. Each interaction you have with your future employer feeds into the bigger picture of their impression of you. Use this knowledge. Be polite and friendly with whomever you meet in the process from the very first phone call to the last goodbye to the receptionist on your way out. Interviews can be daunting. Please contact me if you need some help putting it all into practice or just some extra advice. Here’s another blatant plug. When it comes to interview skills, practice with a professional does make perfect.
Further reading at 10 Classic Interview Blunders to Avoid. Karalyn Brown is a resume, interview and job search consultant based in Australia. She’s also an online careers agony aunty, writes frequently on career issues for a major Australian newspaper and talks job search tactics on the national broadcaster. She gets a real buzz out of helping people find jobs. You can visit her blog InterviewIQ or follow her on Twitter [url=http://www.twitter.com/interviewiq">@InterviewIQ
The trouble with cover letters is that they need to be concise and must never be longer than a one-pager. Employers are busy professionals who have 10-20 seconds to skim your cover letter – so it’s important to state your case clearly and to the point. How to cram lots of information into little space It's not as difficult as it seems. Less really is more when it comes to crafting a cover letter that hits home. It's a simple matter of focusing your time and attention on the essentials, basically the items an employer is most interested in. Here's 5 ways you can do just that. 1. Three paragraphs Start with creating three paragraphs on one page. In the first one, tell the reader what job you are applying for and why. In the second you list your skills and experience. And in the third paragraph, clearly and directly ask for the opportunity to have an interview to discuss things further. 2. Stay concise Make sure you limit each paragraph to three or four well-written sentences, cutting out all the fluff and non-essentials. These could well be the most important sentences you write in your career, so take your time to ensure they are compelling and inspire the reader to want to see your resume and even call you for an interview today. 3. Layout Leave generous margins so there's plenty of white space and be sure to double space between paragraphs. This will make the cover letter more pleasing on the eye and put the reader at ease. 4. Facilitate reading Assist the reader see at a glance what you wish to say by using numbers or bullet points. You want the reader to be able get a two second snapshot of the cover letter, as most people do before they read it through. 5. Check and check again Proof-read through to catch spelling and grammatical errors, then print it out for one final edit. When you think it looks good, send it over to friends and family and let them go through it with a fine tooth comb. You’re done! Now imagine how the employer will feel when he or she opens your new cover letter. Hopefully they will find a simple, clearly worded letter that contains only necessary information and with a call to action – getting you in for an interview. Conclusion The rule of keeping things simple very much applies to cover letters. With employers being inundated with applications, they will appreciate a brief and effective letter like yours. The next step will be to keep your resume short and sweet to stay consistent with your punchy new cover letter. For more on cover letters, see First Impressions: 6 Mistakes to Keep Out of Your Cover Letter!
