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Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Get That Job!

Written by Alastair McFarlane

HR expert Alastair McFarlane presents a positive, constructive forward plan to get the elusive job that’s ‘just right’ for you...

You have been thinking about it for a while, haven’t you? You’re not performing to your maximum potential for all sorts of reasons. Because you have been there for a long time, they simply depend on you but, at the same time they do not realise or appreciate your contribution. It is time to think constructively about that devil you do not know - it is time to consider a change of job.

As a Companion the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a former HR Director and an HR Consultant for over twelve years, I have worked along with a whole army of people who have felt as you feel.

Let us then spring out of the lethargy and think through a positive, constructive forward plan to get that elusive ‘right’ job...

Application Forms
Some local authorities still dwell in the dark ages, with their advice to ‘complete the form in black pen and block capitals since it may be photocopied’. I ask you - do they realise the sensitivity of today’s copiers or have they ever heard of electronic applications? ‘The Powers That Be’, however, are in charge and you are required to conform.

This, therefore, requires you to photocopy the application form. You can then develop your responses to the more complex matters on this separate sheet, allowing for changes to be easily made before the original document is used. Check every word for spelling. Let someone else critically read the final effort. The investment of time in getting it right boosts the ego and can pay definite dividends. You know precisely what you mean to say but do others get the same feel from the words which you have used? Encourage the person reading it over to question, comment, even criticise...all such scrutiny ensures that you have to be even more on your proverbial toes. {mospagebreak}

CVs
Be ever-mindful that this entire document is your shop window, your personal marketing tool, your brag sheet, which can only, in total, amount to two pages. It must also be printed on 100g paper, written up in Times New Roman or Arial 12 point type – nothing else will do.

There is a clear pattern to follow when it comes to the presentation of your personal details. At the top of the document comes your name in capital letters in dark print (only black print on white paper) then to the left your landline, mobile and email details and to the right your home address complete with postal code.

Then comes a ‘Profile’ which involves summarising, in the most positive way possible, all aspects of your experience. Each of the 30 to 50 words used to do this must, obviously, be carefully chosen to maximise impact. For example: ‘A highly experienced computer-literate Case Worker...’ (with the last two words in heavy type). This is the area which must impress the CV reader, leading to their giving full attention to the rest of the document.

‘Career History’ in dark block capitals at the side introduces precisely that element, with information starting with your most recent role. The employer’s name and post held are on the left, while on the right is placed the years in post, all in dark type. In other words, the most critical information is highlighted, again. If still employed ‘to date’ is appropriate, if not then the year of leaving is noted. In all dates, the year is sufficient, it not being necessary to record the actual month for either starting or leaving.

The main challenge is to record in the best way possible the work carried out in the role. Bullet points are used with a style which uses positive action words.

For instance:

- ‘Re-engineered departmental operating arrangements resulting in 10% year on year savings without any reduction in quality of service’

- ‘Prepared and presented computer generated analytical and statistical reports covering all areas of responsibility’

- ‘Evolved, developed and presented training programmes to circa 1,000 employees from all levels throughout the organisation’ {mospagebreak}

If you are able to quantify achievement then do so, it simply improves the overall impact. There is a natural presumption that your current, or most recent role is the most important ,which allows you to allocate around 12 bullet points to it while you move back over the rest of your career history. For the earliest roles a simple statement of the organisation, the role held and the years may, perhaps, be sufficient. In each instance, of course, such information is in dark type. Remember, however, to account for each and every year you worked.

‘Qualifications’ comes next. Again, in capitals and at the left hand side. The phrase ‘Continuous professional development through attendance at courses, conferences, seminars and workshops covering all areas of responsibility’ is a handy one here. Of course, individual, relevant qualifications are listed but there is no real need to quote those from school level...after all you have achieved a lot since then!

Finally, ‘Personal’ is the side heading, in dark block capitals, which states your DoB, if you wish to reveal it, followed by marital status, which is another area where you have a choice to include or omit.

Interview
The one word which is critical in relation to the interview is ‘Prepare’. It has various twists, however! Yes of course, you have to know about the organisation, which requires focus and investigation. This too relates to how you will respond when the interviewer asks ‘Tell me about yourself?’ Be mindful that they may not even think about the question but that does not prevent your being ready with an answer - around three minutes of up-beat career summary.

Then we get to the reasons why you wish to leave your current role. ‘My post was made redundant’ still has a stigma to it, as opposed to ‘The decision was made to relocate resulting in all the team locally being made redundant.’

The whole technique of presenting your CV in the manner detailed above is to present ‘coat hangers’ and you require to know how to ‘clothe’ these at the interview. In other words, you could very well be asked about any of the bullet point items and it is up to you to elaborate with further information and examples. {mospagebreak}

Being invited for interview really means that they consider that you can do the job. The only hurdle left is proving that you definitely can. It is a tad psychological but also critical that you buzz yourself up to make absolutely the right impact.

Move, then, to the end of the interview. The question traditionally posed is ‘Have you any questions?’ Your response could be something like: ‘Well, I will admit that I had a few earlier but you have actually responded to all of them during our discussions. The more I have heard about the role, the more I consider that it aligns with the skills, knowledge and experience which I have gained over the years.” Take this as a starting point and develop it, using your own words, until you are comfortable with it.

Another area where you require to be well prepared is in relation to referees. It may well be that you will be asked for their details at some stage. Is it not, however, so much more professional to have them with you? In each instance have not only home email, landline and mobile but also those for work.

Get comfortable, ready for the questions and queries to flow - that means sitting straight in the chair and at a 45% angle to the desk, ankles crossed, hands in a temple position. Body language is an important element of any interview and you can show interest by the listening gesture of craning forward just a little as the interviewer speaks and agreeing with a head movement.

Conclusion
We have the CV as it should be, answers to the questions sorted, all the preparation done and are ready for what the interviewer might through us. What more are you waiting for? Good luck!

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