Writing your CV
Before applying to any job, you need to make sure your CV is up-to-date, clear and well laid out. A perfect CV is a myth but there are plenty of things you can do to make you stand out.
Our top tips
Two pages max
Most companies receive so many CVs that keeping yours to a maximum of two pages means the temptation to waffle is limited. Focus on you and what you have to offer, especially in context of the employer you’re approaching. Keep it human, and keep it honest.
Start with you At this early stage of your career, employers are looking for attitude and potential. Will you fit into their work place and will you make a positive difference to their business? Be honest but don’t make it all about you. Put equal effort into why you’ll be good for your employer.
It’s easy to say you are a good team leader but chances are, everyone else is saying the same thing. Instead, prove it: ‘During my silver Duke of Edinburgh, I was put in charge of map reading. We reached our location without any problems.’ That’s assuming you did – and if you didn’t, that’s fine too – explain what you learnt from it.
CVs are rarely unique but you are. Make sure that comes across. Don’t be tempted to download ready made CVs from the internet. This is your chance to shine – just by being you and making yourself relevant.
Your CV is a chance to capture everything that’s special about you. And, as importantly, a chance to market the you that will make a difference to your chosen employer. Try and put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they might be looking for. You’ll stand out immediately.
Keep it up to date
An up-to-date CV is a relevant CV.
A covering letter or a brief video profle
Covering letters are increasingly being replaced by video. If you’re not a natural video star, don’t worry. But whatever medium you choose, make it about your chosen employer and be honest. And if you do choose video, use your smartphone, prepare and talk straight to the camera.
And finally, proof, proof, proof
Have you provided proof of your achievements? Have you provided proof that you’ve researched your potential employer? And have you proof read your CV? Don’t rely on spell check – get someone else, ideally someone with a grip on punctuation and grammar, to check it too.
Once you’ve created your fabulous CV using our guide, do please send it to us and we’ll happily proof it. And if you hit the UNFM ciriteria for potential great employees, we’ll put you in touch with our carefully chosen employers,
Writing a cover letter
Once you have the perfect CV, it’s time to make the perfect covering letter to go with it. A covering letter is what you send with your CV, and it’s tailored to the employer that’ll be reading it. It’s your opportunity to show your voice and explain why you’d be perfect for the job.
Our top tips:
This is probably the most important part of a cover letter. Taking the time to research the company will pay off. If they’ve written a blog on their site recently, won an award or been in the news, mention this and cite what interested you in approaching them. They’ll see that you took the time to research and this will go a long way.
Depending what industry you’re going into, take some time to find out what kind of professional language they use. This can be useful for interviews too but make sure you’re confident you know what words mean before using them. Looking into the companies website is a good start, as well as their social media accounts. Look at what their tone of voice is, and make sure the one you respond with is appropriate.
A cover letter should be no more than a page, and it shouldn’t take up an entire side. A good way of measuring it is to break it up into three paragraphs. Start with an introduction, explain why you wish to work for the company, then sum up your CV in your own words before finishing the letter.
Who should I address it too?
Make an effort to find out who your application should be addressed to. ‘Dear Jane’ will always look better than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Again, it shows you have taken time to research the correct person.
You do not need to include your age, religion, political views or sexual orientation. It is also not necessary to add an image. Although discrimination is illegal, inserting this information could compromise your chances.
Grammar and spelling
Just like your CV, grammar and spelling is crucial. This will also show you have taken care to have it proofed and care about your cover letter. If an employer catches spelling and grammar mistakes in your letter and CV, you’re very unlikely to ever hear from them.
How can you benefit the employer?
Remember that when you are applying for a job, this is for you to help a company, not the other way round. Spend time looking at their job spec and the skills they have enlisted. How can you make the person’s life you will be working for easier?
Tailor each letter
This is more important for your cover letter than your CV. It goes back to showing you have taken the time to research and care about this opportunity.
There is nothing worse than lying and being caught out. If you decide to lie in your cover letter and forget during an interview what you’ve said, employers will immediately know. Not only does it look bad but it will shake your confidence for future interviews – so don’t do it!
Being assertive is attractive to employers. There is a fine line between assertiveness and arrogance so be careful but you can finish letters by saying ‘I look forward to hearing from you” to show a bit of confidence.
Once you’ve created your fabulous cover letter using our guide, send it to us. We’ll give it a read and add you to our pool of young,
ambitious people ready for employers to find.
Time for the interview
Ok, so you’ve sent off your brilliant CV and covering letter, they want to meet you. It’s time for the interview – the scary bit.
Firstly relax, your first interview will always be the worst one but use it as a learning experience. Follow our tips and advice below for some helpful pointers and techniques to get you feeling ready to ace that interview.
Our top tips:
Take the time to prepare properly for an interview. This will include researching for the company, finding out what you’ll need for the interview and what kind of interview it is going to be. If you can prove you know a lot about the company, your potential employers will be impressed to see you’ve done your homework and are serious about working for them.
What should you wear?
