CV and Interview Advice

CV Tips

Your CV is a great marketing tool that allows you to promote yourself with the sole purpose of getting an interview.

Ultimately your CV is your calling card and your most important sales tool. It should go without saying that it needs to include basic information such as your contact details, employment history and education, but how long should it be and what tricks can you use to give it the edge?

We have compiled a few straightforward tips to help you to promote yourself in the best possible way.
Your CV should be:

  • Structured
  • Concise
  • Error free – check for spelling mistakes.
  • Impeccably neat
  • Easy to read – use bullet points
  • Complete – don’t have any gaps between jobs and your studies. For example, if you took a break to go travelling, include this in your CV
  • Current

Your CV should be tailored to the particular job for which you are applying. Read job specs carefully and highlight relevant experience on your CV. The one CV will not be suitable to apply for every job.

The perfect CV should feature the following content, in this order:

  • Personal information: name, address and contact details
  • Why you are right for this job or have the relevant skills and experience: this is your chance to really convince an employer that you are the perfect candidate for the role. But keep it short; two to three lines should suffice
  • Career history: starting with your most recent job and working backwards
  • List any other skills you have: only if you feel they add to your CV. Perhaps you are a great writer, fantastic with figures or a whizz at IT; if they complement the application make sure they are included
  • Education: unless this is your first job, an employer does not need to know your Junior Cert results. Instead from an educational perspective, it will really depend on your life circumstances and how advanced you on your career. Realistically speaking if you are very advanced in your career or have had a job outside of college Junior Cert and Leaving Cert results really aren’t required. Instead a brief description of your college course should be the focus.
  • Hobbies and interests: don’t underestimate the importance of including your interests. If you don’t have a specific hobby list the things you like to do such as reading, cinema and travel
  • References: Matrix suggests that there is no need to list your referees, as this only makes a CV longer. A prospective employer will assume that you will provide references if required
  • Proofread: it is difficult to proofread your own work so ask a couple of friends to read over your CV to pick up any typos or errors. One mistake is often all it takes for your CV to be disregarded and for you to lose that dream job.

A strong cover letter can make a very good first impression.  Your CV has limitations, so this is the perfect opportunity to inject some personality into your application and tell an employer a little more about yourself.  Don’t go overboard and keep the cover note concise and short, anything too long is unlikely to be read.

In terms of the content, the cover note should show enthusiasm and passion and conclude on an action such as ‘thank you for taking the time to review my CV and I do hope we get to discuss the job in the near future’. You need to give an employer a reason to open your CV and a cover note allows you to personalise your application.

Interview Tips

  • Be on time – on time means five to ten minutes early. If necessary take some time to drive to the office beforehand so you know exactly where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Don’t forget to take traffic into consideration too!
  • Have a firm handshake
  • Maintain plenty of eye contact
  • Don’t talk too much – watch for any signs of boredom in the interviewer
  • Avoid jargon
  • Don’t fidget with your hair, pen, etc.
  • Stay calm and take slow deep breaths if you’re nervous before the interview
  • Presentation – first impressions are vital. Research consistently highlights on-the-spot decision making by interviewers based on how the candidate comes across in the crucial first few minutes
  • Build a rapport – remember the interviewer is not only assessing your skills and experience, but also whether they think you are a good fit for their company. It is important to try to develop a rapport with your interviewer
  • Be positive and enthusiastic about the job and the company. Enthusiasm can sometimes compensate for not possessing the right experience
  • Research the company, its products or services, competitors, company accounts, etc. Prepare for any questions you want to ask
  • Be ready for the questions you will be asked – interviews are notoriously predictable. Anticipate the questions and prepare your answers
  • Make sure you know your own CV and be able to speak about your experience fluently

When you are asked this question, it is your opportunity to talk about yourself (we like to call it the sales pitch) – but be careful not to go off on tangent. Stick to four main areas:

  • Your early years
  • Your education
  • Your work history
  • Your recent career experience

Bear in mind the job spec for the position and what your Matrix Consultant has told you, and give the interviewer the information they want to hear. A short, concise presentation of yourself is what is required – a couple of minutes in length.

  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you see yourself doing five to ten years from now?
  • How did you choose your college/qualification, etc.?
  • How would you describe the ideal position for you?
  • What kind of people do you find most difficult to work with?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
  • What two or three things are most important to you in a job?
  • How do you feel about travel? On average, how many nights a week would you be willing to stay away from home?
  • How is your experience relevant to our work?
  • Why should we hire you?

The STAR (Situation, Task, Action & Result) format is a competency based job interview technique used by interviewers to gather all the relevant information about a specific capability that the job requires.

Sample STAR Questions

  • Describe a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done
  • Describe a time when you used persuasion to convince someone to do things your way
  • Tell me about a time when you used good judgement and logic in solving a problem
  • Convince me that you can work successfully with a wide variety of people, situations and environments
  • Give me an example of you making a quick decision
  • What has been your most creative solution to a problem?
  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem

Answering these questions involves:

  • Situation/Task – you give the situation you were in or the task you were given
  • Action– the action you took in the given situation or task
  • Result – what was the result of your actions? Bear in mind if the result wasn’t positive, what did you then do to turn it around?

The Matrix Formula prepares you for a competency based interview. Prepare answers to the following questions using the premise of the STAR (Situation, Task, Action & Result) Technique:

Give me an example of a project or task that you worked on that:

  • Was a success
  • Was a failure
  • You were under pressure to complete
  • You had to keep within budget. How did you do this?
  • You had to supervise others. What issues arose and how did you deal with these?
  • You had to delegate tasks, lead and motivate others
  • How did you manage your time?
  • How did you prioritise competing tasks?
  • What obstacles did you have to overcome?
  • In hindsight, what would you do differently?
  • What skills have you acquired from carrying out such a project? Explain how you have put these skills into practice.

Make sure you have solid questions to ask at the end of the interview, for example:

  • What qualities and skills are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?
  • What kind of assignments might I expect in the first six months on the job?
  • Is this a new position or are you replacing someone?
  • What is the largest single problem currently facing your staff/department?
  • What do you like best about your job/company?
  • Has there been much turnover in this job area?
  • Is there a lot of team/project work?
  • What are this position’s biggest challenges?
  • Could you tell me about how the job has been performed in the past? And, what improvements would you like to see happen?
  • What are the prospects for growth and advancement?

Downloads

  • Download Sample CV