Stand out from the crowd

By at home

In today’s overcrowded jobs market it can be a real challenge to get noticed and make your next career move. We show you how…

Whether you’re a new graduate, a first-jobber looking to work your way up the career ladder, or an established name keeping an eye out for your next move, you can’t have failed to notice that the competitive scramble for desirable positions is at an all-time high. The recession has meant more applicants are fighting for fewer roles – figures show employers get an average of 70 CVs for every vacancy, so making your application stand out is crucial. But where do you begin? Well, reading this article is as good a start as any – we bring you our ultimate guide to making your CV work for you, impressing at interview stage and standing head and shoulders above the rest. Good luck!

Stay focused
The very first thing to consider is that your search for a new job won’t be easy. Unless you are lucky enough to be headhunted, you are likely to be in this for the long haul, with numerous rejections and knocks before you clinch a new role. But, as James Caan explains, it’s vital that you keep your eyes on the prize and avoid losing momentum. ‘Jobsearching is a job in its own right. It’s time-consuming to read the trade press, send your CV to a recruitment consultant and scour online jobs boards in search of opportunities,’ he says. ‘It can be disheartening to apply for dozens of jobs and for nothing to come to fruition, but stay focused and proactive and your persistence will pay off.’

Every stage of the application process needs to be considered – are you looking for jobs in the right places? Many desirable positions are never advertised, and many career successes rely on being in the right place at the right time. Maximise your chances by networking within your industry and sending out speculative CVs – the more people who’ve heard of you and know you’re seeking work, the better. Creating a targeted CV and covering letter is vital. Many people make the mistake of sending out the same, tired catch-all CV, and lose out to candidates who have prepared one that showcases work relevant to the job in question.

Dress for success
When it comes to choosing what to wear for an interview, think about the type of role you’ve applied for – if it’s a creative role in the media industry, you’re probably safe to leave the suit at home. But if you’re going to be working in a client-facing role or attending board meetings, it’s common sense to smarten up. Either way, avoid looking scruffy – if you have to wear trainers, make sure they’re box-fresh. It goes without saying that you should be neat and freshly showered, but avoid going too wild with the perfume or aftershave – there’s leaving an impression, then there’s wafting in like an explosion in an Old Spice factory. This is definitely one of those occasions where less is more – and that goes for make-up and any accessories, too.

Finally, if you’ve got visible tattoos or piercings, consider covering them up or taking them out for your first meeting with a prospective employer. Talk the talk ‘Think about the responses you give at interview, and whether you are going into enough depth with your answers,’ says James Caan. ‘It’s really important to include examples of what you’ve achieved so that the interviewer can relate to what you’re saying. Be descriptive to bring examples to life and use words with impact such as dedicated and committed.’ For some ideas on questions that are likely to come up, www.whatwilltheyask.co.uk is a great resource. The way you handle yourself is key to how others see you and can give a fascinating insight into the way you are viewed, be at work, home or anywhere else, for that matter. Body language expert Judi James says: ‘Around 55% of the communication we make on a face-to-face basis is through body language.’

So what are Judi’s top tips for projecting the right image in the workplace? ‘Pause before you walk into a room – whether for a meeting, job appraisal, anything. Straighten your posture, iron out your facial expressions and walk in expecting to shake hands. British people are so bad at handshakes – they’re either too limp or involve getting your arm pumped.’ It’s also good to maintain eye contact throughout your interview, say ‘yes’ if offered a drink (sipping water can provide valuable thinking time when it comes to answering trickier questions) and have a couple of your own questions prepared – but avoid asking about salary or holiday entitlement. These potentially contentious issues can be broached at a later stage.

