Interviews & CV's : What NOT To Do When Applying For A Job
For most of us, one of the best things about leaving school was waving goodbye to writing endless stuff for somebody else to judge us on. Then we come to needing a new job, and it's back to form filling and more writing...
If we manage to avoid the pitfalls of CV blunders, we may be invited for a face to face. Time for paranoia number two to raise its ugly head - speaking to strangers in public. No interviewer expects a faultless speech - they're much more interested in getting to know the 'real you' than sitting through a pre-rehearsed, word perfect performance. That said, there are always going to be some aspects of the 'real you' worth bigging up, and some that are best kept secret between you and your mum!
The following guidelines will go a long way to helping you avoid some of the common gaffes of the job hunting process, and move smoothly into your new career.
Bad spelling and grammar create a very shabby impression...
Whilst you're not applying for the job of company wordsmith, it's worth getting someone else to check over your typing if language isn't your strong point. Computer spell checkers are fine to a point, but even the best of them could accept:
"I no I can urn moor four yore company. Sum daze I loose track of the thyme, I'm sew involved in a sail."
Most are also set on American spellings, and can automatically change an 's' to a 'z' for words like 'recognise'. A little tweak here and there, along with reading your CV out loud will help you to avoid any grammatical errors.
Don't send the same CV out every time...
It would be great to think that we could fill out a template, bang a load out and sit back to wait for the interviews to flood in. Back in the real world, employers will glaze over every time they receive a bog standard application that looks just like everyone else's.
Your basic CV should be just that - then tailored to each job and company you apply to. Bosses are looking for CV's and cover letters that relate to them and the position they're advertising (see Preparing Your CV).
You're not writing War & Peace...
Your CV needs to say just enough to get you an interview, not cover your life history. Any more than two pages of A4 is usually too much - busy interviewers like short, punchy applications with bullet points that clearly show you're worthy of the job. On the other hand, don't leave any gaps. Write your employment history in years, not months, and briefly illustrate any transferable skills learned if you weren't working for a time.
Avoid fluffy, vague statements that could have been written by anyone, and highlight what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
Check your contact details are correct...
You may be contacted by phone, email or post - make sure you check phone and email messages regularly, and that your phone greeting is more Vernon Kay than Jack Dee. Have a listen to your answer phone message - your hilarious ditty might be just enough to change an interviewer's mind about you joining the team.
But why wait for companies to call you?... Follow through by making a courtesy call a couple of days after submitting your CV.
If you wouldn't be comfortable giving your grandma your email address, then get another one for future employers.
Turn up late for interview, and you'll spend the whole session trying to repair the damage...
If you're not naturally great at time-keeping, kid yourself that the appointment is 30 minutes earlier than it is. There's a reason that events always seem to conspire against you when you've a deadline to meet, and it's usually bad preparation on your part! When you enter the interview room, you should be fresh, calm and have a smile on your face. It's essential that all your attention is focused on the meeting, so double check your phone is switched off before you go in.
Don't save the best for later...
There's no warm up act here baby, so pitch in with the good stuff right away. Research shows that most interviewers take about ten minutes to decide whether they're interested in a candidate, and many of them judge people after just five minutes.
Avoid 'empty head syndrome' with a little preparation...
It's only good manners to learn a bit about the organisation in advance, and 30 minutes on the company's website will help to show you've done your homework (see Typical Interview Questions). Pro-actively ask a couple of intelligent questions about the business, but don't guess if you get into something you're unsure of. Bluffing naively might sound smart to you, but you can rest assured your ignorance will come shining through. No-one is expected to know everything, and employers will be much more impressed to see you handle yourself well when you don't know something, than tie yourself in knots pretending you do.
Leave the back-stabbing to daytime TV...
Much as you might prefer to have your teeth extracted with pliers than spend the day with your ex-boss; your interview is not the time to dig the dirt. Expressing personal comments or criticism about current or previous employers is one of the biggest cringe-inducing gaffes you can make. If you're asked how well you got on with former colleagues, remember 'less is more'. Cover any situations you might have had in a positive way, and don't be drawn into a 'pity party' about the past - it'll end up in tears!
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