OK, so you are out of work and you are not getting any interviews. How can you improve your chances of getting a new job quickly?
Well like anything in this World you've got to work at it. In fact your new job..is to find a new job! Yes, that's right, you've got to work at it 8 hours a day (at least!). So what does this "job" involve? First things first, give your CV a complete makeover, make sure that you have a really strong profile and set out some of your key achievements and skills clearly. Have a look at my earlier blog on this subject - Writing a Winning CV With your new (and hopefully much improved) CV, you can place this on a job board like www.cwjobs.co.uk. This should generate interest from recruiters. At the same time you should be actively responding to job advertisements on the the job boards. Start pro-actively calling some of the better recruitment agencies and build relationships with several recruitment consultants. Try to identify Consultants who either specialise in your field or frequently advertise jobs in your field. Many Recruitment Consultancies have teams who focus on particular sectors (ie. Legal, Retail, Telco, etc.) while others focus on specific roles. (ie. Business Analysts, Developers and so on) either way it makes sense to work with Consultants who understand what you do and will be actively canvassing employers for your kind of job. Once you identify the right Consultants, offer to go and see them. Even if you meet up for coffee for ten minutes it's worth meeting face-to-face. Recruiters will be impressed by your motivation and will be more likely to think of you when the right job comes up.
What else can you do to improve your chances? Start thinking about the companies you would like to work for. Who were your last employer's competitors? What other companies or organisations operate in the same field? Try sending your CV to these companies on a speculative basis.
Don't forget to network, pull out that little black book (or Blackberry) and get in touch with all your old contacts and make sure that they are all aware that you are available. You might also consider attending industry events. There are a surprising number of free IT Conferences that you can attend which provide excellent opportunities for networking, have a look at http://www.events-on.net/ for the latest conference news and don't forget to take your CV!
Good luck with you new job!
Using the following simple techniques will ensure that your CV comes up in searches and that your skills and experience match the recruiter's search string.
When writing your CV, think carefully about your choice of words. If you are applying for a job advertised on one of the job boards such as www.cwjobs.co.uk then look carefully at the words being used in the advertisement and utilize these same words in your CV. I'm not suggesting that you mention skills and experience that you don't have but it does make sense to use the same terminology.
Remember that if your CV is sitting on one of the job boards, or perhaps on a recruitment agency database (along with thousands of other CVs) then these are the words and terms that a recruitment consultant will probably use to search for CVs.
For example, if you are looking for a position in IT as a Project Manager then a quick scan of the on-line advertisements for Project Managers might throw up a number of words and phrases that are common to all. These terms may include: Project Manager, Project Management, Prince 2, life-cycle, budget, change control, risk register and Microsoft Project. These are the words that a recruitment consultant may use to search for Project Managers. Make sure that you include all the appropriate words and phrases and all their variations in your CV.
Using the right job title is also another important factor. Many organisations use job titles that are meaningful and relevant within the context of their own business but which would not be used very commonly in the outside world. If your CV records that you have been (for example) a "Senior Critical Situation Manager" when in fact you are looking for a position as a "Problem Manager" or "Service Manager" then be sure to use this job title in your CV, perhaps in the Profile section.
I have seen many instances of Recruitment Consultants searching for candidates on a CV database and "missing" some of the best candidates simply because they didn't have the "right" job title on their CV. Identify all of your target job titles and ensure that you use all of them in your CV. For example Analyst Programmer, Software Engineer, Software Developer and so on.
When listing your IT technical skills you should also try to use all the variations of terms that a Recruitment Consultant is likely to search on. For example if you have good Java ME skills don't forget to use "Java Micro Edition" as well. Remember that Recruitment Consultants can't be experts in every technical field and if their client's job specification indicates a requirement for "Java Micro Edition" that's probably the term they will use in their search.
Finally remember that Recruiters will probably be viewing your CV on a computer screen so make sure that you get these important words and phrases at the beginning of your CV and not hidden away at the bottom of the secord or third page.
