My name is Frances, I’ve had over 20 years of experience working for various different companies. My first job was as a marketing manager for Thermos, the people who make flasks – my major achievement there was to be the person who came up with the idea of stacking cups! Since then I’ve worked for a few different people – either on a permanent basis, or as a Marketing Consultant. These days I run my own company, Breeze Marketing, when Im’ not walking the puppy or cooking for my husband, friends and family. What’s important is that I have worked a lot around the area of recruitment, for example, as Marketing Director for Monster, the job board,and as a consultant for a Recruitment company, based in North Kent. I’ve also done a huge amount of recruitment both for my own teams, and for my clients. Most recently, I’ve been working with a company called iProfile, who initially provided IT solutions to the recruitment industry, but brought me in to help with the launch of their consumer site, designed to help people to take control of their own job-hunting experience.
The aim of today’s workshop is to help you think about some of the skills you need to equip yourself whilst you go through the recruitment process. Some of this you may have already heard, and some of this you may think you know, but hopefully each one of you will come away from the next 90 minutes (or so) knowing a little bit more about how to go about job-hunting a little bit more effectively. The session today is interactive – there’ll be lots of opportunities to ask questions and take part, so please make the most of it. What would you most like to get out of today? Take notes, and ensure we have answered the questions at the end of the session.
Recruitment is a lot like dating Think about preparing for your last date – you invite someone you know – but don’t know very well. You think about what you are going to wear, where you are going, what you might say. Check yourself out in the mirror before you leave – spinach in the teeth –etc. Find out a bit more about the person you are going with. Decide quite early on how well things are going. At the end of the date, decide whether you are going to meet up again – but it has to be a mutual decision. The key is that you are trying to present your best side – impress the right person by doing the right things.
Unfortunately the reality of job hunting is that it is tough out there, and it is very hard to stand out in a crowd, especially when you are starting out. But you have to find a way to break through.
Some myths for you to consider Are any of these a surprise to you? Important things to be aware of: The better written your CV, the better – no matter how much information it contains Coloured paper (or indeed any other tactic to make your CV more personalised) is likely to be lost at the first stage – we’ll come back to that A good CV will not get you a job – but it should be designed to get you an interview Recruiters and employers read my CV – they might skim it, if you are lucky.
Its not pretty. But it isn’t far from the truth. Imagine if you will that there are recruiters and employers who advertise jobs for which they can get over 1,000 applicants. And just think about actually trying to get your CV noticed in amongst all of that chaos. But lets get realistic for just one second. Recruiters don’t actually do this. In fact, quite often, your CV will be processed rather than read, so they key is about ensuring that your CV is processable!
Your CV needs to get you through the very first stage of this process. So it is probably one of the most important documents you need to write. But recruiters have to find a way of distilling the volume of candidates they have down to a sensible number for reviewing. How do they do this? Its all about key words. Most recruiters work with back-end processes, where your CV will be digitally scanned or “parsed” to enable it to be placed within their database, tagged with your skills, experience, industry background and any other relevant information. To a certain extent, it can be a very de-humanising experience. So getting the words right, and understanding how the system works is key. As I mentioned earlier, one of my previous clients is a company called iprofile. If you want to look at how the process works, try creating your CV through their website – it is built directly on recruitment back-end technology, and will show you how the key words become essential in the building of a candidate profile.
Your CV is designed to get you an interview. So the important thing to start thinking about is what it is that the job you want to apply for is going to need in the way of skills. It doesn’t really matter whether you are applying for an advertised job, or sending in a speculative CV. The key is to know what skills you need to do the job, and demonstrate that you have them. Use the resources that are already at your finger tips, and find out. Clearly, if you are applying in response to a job advert, then you should already have a good start. If you don’t have that luxury, then do some research. Use job boards and the recruitment section of papers etc to find ads for similar types of roles, and use that as your base. Make sure your CV is responding to the way a recruiter wants to read it. You may well have had some great experience whilst trekking through Siberia on your year off, but if you can’t find a way to make it relevant, then it really isn’t going to help!
The classic problem of how to best present your work experience. Some of you sitting here today may have managed to get some really relevant work experience, and some of you may have just been trying to earn some extra cash. My first ever job was working as a waitress, so how could you present the skills I learned?
So what about you? What jobs have you done? And what skills do you now think you have? Lets take some examples from you…..
It may have been funny through Uni to have the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, but this doesn’t give the right impression for job-hunting. Set up a new email address if necessary, there are any number of free providers out there, and get the right start.
Achievements are very important – and generally get overlooked. As I told you, one of my greatest achievements was being behind the invention of the stacking cups on Thermos flasks. This is probably the biggest functional revolution in the world of insulated containers. Now, it may not matter much to you guys now, but at the time, this was big news. Trust me. However, on a more serious note, people often forget about their achievements when writing their CVs, but research has shown that this can actually add money onto your salary. Please, bear this in mind for the future – it could add as much as £2,000 to £3,000 to the salary you negotiate! Why do you think it is important to have extra-curricular activities? It is important for an employer to know that you are a rounded individual as an employee, but it can also show that you have additional skills – e.g. team player, management skills etc.
