Quick CV tips

CV

We hope you’re enjoying the summer break, and making the most of the sunshine! Perhaps you’ve got yourself a part-time job, an internship or are researching graduate scheme deadlines for the coming term.

Whatever your situation, it’s always good to revisit your CV and make sure it’s as up-to-date as possible. If a job opportunity comes up at short notice, you’ll want to have your CV ready to send.

Here’s a few top tips to help you on your way, and remember you can always book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to receive feedback on your CV.

  • Recruiters don’t spend long looking at a CV, so you need to make sure yours is relevant to the role you’re applying for – this means you will need a different CV for each new role you apply for!
  • Read the job description and demonstrate the skills that are required. You should match your CV specifically to each point listed. Not sure what skills you have? See our post on transferable skills for some ideas.
  • See the following articles for key buzzwords and phrases to avoid (unless you can show evidence of these): 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-ninja-antony-ladbrook?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

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Too many buzz words could be damaging your CV

One of the challenges with writing a CV that will attract an employer’s attention, is trying to impress whilst being clear and concise. It’s all to easy to fall into the trap of using buzz words and jargon filled phrases, which might sound snappy, but could actually be doing your CV more harm than good.

Phrases like ‘strong communicator’ can be vague, empty and meaningless unless backed up by evidence. Use a specific example of when you have successfully demonstrated this skill – if possible backed up with numbers or percentages – to prove and quantify the achievement.

‘A good team player’, ‘highly motivated’, ‘a good problem solver’ and ‘enthusiastic individual’ are other commonly used phrases that have become cliches that can irritate recruiters rather than excite them.

So how do you demonstrate these skills?

The following articles outline some of the key buzz words to avoid, and offer some suggestions for better alternatives – well worth a look.

http://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/feb/18/a-results-driven-thought-leader-the-cliches-that-kill-your-cv

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/10-overused-words-to-banish-from-your-cv-now/

What else do I need to know about CVs?

Check out our recent blog Help! How do I structure my CV? for more information, and remember you can get your CV checked by one of our Careers Consultants – just contact us to book in a 20 minute appointment.

 

Beware: 5 common application mistakes to avoid!

I have read through a lot of student applications in my time. And I mean A LOT. More often than not I end up giving unsuccessful applicants very similar feedback. So last month I found myself in a very familiar situation whilst reading through applications for our new QConsult supported by J.P. Morgan programme.

The  programme places teams of Queen Mary students into paid mini-consultancy projects with East London businesses, prioritising students who are bursary holders. As a brand new programme we were thrilled to receive so many high-calibre applications for our first round of consultancy projects. However, this meant that even good applications with small mistakes had to be rejected in order to ensure the strongest applicants made it through to the assessment centre phase. In an effort to make sure you don’t make those same mistakes in your next application, I’ve written a list of the most common reasons why applicants weren’t shortlisted. My best advice is to take these tips on board when completing your next job application.

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1. Check your spelling and grammar. A large number of applications had multiple spelling and grammatical errors. Keep in mind that many employers will simply disregard any applications with spelling, grammatical or typo errors, particularly if the role involves writing or client communication of any kind. Always read through applications very carefully before submitting them. It is also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to read through your applications as they may spot errors that you have overlooked.

2. Be detail-oriented. Many applications referred to the programme using the wrong name (i.e. qConsult, Q-Consultant, JPMorgan QConsult, QProjects, QInternships, QTemps, etc.). I know this sounds small but in future applications always ensure that you refer to the company, role, industry, programme, etc. exactly as they do in the job description. This illustrates attention to detail and accuracy which are very important in all graduate roles.

3. Follow instructions. Always follow application instructions very carefully. Many applicants missed ticking boxes, completing fields or answering entire questions on the application form. Some of their written answers did not address the questions that had been asked at all. Again, this illustrates attention to detail, thought and accuracy.

4. Keep your writing simple and straightforward. In regards to written answers, keep in mind that employers will often be reading through tens to hundreds of applications. Keep your answers as straightforward, structured and easy to read as possible. One way to do this is to ensure you use professional and clear language. Avoid colloquial or overly flowery words or phrases.

5. Back it up with evidence. When appropriate use evidence to back up any statements. Instead of just saying ‘I am a great communicator’, say something like, ‘My work at X company involved communicating daily with clients and colleagues via email, phone and in person’.