Using these simple techniques will ensure that your CV comes up in searches and that your skills and experience match the recruiter's search string.
Confirm the date and time of your interview and make sure you get directions if necessary. Check out the travel time either by road or public transport. Make sure you allow for the time of day. If necessary make a dummy run at the same time so that you are completely familiar with the route. Aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time and then allow another 15 minutes just to be sure. There is nothing worse than arriving late for an interview!
Having sorted out the logistics now you need to start your research into the company or organisation. One of the first questions that interviewers often ask is "What do you know about us?" Have a good look at the company web site but also use a search engine to research as much background information as you can. Having this information will ensure that you can answer that question confidently and also give you the opportunity to ask some smart questions of your own. "I see you've recently opened a new call centre, what CRM package are you going to use?" sounds a lot better than "What time do you finish work on Fridays?"
Make sure you also research your interviewer(s). You may find a profile (or even a CV) on the company web site or try searching for the interviewer's name on the internet. It's important that you know as much as you can about your interviewer and their background as this will enable you to predict the types of questions they will ask and how you should pitch your responses. For example if your interviewer comes from an IT background similar to your own then you can expect a technical grilling but what if your interviewer comes from a finance background? Clearly you will need to pitch your responses at a different level.
Try to put yourself in the interviewer's shoes. If you were interviewing a candidate for this position what questions would you ask? Try to prepare strong responses to the most likely questions.
If you are working with a recruitment consultant ask them to provide you with a thorough briefing. They may have had candidates who have previously attended interviews with the same interviewer. What questions were they asked? If they were unsuccessful what was the feedback
Try to find out what the format of the interview will be. Will this be a formal/informal interview? Will there be just one interviewer or a panel? Might you be required to make a presentation? Should you take examples of your work? Will there be any kind of technical test?
Remember that interviewers (particularly from HR) often ask "Competency Questions". The theory behind competency based interviews is that past behaviour is often the best indicator of future behaviour. So these questions will often start with "Tell me about a time...." or "Can you give me an example...?" Try to think carefully what competencies are likely to be relevant to the job. If you are lucky they may be listed in the job specification.
If you decide that the competencies will include:
leadership, communication, influencing skills and innovation
Then make sure you that you have a store of good examples of your experience in each of these areas.
The best way to structure your response to competency questions is to use the STAR technique. STAR is an acronym for Situation - Task - Action - Result.
So for example if the interviewer asks:
"Can you give me an example of your ability to provide innovative solutions to problems?"
Using the STAR technique you could answer:
I was the leading a team at XYZ company (SITUATION). I was asked to come up with a plan to improve communication within the project management community and provide a central resource for project management tools and templates (TASK). I created an intranet site which contained all the necessary documents plus a forum for the project managers (ACTION). This has proved extremely successful and I recently received an award from the company congratulating me on the success of this project (RESULT).
Note that you should use I (not we!) in your answer and that this response follows the STAR format, - in simple terms "it's a story with a happy ending"
In preparing for your interview try to prepare as many of these "stories" as you can that will be relevant to the role.
Finally be positive! Taking this amount of care with your interview preparation will give you a head start and ensure that you perform at your best on the big day.
If you apply for a job these days the chances are that you may be applying through a Recruitment Agency. What should you expect from an agency and more specifically from a Recruitment Consultant?
Let's assume that you have applied for an IT position on http://www.cwjobs.co.uk/. You should receive either an immediate automated response or a personal response within a few hours acknowledging that your application has been received. Alarm bells should start ringing if you don't receive any kind of acknowledgement.
How long should you wait before following up? I would suggest two working days, however if you feel that you are uniquely well qualified for the job then do call sooner.