Spell-checking, grammar checking – these are simple things that you should do as a matter of course for every document you send out, be it a CV, a cover letter or even an application email or form. Make sure you always check everything you send – there is no excuse!
So lets move on to the covering letters, or letters of application. You may well think in this age of digital communications that there is no need to include a covering letter, because after all, if you send an email to say you are applying for the job that’s enough right? Wrong. Couldn’t be more wrong. Quite often, you’ll see an ad that asks you to send in your CV and covering letter/letter of application. If they’ve asked for it, you need to send it. This for me is quite simply about meeting the requirements for the job. It is by the way fine to send a covering letter with your CV by email, as attachments. But the layout still stands!
The named individual point is applicable whether you are applying to a job ad, or writing speculatively. It shows some initiative, and is more likely to get to someone who is interested in employing you. The HR department (as an example) can be a big place. The person who opens the post may well not be the person in charge of recruitment. Think about the post you get – the letters that come to you personally start higher up your attention list than anything that comes as a generic item to “the home owner” or “the bill payer”. This is the first rule of marketing as well! It doesn’t matter these days whether your covering letter is typed or hand-written (although again, take note, if someone asks for a hand-written letter, give them one!), but it should be well presented, and laid out appropriately. More than 1 side of paper would suggest you have got too much detail in the letter. Remember that you are aiming to capture attention to encourage people to read your CV, not duplicate everything that is in there. Your aim is to succinctly present yourself as a good candidate for the job, identifying the skills and qualities in you that put you ahead of the rest.
So what about preparing for your interviews? There are two forms to be aware of – some of you may have already experienced both forms. The standard interview is still face-to-face, however quite often you will find employers and recruiters carry out telephone interviews, perhaps pre-screening on the way to a face-to-face interview, but also potentially because they don’t have enough time!
But don’t be fooled. You need to take a telephone interview just as seriously as a face-to-face interview. You still need to make the right impression, and its so much harder to do over the phone. The good news is that you don’t have to dress to impress. The bad news is that it is all down to what you say!
So, how do you go about preparing for an interview? There are some standard elements to any interview that you have, although sometimes the questions come in different disguises. The key here is to think it all through ahead of time – and practice! Interviewing skills undoubtedly come with practice… So what questions should you be prepared for? Ask the audience……. One of the first things to find out is who is interviewing you. If you have made it through your recruiter interview, quite often they will help you by briefing you on the type of person you are going to meet, but don’t assume this. You can use the internet to find out a little about someone’s background – using sites like LinkIn and general Google Searches. Check your networks to see if anyone else knows either someone who works at the company you are interviewing for, and can shed some light. Also, find out about the company you are going to see. I know how easy it is to just send out a bunch of applications, but if you actually get through the door, it is only polite to find out where you might be working. Have a look at the company performance, look at their website, see what is being said about them. Look at industry titles and websites. You may not be expected to know every last detail, but it is important to show initiative and be interested.
Personal presentation is still one of the key factors. Generally, the advice should always be to dress smart – formal business-wear is generally the safest option – and if you don’t know, err on the side of caution. The old saying always stands – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Even for those of us who work in New Media – you still need to look the part. Its an old cliché, but I’m afraid that its not often possible to break the rules.
But here’s the big clue – it doesn’t matter how cool, how expensive, how trendy, how grungy, how lived-in, or how much you love your favourite pair of comfy jeans – they aren’t the right thing to wear!
Personal hygiene is another big area to pay attention to. Your best friends may not have told you, but does your breath smell of cigarettes? Did you wear that shirt once too often without washing it? Did you remember to check your teeth for spinach/lipstick etc? Is your aftershave or perfume a little too over-powering? It may be a small detail, but its better to make yourself as presentable as possible, so that it doesn’t become something the interiewer focusses their attention on. I’ve had the experience myself where a woman came into an interview with a spot of lipstick on the side of her cheek, which she clearly hadn’t seen. I don’t think I managed to listen to all of her answers because I wasn’t sure how to tell her about the lipstick – she was going to be mortified!
Body language – the old basics. The handshake - Don’t let shaking your hand feel like shaking hands with a limp fish. Be confident, and don’t hang on too long!
So lets start with your strengths and weaknesses. This question is almost certain to turn up, and it’s a real tricky one. The question of strengths should be easy enough, but more challenging is how to present a weakness that isn’t really a weakness. As an example, when someone asks me that question, my answer is that I pay too much attention to detail. Whilst this shows that I do pay attention to detail, it is easy enough to turn that in itself into a positive – better than that being sloppy and missing things! Just so you know, you are bound to be asked what you are doing to deal with your weakness. My answer to that again is that I try and focus on ensuring that deadlines are being met in spite of my “weakness” – so on my head be it if I spend too long it, I’ll ensure that the work goes out on time! Just to demonstrate that this question comes in all shapes and sizes, I had a friend who was asked this question in the form of “what annoys you”. He hadn’t ever had an interview before, and the first answer that came to mind was “when someone leaves the top off the ketchup bottle”. Always remember that any questions you are being asked are more likely to be about your ability to perform in a working environment!