Lastly, don’t forget that you can get your applications and CV’s checked in the Careers & Enterprise Centre before you submit then. You can book an appointment here:
www.qmul.ac.uk/book.

Now good luck!

Lindsey Shirah

Programme Manager, QConsult supported by J.P. Morgan

Death of the CV?

London Technology Week took place a few months ago and I went along to some of the events to take the temperature of the recruitment market for graduates interested in the digital sector.

First up to talk on recruitment trends was John Ridpath, Head of Product at Decoded. John’s talk was particularly interesting as it highlighted the changing nature of recruitment into technology roles – particularly amongst Technology Start Ups and Small to Medium Enterprises – but also made me think about wider implications for the CV.

One of the key challenges I hear about from employers is how to get to the bottom of the technical skills of potential recruits. While a CV is still required for most roles there is an obvious need for graduates with digital skills to demonstrate their aptitude in different ways. Similar to how we know graduates who want to be journalists have to develop a portfolio of their writing, students who want to be developers or data scientists need to show how they work, and also how they communicate.

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A great example highlighted was a coder called ‘MrDoob’ who created the online portfolio Threejs and uses his Github extensively. This showcase of work and working out is a great way for a Chief Technical Officer, who is looking to hire seeing, what you are made of. In addition getting involved in communities like Stack Overflow is another good way to showcase, not only your technical skills, but also your communication skills. This article from Wired Magazine about the ‘Reputation Economy’ puts it a lot better than I can:

Shortly after the site launched, Atwood and Spolsky heard that programmers were putting their Stack Overflow reputation scores on their CVs, and headhunters were searching the platform for developers with specific skills. “A CV tells you what schools they went to, what companies they worked for and how well they did on a standardised test when they were teenagers,” Spolsky explains. “But if you read the writings of someone on Stack Overflow, you immediately know if they are a skilled programmer or not.”

So maybe I am being a bit ‘click bait’ with the “Death of the CV” headline, perhaps instead we are seeing a new type of CV that exists beyond two sheets of A4.

If you want some guidance about how to demonstrate your technical skills visit one of our Careers Consultants, and keep an eye out in October for our Focus on Technology programme of events which will cover this in more detail www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/events. Don’t forget you can also easily create an online portfolio with the Groups and Portfolios functionality on QMPlus which you can keep private until you are ready to share with employers or online.

James Weaver

Employer Engagement Manager

How to write an excellent CV

When it comes to applying for jobs, your CV says a lot about you. By adapting your CV each time you apply for a job you increase it’s impact and make it easier for recruiters to quickly identify the skills they’re looking for. Whatever your experiences, present them in language most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

So how do you construct the most relevant CV for your job application?

Most CVs are written in reverse chronological order

This method of highlighting your most recent (and therefore probably also the most relevant) experiences first means that the older experiences on your CV may well become, over time, less relevant or less demonstrative of your skills, and you can simply remove them as you see fit. So the two-week work experience placement you did whilst at secondary school will probably be the first to go.

Split your experiences between job specific and general experience

Say, for example, you want to pursue a career as a lawyer. As well as taking part in extra-curricular activities at school, part-time jobs and other work experiences you can build up specific law-related experience by attending insight days, short-courses, volunteering at legal advice charities, and by taking part in the Law Society. These career-specific experiences can be separated from other work experiences and positions of responsibility to demonstrate to potential employers the serious steps you are taking towards your chosen career. By having a section entitled ‘law-related experience’ or ‘finance-related experience’ that precedes another section called ‘other work experience’ or ‘other experiences’ you can present a coherent narrative whilst still adhering to the reverse chronology mentioned above. This doesn’t mean that you should remove other experiences and jobs altogether because they demonstrate other, transferable skills.

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Write a clear, concise personal profile

Not everyone will feel the need to include a personal profile at the top of their CV, particularly if you are in the happy position of feeling that your education, work experience, and extra-curricular activities create a cohesive story of your career objectives. However, if, like many people, you have a variety of life and work experiences and are applying for a job or internship without previous experience in that industry you may want to signpost your interest in the position with a personal profile. Let’s say you have a Geography degree, a part-time job in Subway and you want to apply for a research post at an NGO. In this statement it is best to begin with a brief explanation of who are you based on your most recent experiences. This might read:

As a recent graduate from Queen Mary, University of London, with a 2:1 honours degree in Geography, I have undertaken three years of training in research and data collection, analysis and evaluation. During my degree I have managed a part-time job, university deadlines and a commitment to QM Amnesty International as their membership secretary.