Is your CV up to scratch?
With so many applicants flooding the job market, it’s vital your CV is marketing you as best it possibly can. Here are a few golden rules to follow… 

  1. Target your CV for every job you apply for. The best way to achieve this is to always refer back to the job advertisement that you’re responding to and make sure that you fulfil each of the criteria listed.
  2. Think about things you’ve done in the past that may suddenly be relevant to this new role – there might well be a forgotten work placement or achievement that could help your CV shine.
  3. Put a positive spin on everything you’ve done, however insignificant it may seem to you, eg, work experience placements taught you to manage your time effectively, or presentations at university helped you work as part of a team. Pretty much everything can be turned into CV-speak for ‘this person is the ideal candidate for the job’ – it’s just a matter of identifying your strengths and playing them up.
  4. If you’re lacking experience, put the emphasis on your skills. You want your CV to ooze at-a-glance greatness, so open with a paragraph outlining the specific skills you have that make you perfect for the job. This is the ideal place to talk up deal-clinchers like IT and language skills.
  5. Avoid opening with a personal statement or ‘objective’. The bottom line is: your prospective employer probably isn’t all that bothered at this stage, and would rather you just laid out the facts. If you can’t resist a self-indulgent paragraph or two, put it in an ‘interests’ section at the very end of your CV.
  6. Keep your CV to two pages at the absolute most. Three is overkill, while one will struggle to contain the must-haves for any CV while remaining at a readable font size (no smaller than 11 point).
  7. Add value. ‘Savvy candidates have used the recession to add value to their CV by undertaking courses or developing their transferable skills to make them stand out from the crowd,’ says James Caan.
  8. Still struggling? Then maybe it’s time you called in the experts. CV-writing pros can whip yours into shape from as little as £10 a pop. Go online to find someone who can help.

Dress for success
When it comes to choosing what to wear for an interview, think about the type of role you’ve applied for – if it’s a creative role in the media industry, you’re probably safe to leave the suit at home. But if you’re going to be working in a client-facing role or attending board meetings, it’s common sense to smarten up. Either way, avoid looking scruffy – if you have to wear trainers, make sure they’re box-fresh. It goes without saying that you should be neat and freshly showered, but avoid going too wild with the perfume or aftershave – there’s leaving an impression, then there’s wafting in like an explosion in an Old Spice factory. This is definitely one of those occasions where less is more – and that goes for make-up and any accessories, too. Finally, if you’ve got visible tattoos or piercings, consider covering them up or taking them out for your first meeting with a prospective employer.

Talk the talk
‘Think about the responses you give at interview, and whether you are going into enough depth with your answers,’ says James Caan. ‘It’s really important to include examples of what you’ve achieved so that the interviewer can relate to what you’re saying. Be descriptive to bring examples to life and use words with impact such as dedicated and committed.’ For some ideas on questions that are likely to come up, www.whatwilltheyask.co.uk is a great resource. The way you handle yourself is key to how others see you and can give a fascinating insight into the way you are viewed, be at work, home or anywhere else, for that matter. Body language expert Judi James says: ‘Around 55% of the communication we make on a face-to-face basis is through body language.’

So what are Judi’s top tips for projecting the right image in the workplace? ‘Pause before you walk into a room – whether for a meeting, job appraisal, anything. Straighten your posture, iron out your facial expressions and walk in expecting to shake hands. British people are so bad at handshakes – they’re either too limp or involve getting your arm pumped.’  It’s also good to maintain eye contact throughout your interview, say ‘yes’ if offered a drink (sipping water can provide valuable thinking time when it comes to answering trickier questions) and have a couple of your own questions prepared – but avoid asking about salary or holiday entitlement. These potentially contentious issues can be broached at a later stage.

‘It’s crucial to do your research’ Emily Wright, 26, journalist
‘I work in publishing, which is a very competitive industry, and I have just recently changed jobs so I know exactly how tough it is to get employers to take notice of you. ‘The best advice I could give is to do your research. Arm yourself with as much information about the company and individuals you’re being interviewed by as you can lay your hands on. For example, before I’m interviewed for any magazine jobs, I make sure I know the circulation figures of the title, their rivals on the newsstands, and have a good look at their online presence, too. This gives me an understanding of the publication’s market and provides a few talking points. ‘And this doesn’t just apply to jobs in the media – whatever industry you’re in, I think it’s crucial you do your homework. Blagging it rarely pays off.’


Pictures: getty images, istock photo
 

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