Assuming that you have the right experience then a professional Consultant will want to interview you for the job. Treat this "agency interview" in exactly the same way as you would a "proper" interview. The Consultant may well have a long list of up to 10 candidates and will want to see who will be the best fit for his client. Do try to attend face-to-face as this will always give you an advantage over candidates who can only commit to a telephone interview. Make the effort to attend the agency interview and you will demonstrate your motivation and commitment. This may also make you think twice about which jobs to apply for. I suggest that, in the current job market, you only apply for jobs where you have all the skills required. If the advertisement says "in-depth experience of developing mobile phone software using J2ME" chances are that your C++ experience is not going to be right for that particular job!
This agency interview can serve a dual purpose as once you have convinced the Consultant that are right for the role he or she will be able to give you a thorough briefing on what to expect at the proper client interview. Remember that the Consultant may have had several candidates who have already attended interviews for similar roles with the same client. The Consultant can brief you in detail on the organisation, the working environment, the other people in the department and most especially the interviewer or interviewers. What sort of interview questions can you expect? Will this be a formal or informal interview? Will you need to make a presentation?
If the Consultant now confirms that you have been short-listed, make sure that you get his or her assurance that your CV will be sent to the client. Make a note of exactly when your CV was submitted together with the name of the client. Don't give your permission for your CV to be sent anywhere unless you know where it is being sent. This can lead to potentially embarrassing instances of your CV being received by the client from two different agencies. Keep a record and don't let this happen. I recommend that you maintain a simple spreadsheet of the jobs that you have applied for, when you applied, the name of the Agency and Contact and perhaps a note of the version of the CV that you submitted. Ask the Consultant when you can expect a decision regarding an interview and put a reminder in your schedule.
At this time the Consultant should also ask to see your passport or proof of identity. I know that many candidates are concerned about identity theft but this is a genuine requirement of the Employment Agencies Act. Check that the agency is a member of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) who will also be able to re-assure you and confirm what information you are expected to provide to a registered Recruitment Agency. Apart from checking your identity the Agency will want to see proof of your right to work in the UK if you are not a British or EU Citizen. They should also ask for copies of relevant qualifications and details of your references/referees.
Hopefully all of this should lead to a face-to-face interview (or interviews) with the client and eventually a job offer. Your Recruitment Consultant should then be able to guide you through the whole offer process. You should be completely open about your current earnings and be absolutely clear about your salary expectations in the new role. There is nothing worse than getting an offer and then finding that it is for much less than you had expected. Be up front about this and make sure that the Consultant understands exactly what salary and package you are looking for and there should be no confusion.
Your Consultant may want to stay in touch even after you start your new job. It's always useful to have a good contact in the recruitment industry, you never know when you might want to recruit some staff for your team or even look for another job!
Put yourself in the shoes of your friendly neighbourhood recruiter who arrives at his desk bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8:30 one Monday morning to find 150 responses to that advertisement he placed on Friday afternoon for an ITIL Service Delivery Manager. He now has the unenviable task of going through each of those CVs to find the best three to put forward to his client by 5:00pm the same day.
Being only human the first approach is a quick "skim"and the CVs tend to go one of three ways - YES, MAYBE, NO
Your only purpose in submitting your CV is to ensure that your CV goes in the YES column.
Think of your CV in terms of "screens" (not pages) because that's what the recruiter is going to look at when he opens your CV. So you need to be absolutely sure to include the information that will make him say "YES" when he views that first screen.
Please don't write one of those CVs that fill the entire first screen with absolutely useless information. If you write CURRICULUM VITAE in 18 point characters across the top with your name and address on 5 separate lines followed by a lengthy list of your GCSE O and A level results, not to mention your clean driving licence and the fact that you are a non smoker you will have filled the entire first screen without saying anything that will persuade our recruiter to read on.
That CV might go on to say that you are a Guru of the Service Delivery World but unfortunately it's probably already gone into the NO file.
You must place key information about your skills, experience and achievements into the first screen of your CV, otherwise it probably won't get read.
So here are some fundamental rules for writing your CV.
