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                   Your Curriculum Vitae

(The following article is an edited extract from Sorted! A Survival Guide for Parents of Students making a Career Choice,  by Andrée Harpur and Mary Quirke)

Your Curriculum Vitae is your promotional tool.  Its function is to get you in the door of a company and get you interviewed.

What does it Normally Contain?

Your CV will contain:

  • Your contact details: name, address, phone number and email address,
  • Your Educational Record: Where you studied, when and the qualifications you received;
  • Your work experience: Where you worked, the position you held, for how long and the responsibilities you undertook;
  • Hobbies, interests;
  • Referees who will recommend you to a potential employer;
  • Extra experience:  i.e. voluntary work experience;
  • Extra qualifications: i.e. clean driving licence, extracurricular courses, or knowledge of computers.

Tips for Writing your CV

  • A CV should look good, i.e. be easy to read and in a sequence that is easy to follow.
  • It should not be too long, but contain enough information to hopefully secure an interview.  If there is too little information, there is the risk of being overlooked. In most cases two A4 pages are considered sufficient.
  • Use good quality white paper.
  • Use a nice clear font, Arial or Times New Roman, font size 12 and make it 1.5 line spacing.
  • Put your main selling points on the first page of your CV.
  • Give the highest priority to your best and most recent examples of your ability to do this job.
  • Be positive, direct and concise.
  • Use action verbs ( Managed, organised, developed).
  • List the skills you have developed through part-time jobs, voluntary activity, hobbies, sports, clubs etc.
  • Give concrete examples of the skills you say you have.

Unnecessary CV content

  • Your date of birth and age are not necessary.
  • Nor is nationality, marital status, family status.

Can anything else be included with a CV?

  • A written reference from a past employer or a certificate for a course that might make the difference, e.g. a certificate in water safety if applying for a job in a local swimming pool.
  • Be careful not to send originals. Send copies as CVs and any extra materials  are generally not returned.
  • A modelling CV might include a photo.
  • A CV for a radio position or one involving music might include a demo tape.

The Interview

There are different types of interviews:

  • One-on-one interviews – where one person questions another.
  • Panel interviews – where two or three people interview one applicant
  • Observational interviews – where the applicant can be asked to demonstrate a skill or task as part of the selection process. This could be used in an interview for an apprenticeship.
  •  Competency-based interviews – where the candidate is asked questions with a particular focus on competencies required for the position. The candidate is expected to be focused and demonstrate they have the competencies by way of example or past experience. This style of interviewing is used by larger companies and the public and civil service.

Tips on What to Wear

  • Something smart and groomed – there is a good reason that a shirt and tie, or a smart skirt/pair of trousers and blouse has been the most common attire for interviews for many years now. Something smart and businesslike is the key.
  • Sometimes it is easier to tell someone what not to wear. Don’t wear casual clothes (jeans, tracksuits), as they look out of place in most cases. Even if the position allows casual attire when working, it is not a good idea to dress down for an interview. The objective is to impress.
  •  Don’t wear shoes that are uncomfortable and make sure that they are polished and clean. Shoes should be smart and not necessarily a fashion statement.
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable– if trousers are preferred to a skirt, then wear them. If a jacket and trousers are more comfortable than a suit, wear them. A dress can be tremendously handy and look really well, but don’t wear one if you are not comfortable doing so. Never wear anything too revealing.
  • What about a handbag? It is not a statement in itself, so bring it only if it if you normally use a handbag and you are comfortable using it.

What to Talk About

  • The first thing you need to make sure is that you know your CV and letter of application very well and can elaborate upon them if required. It can prove to be very embarrassing if you are asked, ‘tell me more about this work experience’ and you are stuck for words.
  • You need to know your unique selling points – 3 things that make you really suitable for this job.
  • Research the company – what do they do, how do they do it, how many people work for them, do they sell products or provide a service, are they well known, how long are they in business, are they seeking to expand? Most companies have a website: use it for research.
  • Call  the company and ask for any literature they might have.Ifyou know someone who already works for the company ask them about what they do and what the company does.
  • Research the actual job. What will it involve, what hours will be worked, will it involve working alone or with others, will there be deadlines, will there be responsibility, will training be involved?
  • There is usually a job spec available – ask for it and go through it.
  • Research similar jobs on the internet, where more information can be found.
  • Remember it is not a good idea to tell anything other than the truth. What is most important is that as you work through this process, you need to be positive, optimistic and honest.
  • It is a good idea to have some questions prepared to ask at the interview. Not only will it give something to say but it will also show interest in the job.
  • What type of questions? Asking objective questions about the job and the company is a good idea, e.g. will there be training? Asking questions about pay and conditions is a waste of time and unnecessary – in fact it would be considered inappropriate at this stage of the process. You need to actually get the job first.
  • Good communication skills are essential in making a good impression. Good communication skills involve listening carefully to the questions asked and answering those questions, maintaining eye contact when speaking with someone and sitting in an upright position – back straight and feet firmly on the ground (slouchy shoulders and poor eye contact can make you appear disinterested or lazy).

What to Expect After an Interview

When the interview is done, the waiting starts. Waiting is not easy! However, if you are waiting for a long time (over two weeks) it is appropriate  to contact the employer and ask them about the status of your  application. For good news, the job needs to be formally accepted. When you are  successful, you will receive a job offer, more often than not in writing. In a job offer letter, details of a start date and pay and conditions will be detailed.

Your  will  be required to acknowledge the job offer, and it is a good idea to do this in
writing. On some occasions there may be negotiation involved – please remember that salary is often based on past qualifications and work experience. A higher salary requires a clear case as to why it is deserved. The salary is not the only thing that you might need to negotiate – holidays, working hours, days off and location of work may also need to be discussed. It is important that if particular hours need to be requested, this is done in a way that also makes sense for the employer.

However if  you receive a  ‘we regret’, it is important that you learn from the experience and move forward:

  •  Reflect – discuss the process: the application, the CV, the interview, now with the benefit of hindsight. What would you do differently?
  • And learn – did you know that the interviewer can be contacted and asked for feedback? Use the opportunity, if possible, and learn for the next time.