In today’s world, individuals will change careers on average 7 times more in their lifetime, compared to only a couple of decades ago – and this rate is rising. There is more choice available to us - especially for those with talent, drive and ambition. Currently the support that we tend to find is really limited. It’s also pretty generic – maybe some careers advice from your school, uni or MBA school. Otherwise not much support until you are really senior in an organisation – and even then whether it is effective or not is debatable! What results is a combination of lack of control and a cycle of movement from one unfulfilling job to another, or getting stuck at a ‘dead end’. However – do not fear – you do not need to stay in this ‘rut’. New horizons could be just around the corner.. So – you want to look for a new and the right role. This can be challenging, difficult, lonely, and sometimes stressful. You might want to consider getting someone to ‘walk the path’ with you and help you get clear about what your options are, what you want to do and how to get there can be hugely valuable. It is even more helpful when you know that the person accompanying you has been involved in this process before on many occasions and is a real expert. So if you work with someone to help with your career change look at their work and life experience to make sure they know what they are on about! Right – so you are ready to change careers and want to find that right role. In order to succeed bare in mind the following tips: 1. Invest in yourself This journey is important – so give yourself time to work it all out. You will need a significant amount of thought, consideration, time and investment in order to make this change smoothly and to make it the right career change. There are many key stages and turning points to consider so take the time to do it. 2. Get Clarity Without real clarity about what you want to do or how to get it, achieving any sense of fulfilment or being in control of your future will be very difficult. Therefore it is really important to work on getting clear about what your central goal is and how to achieve it. If you want to learn about the different ways to do this then feel free to drop us a note. 3. Create an action plan Simply knowing what you want will not ensure that you get it. You need to be clear about your plan of action and how to carry out what you have specifically designed for yourself. Get clear achievable steps in place. Outline it so that it is broken down into steps that you can work through towards that bigger goal. Reward yourself and be proud of yourself as you get through each stage of your plan. 4. Focus your energy on the task Making a change and finding the right role is not always an easy task. It can be tough, tiresome and long. You need to stay really focused and be efficient around where you put your energy and effort to get the outcome you want. Make sure that you are in control of the key elements in your world and are able to drive forward with the career and life of your choosing. You will need perseverance and determination to help. Being smart about how you spend your time is crucial. 5. Understanding your strengths Get to know yourself better. Identify what your key strengths are. What are you really good at? What do you enjoy that you are also good at? What skills have you learnt? What are you naturally inclined to do and be better at? Make sure that you get right to the core of it. The more you know yourself the more confident you will become and the better you will be at identify the right role for you and projecting yourself in order to get it. 6. Ignite that passion Without real passion for a role – it will be difficult to get. Even if you do get it – you will find it difficult to maintain and grow within and beyond it. What you want here is the right role. This means something that you are truly passionate about. It might take a bit of experimenting to find what ‘floats your boat’ – but it will be worth it when you have found it. 7. Know your boundaries Being clear about what works and what doesn’t work for you in order to be happy can be groundbreaking. It sounds simple but so many of us do not actually take the time to work it out. In each different work situation – we may have different boundaries. By being clear about what they are and then communicating this clearly to others and staying true to what is important – will make a huge difference. This impacts work and your personal settings. 8. Manage and improve relationships This is important from all aspects. If you learn to manage your relationships effectively you will be able to control the process and transition. You will be able to manage your exit smoothly from your current or old role. Understanding where your old boss is coming from and the impact you have on him/her – and how you interact could really influence how you leave a job. How you get your next job and keep it may also rely heavily on your ability to manage relationships well. 9. Leverage your connections Learn how to network and harness your connections effectively. This does not mean bombarding people you do not know with emails or adding everyone you can find to linkedin. Neither is this picking up as many business cards you can at a networking event and calling that person part of your ‘network’. Real networking is about getting to know people. You need to work on identifying and getting to know those who can help you along your way. 10. Rid yourself of blocks, fears and insecurities All of us have them at one stage or another. Many of us keep them for years. However, do not let them stop you. If you are afraid – that is ok – just do not let it take over and control what you do or do not do. If something is blocking you from moving forward – take the time and action you need to confront it, deal with it and resolve it. This does not have to be done alone. Find support from those around you. Get support from a professional if it is a deep personal issue that is troubling you. If you do not deal with it now – it will keep blocking you in different ways throughout your career and life. Once you have worked through the blocks – you will be so much more energised, comfortable, confident and free. Those are the 10 pieces of the pie that you must do before or as you start your journey and change careers. Each step requires some work, time and thought – but they are important if you really want to make it work. There might be a lot to do – but you are not alone and you CAN do it. Nisa Chitakasem is the founder of Position Ignition – a careers company dedicated to taking you to the next step in your career. Nisa is passionate about helping individuals find the right career path for them whether it involves finding a more rewarding career, making a career change, figuring out the right career plan or being creative about career directions. For free advice, guidance and information on careers visit the Position Ignition Career Blog or find her on Twitter [url=http://www.twitter.com/posignition">@PosIgnition
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