Rule number 1
Do use a clear type face. This is entirely a matter of choice but most serif type faces (like Times New Roman) were designed to look nice on the printed page whereas our expectation is that most recipients will now be reading your CV on a computer screen. So the rule is to keep your typeface nice and clear. My recommendation would be Arial or Helvetica.
Rule number 2
Don't waste 5 separate lines writing your name and address. You can start off with your name in about a 14 point followed by your address and contact details including your e-mail address in 8 point on the next 2 lines. Only use two lines for your address and contact details, you can't afford to waste this valuable space.
Rule number 3
Following your name and contact details the next item should be your PROFILE.
This is the single most important part of your CV.
You need to write a very concise profile of who you are and what you do. I suggest you use no more than six lines and this "body text" should ideally be in 10 point. This profile is most likely to be what the recruiter reads straightaway. If it doesn't match his job requirement he's going to put you in the "NO" folder.
So you must try to tailor the profile to the specific job that you are applying for. Remember our recruiter is looking for key words from his job spec.
Let's assume that, in part, his job spec (and the job advertisement) is asking for:
ITIL Certification -Strong Team Management -Strong experience of Service Delivery Management -Strong track record of Financial Services
Your PROFILE needs to reflect at least this experience. For example:
A highly skilled Service Delivery Manager with the ITIL Service Management Expert Certification. Fully conversant with the latest IT innovations, delivering solutions which utilise cutting-edge technologies. Currently managing a team of ten and with a strong track record of success in the Financial Services Sector. This experience is complimented by strong analytical, problem solving and communication skills.
That profile will almost certainly encourage our Recruiter to read on and will probably get that candidate short-listed for the Service Delivery Manager role.
Remember the first "screen" of the first page of your CV is what really counts. It's all the recruiter is going to look at initially and he's probably only going to look for about 10 seconds. I strongly recommend that you tailor this Profile to each specific job application. I'm not suggesting that you distort your experience and I'm assuming that you wouldn't be applying for the job unless you have the basic skills required, but you do need to ensure that the contents of your Profile reflect the requirements of the particular job you are applying for. What you are doing is making the recruiter's job as easy as possible. Make sure you give him what he's looking for!
Now let's move on down the first page of your CV. Following your PROFILE you need to add roughly five Key Achievements that provide evidence to support the Profile you have written. These need to be impressive and I would suggest that you write them cliche free. Instead they need to be solid achievements that are relevant to the role that you are applying for and that will be meaningful to your potential employer.
Selecting these key achievements is really important and will also get you thinking about what you have really achieved in your career and more importantly what will get you that interview.
Ideally you should have a "library" of at least 10 key achievements and place the five that you feel are most appropriate in the list for each job application. These key achievements will also provide useful ammunition for questions at interview.
The next important section should be a matrix of your technical skills. I would recommend grouping these by category. (eg. Operating Systems, Development Tools, RDBMS etc.)
From this point on you can start to list your jobs. Don't use obscure job titles that are unique to your organisation but will be meaningless to other employers. My advice would be to modify job titles so that they are clearly understandable and indicate exactly what you did in the job.
Make sure that you list five or six key achievements for each job and of course you can include your full "library" of Key Achievements used earlier in the CV.
Always state clearly why you left each job and make sure that that you account for the whole of your career and that there are no blank periods. If you took a 6 month planned career break to renovate your house then say so, don't leave a blank.
The final part of your CV should include your Education and Professional Training and your Personal Details which should include your Nationality. If you are not a British or an EU Citizen then you need to indicate on what basis you are able to work in the UK.
Remember that you do not need to include your date of birth. Because of the Age Discrimination Act recruiters should not ask for your age, although bear in mind that employers are entitled to know your date of birth at the time they offer you a position.
In some respects these guidelines are written for a very conventional CV and of course there are lots of opportunities for innovation and development in this area. For example you might want to place your CV on your personal web site or social networking site and include graphics, video clips etc. however what you have here is a basic working CV that will get you interviews with the majority of recruiters / employers in the UK and that should be your objective.
It's over to you!