This tells the recruiter that you have identified some of the most crucial skills for the post and that your ability to manage a job, studying and a commitment to a society has in no way impeded your ability to meet deadlines and secure a good degree result.

Can we talk about your hobbies?

Only include hobbies and extra-curricular activities you are currently involved in (or were until very recently). Ask yourself: does this activity demonstrate a skill listed in the job specifications? Chances are it does and you may even want to talk about it at interview. Competitive sports enable you to talk about drive and determination. An interest in travel allows you to discuss communication skills and a desire to learn about other cultures. The musical instrument you stopped playing when you were 10… is irrelevant, so don’t list it!

For information on how to book an appointment with one of our CV and Applications Advisors visit: careers.qmul.ac.uk/book.

Helena Goodwyn

Application Adviser, QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre

We all make mistakes sometimes: avoid these common CV errors

As the Coordinator of Queen Mary’s QProjects scheme and someone who has worked in recruitment, I have read a lot of CV’s in my time (and I mean A LOT). So I was of course interested when Stylist magazine recently published an article titled ‘The top 10 CV mistakes and how to avoid them’. I ended up mumbling to myself in agreement as I read the entire article- it was all so true. I’d seen it all a thousand times.

You can read the full article here, but let’s face it, we have all made at least some of the mistakes listed in the article at some point (me included…). The overall message is the same one that I often share with students when giving CV feedback: keep in mind that an employer will likely be reading through tens to hundreds of CV’s. You want yours to be as easy to read, relevant and to the point as possible. Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes.

What’s important to keep in mind when reading Stylist’s list of CV mistakes is that the article is targeted towards young professionals who have already started a career. I’d recommend taking into account the article’s advice now so that you don’t have to learn from these common mistakes the hard way and can instead start your graduate careers off with an impressive ‘stand out’ CV.

Lindsey Shirah, QProjects Coordinator

Your new New Year’s Resolution: build your CV

New Year’s articles about getting fit, developing ‘mindfulness’, and making positive changes seem to be everywhere this month. However, the Careers & Enterprise Centre has another resolution to add to your list: get some work experience. Not to be the bearer of stress-inducing tidings, but although it may only be the first week of Spring Term, summer will be here before you know it. Will your CV be ready to compete for the onslaught of summer internships, work experience placements, and (dare I say it) graduate jobs that will be popping up over the coming months? If your CV isn’t quite up to scratch, why not use these next few months of Spring Term to gain some relevant experience and improve your application and interview skills through taking on a QProject?

What is QProjects?

QProjects is Queen Mary’s very own Guardian University Award winning work experience scheme that places Queen Mary students into CV-enhancing projects at local charitable organisations. You will get the chance to gain some impressive experience on your CV whilst helping the local community. QProjects last for 3 months, take up only 1 day a week of your time and are flexible around your schedule, meaning you still have time for societies, socialising, and (of course) all that course work. Although unpaid, travel expenses are covered and all applicants receive application and interview feedback, access to an online pre-training module and a one-on-one skills debrief with a Careers Consultant at the end of their project to help them update their CV and get any careers advice they may need.

How can QProjects help?

Over the past 3 years almost 400 students have taken on a QProject. According to 2014 graduate Anum Ahmed, the 2 QProjects she did during her degree helped her to land her graduate job in the Civil Service:

I certainly wouldn’t have been able to secure my job without the amazing experiences I had at my QProject placements.  Throughout my interview I was referring to all the skills I had acquired and demonstrated whilst at my QProject placements and I really hope every student at Queen Mary seizes the opportunities available.

2013 graduate Alex Huxtable fed back that his QProject led him to his current career in marketing:

The project really cemented my future career choice as I was encouraged to try out different things. It gave me the confidence to provide real examples of skills I felt that I already had, but just couldn’t prove on my CV or job applications.

Apply for a QProject today

So kick off 2015 by applying for a QProject. You can find a full list of current projects here: www.bit.ly/qprojectswork. Stay updated when new QProjects come up by signing up to the mailing list here: www.bit.ly/qprojectsmail.

And don’t forget all the other amazing work experience opportunities that Queen Mary offers. These include QMSU Volunteering and paid work and internships through our other QRecruit services.

Lindsey Shirah, QProjects Coordinator