This also comes down to research. Have a look on the companies social media pages – what do the staff wear? What do the photos on their website look like? Is the tone of the company one of professionalism or is it quite casual? Whatever you find out – remember that it is much better to overdress than underdress. Even you find they have a very relaxed dress code for work, they’ll still be expecting you to make an effort for the interview. It shows you’re taking it seriously, and are capable of being a professional!
Practice makes perfect
It’s a phrase you’ll have heard a million times before, and you’ll probably be surprised to hear that it’s relevant to interviews. Have a friend or family member mock up some interview questions. This will give you some practice thinking on your feet and you’ll have answers prepared if the employer asks you those questions.
There should be a point at the end of the interview where you’re asked if you have any questions for the employers/interviewers. It’s tempting to say no, and be on your way but it’s actually an opportunity to find out some information and prove yourself further. There are obviously certain questions that won’t be in your favour. For example, if you ask how much holiday and sick pay you would get. Instead, ask how quickly you’re likely to progress in the company, or if there are any opportunities for professional development within the organisation. This shows you have research the career and take the matter seriously – not to mention it adds maturity if you’re a school leaver. Show them that you’re thinking about your long term career.
Interviews aren’t just about what you say, but also what you do. Make sure you offer a firm handshake when you meet the employer, look them in the eye and nod to show you understand what they’re saying. Remember, you want to show them that you’re confident have the people skills to excel in the job you’re applying for – that’s what they’re looking to see after all!
It’s not the end of the world
Sometimes on the day you might have a panic and nerves will take over. If this does affect your chances of securing the job – don’t panic! More often than not you will thank your lucky stars and that you now work somewhere else. Everything happens for a reason and at that moment, it just wasn’t right for you.
A great technique for working out how to improve your next interview is to keep a note of everything that went well and everything that could have been better immediately after the interview. That way you have time to work on improvements before it’s too late.
Start your career
Congratulations! You made it through the CV, cover letter and the interview process and have been given a job. Don’t get too comfy though – it’s not over just yet. When you start a new job, you’re new boss will be watching you quite closely.
They want confirmation that they made the right decision in hiring you, and the initial few weeks gives them the opportunity to see how successful you’ll be in the job role. There’s no need to panic though! You were given this job for a reason, so you’re probably going to nail it. Even so, here are some tips on impressing the boss during your probation period.
Our top tips
Dressing for the occasion
By now, you probably have a good sense of the dress code at your new company. Have a look around and see what other employers wear, how casual is it? If its smart business wear, make sure you don’t show up in jeans and ugg boots.
You’re a professional now, so you need to start dressing like one. If the dress code seems to be very casual, you still need to make an effort. Invest in clothes that don’t have holes in and aren’t worn down, pick a couple of smarter outfits to have on hand too. Whatever you wear, make sure you’re comfortable in it. Your new employer wants to see you settle in.
I know, it seems like an obvious one. Being on time for work is always going to be important, whether you’re the newbie or have been there for years. Punctuality doesn’t just mean arriving at 9am though. If you’re due to start work at nine, you should be arriving ten minutes early to allow you to settle in for the day. That means you can actually start working from nine, rather than stand around making tea for the first 15 minutes of your day.
No, not vodka. Again, you probably think it’s ridiculous that we’re telling you to drink – you already know how to do that. But when you’ve got a busy working day, you’ll find yourself forgetting to top up your water bottle. It might not seem like such a big deal, but drinking lots of water ensures you stay awake, alert, and you’ll perform much better. Your employer will certainly notice if you start getting fatigued at around four pm every day because you’ve not had enough to drink.
Don’t be the first to leave
You”ll probably have a set time you’re due to finish work, and it’s tempting to follow it closely. Think about how it looks if you start packing up your things at 4.45pm so you can shoot out the door the second it turns 5 o’clock. A great rule of thumb is to not leave until the boss does. if the boss is still finding things to be done, it’s likely there’s still things for you do to do. Of course, if everyone is staying much later than you can you can leave. Just make sure you leave when you feel like its appropriate to do so. Have you finished all your work? Is everyone else staying late to finish a project? Should you be staying to?
The other employees will probably have been working together for a while, and will already know each other quite well. It’s important that you get on with your colleagues and show them you’re making the effort to know them. It can be small things like asking them for help and advice, chatting with them on your break or making sure to offer them a friendly greeting in the morning. If its the sort of office that likes to socialise, go along to any of the after work drinks. It’ll give you the opportunity to mingle with them and you’ll be more comfortable around them at work.
Ask for feedback
If you ask for feedback on work every hour, it’ll get annoying. Asking every couple of weeks how you’ve been performing and what can be improved shows that you’re taking the initiative to improve yourself and your career prospects. It’s no surprise that this comes across as very impressive and mature. Don’t just ask though, make sure you take on board what they say and try to improve through their advice. Remember, constructive criticism is for your own benefit and nothing personal.
It’s important that you remember you’re new. No one will be expecting miracles from you, especially if you’re training. All your new employers will be looking for is willingness to learn and succeed in your career.