What about competencies and experience – you need to remember what skills and experience was asked for in the initial job application, and be prepared to expand on the details. Make sure you can refresh your memory beforehand – what did you actually put on your CV? Why did you claim those skills? What have you learned as part of your work experience? Are you good at working as part of a team? How do you deal with difficult people?
Who are the key competitors – think about this – it helps to position the company, and again, shows that you have an interest in their business. Remember to think laterally as well – it may not be just companies who do the same things as the one you are seeing – but could be a company competing for the same budget. For example, companies who provide sponsorship opportunities for businesses are competing for advertising budget… What challenges do you think are facing the business/industry/department? This is of course difficult to answer if you don’t work within the company, but again shows that you are aware of where you would be working, and have thought about more than just walking through the door to get the job.
What about your interpersonal skills? Are you good at working as part of a team? How do you deal with difficult people? How do you deal with authority? What would you do if you didn’t agree with a decision that your boss was making? What about cultural fit? What type of person are you?
Don’t forget that you need to think about asking questions too. Come prepared with some about the company and the job, but also with some more abstract questions in case all the ones you had get answered during the normal course of the interview. What type of questions do you think you could consider asking? Training? What is it feel like to work here? Who would I have most contact with? Do you socialise as a team – but be careful here not to look like you are only in it for the beers!
Just a word of warning. The very first interview I was ever went to was for a graduate training programme for a very well-known company. They knew that all the graduates being interviewed would have limited experience to speak of, so they had a much more rigorous form of interiewing planned. The very first question (after confirming my name!) was “there’s an aeroplane heading for this building, what are you going to do?”. There clearly is no right or wrong answer here – so I’m not going to test you. But it certainly kept me on my seat right the way through the interview. So the only thing I can really say is expect the unexpected as well!
Your on-line presence is a new dimension in the world of recruitment. Many recruiters will openly admit to researching their candidates on-line, to see what they can find out about them. So beware – it may well be worthwhile setting up a more “professional” view on your world than the pictures of your wild student parties and big nights out! How many of you have a Facebook account? A Myspace account? Images on Flickr or another image-sharing site? And how many of you would want prospective employers to see everything on there? Make sure you have the appropriate level of access so the world can’t see everything you have on display? Think about setting up an account on LinkedIn – a professional version of Facebook. Many recruiters are using this area to find out more about their candidates with experience – why not get it right from the beginning, and maintain contacts as you go!
Follow-up and feedback is crucial to you in order to improve your skills, but sadly, extremely difficult to get. It is always worth following up a phone with the recruiter or employer, and making sure they know you are going to do that. It is hard to ask for feedback right at the end of any interview – so, how did I do? It takes a brave interviewer to tell you direct to your face, and no-one really likes to be put on the spot. It is better to ask when you can expect to hear about the next step/whether you have been successful, and then ask whether it is ok to contact them if you are unsuccessful to get some feedback.
And finally, a word on motivation. It can be a long hard road to find a job, especially to find the right job. So some key things to remember: It isn’t personal. Job interviewers hardly get a chance to know you as a person – so they can only make rapid assumptions about your ability to fit in to the role and the department. Not everyone will understand how lovely you are, how dedicated you are to the job, and how many extra hours you would be prepared to put it to get the job done. But don’t despair. Keep taking on-board any comments and feedback, and use them to make you a stronger candidate. Keep doing the research and ask friends and family for their views as well. If it seems to be taking a long time, then do something useful – train yourself to do something new on the internet, or start working on another skill. Get any experience you can that will help you on your way.
CV and interview tips from breeze marketing
Agenda <ul><li>Key elements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Your CV </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Letter of application </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Planning for your interview </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your on-line presence </li></ul><ul><li>Follow-up/feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation </li></ul>
Your Curriculum Vitae “ Course of life” Or “ a personal history of one’s education, professional history and job qualifications with a strong emphasis on specific skills relating to the position being applied for”
Coloured paper will get me noticed The more they know about me, the better Your CV should never be more than one page long A good CV will get me a job Recruiters and employers read my CV
<ul><ul><li>Customer-handling skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dealing with difficult customers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working as part of a team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to juggle priorities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to remain calm in a high pressured environment </li></ul></ul>
Things to include: <ul><li>Personal details </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Education/qualification </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Achievements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extra-curricular activities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relevant skills </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>References </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Please remember to ask permission! </li></ul></ul></ul>
Cover the basics <ul><li>What job have you applied for? (and where did you see it) </li></ul><ul><li>What relevant skills/education/training to you have? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do you want to work in the sector? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do you want to work for that company? </li></ul>
Some basics! <ul><li>Make sure you address any letter to a named individual if possible </li></ul><ul><li>Yours sincerely if you have a named contact </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dear Mr Smith </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Yours faithfully if you haven’t </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dear Sir/Madam </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Keep your letter to 1 side of A4 </li></ul>
Body language <ul><li>The handshake </li></ul><ul><li>Good eye contact </li></ul><ul><li>Stand up when someone enters the room </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t slouch during the interview </li></ul><ul><li>Remember to smile! </li></ul>
Stay in touch.. <ul><li>Frances Laing </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>www.breeze-marketing.co.uk </li></ul>