Robert Kenward, chief talent officer for recruitment consultancy You Search and Select, has worked within the recruitment and events sector for over 17 years and explored the world of hiring from all angles – namely as a candidate, a client and a recruiter.
With all that expert knowledge it was a no-brainer that the first Event First Steps Instagram Live had to be with him. The chat between Robert and Elena looked at the journey of a job application, the CV, covering letter and then the interview.
We were planning on adding the video to IGTV - but due to some technical issues, we've sadly not been able to that this time round. What we've done instead is take all the amazing advice discussed and created this deep-dive blog post.
Remember, your CV doesn’t get you the job – it gets you in front of the hiring manager, so it needs to be engaging. Your personality, values, skills, experience etc are things you can only really get across effectively in an interview, but you need to get there first.
The hiring manager is probably the most important person of the application stage. They can be a recruitment agency, internal HR manager etc. and they are tasked with putting a list of candidates together to proceed to the next step. They are usually given a brief list of attributes, skills and qualities that are being sought in a potential candidate. They will be the ones to review and scan over your CV, perhaps even look over your LinkedIn page, and make an assessment on whether you will progress to the next step.
On average a hiring manager will initially take six seconds to scan your CV and put it in a ‘yes, no or maybe’ pile, they will then read it for a further 30 seconds before deciding whether to digest it any further. In this incredibly short time they are looking for key buzz words in line with the brief they have been given which is why it is important to tailor your CV to each role you are applying for.
Always include your contact details on your CV ensuring that you use a professional sounding email address (set one up now if you don’t already have one!) Including a profile picture, unless specifically asked for, can be a waste of valuable space and perhaps can lead to unconscious bias. Make sure your CV is easy on the eye and that it flows with the necessary and essential information. Ensure good grammar and get someone else to read it and see if they can get a sense of who you are writing it for and they can get an overview of what you are trying to portray.
If an application states they want a cover letter this should include general information in reply to what the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. If they don’t ask for one, it will probably not be read so you will need to make your personal statement stand out. This is the only part of your CV where you can really be as conversational and eye-catching as you can be. Do your research and find out who the hiring manager is and address the letter to them and personalise the letter to the company.
A strong personal profile should be succinct and to the point, but you must also bear in mind who will be reading it. It is a call to action and essentially your elevator pitch, so it shouldn’t sound too salesy as your statement is a reflection of your personal branding document.
If you are already aware of any barriers that may come up, such as lack of specific experience, you should flag these up beforehand before it becomes a no from the hiring manager. Upon applying for a role you will have already seen the requirements and skill set that are being sought so you will need to explain why you fit and be prepared to discuss and highlight any short-comings. By doing this you will be demonstrating to the hiring manager that you are self-aware enough to understand where your gaps are but then also you are trying to plug those gaps.
So, you’ve got yourself an interview and everything is going well until the interviewer asks you that dreaded question: what are your weaknesses? With this, what they are really asking for is if you are aware enough to recognise that you have faults. They don’t necessarily want you to discuss them but rather know that you understand them and how you have coped with that. Turn your weaknesses into a strength. Be upfront and honest in saying you are aware you may need improvements in some areas; it may be useful to refer back to the job description.
If you have a portfolio there is no harm in bringing it with you to an interview. It is better to have something and not need it rather than need something and not have it. It is also good practise for you to keep a list of all events that you have worked on so you can recall them when needed, this can include any volunteering experiences, project work etc.
Interviews should be a two-way conversation; you are not just there to answer questions but also to find out if the company is the right fit for you too. You should feel comfortable to ask the interviewer sensible open questions at the end. Some examples include: “what will be the biggest challenge in my role?” or “what does success look like to you?” This is also a great opportunity to cover off any other important information that may have been missed during the main question preliminary. You can also ask for instant feedback and if they answer with a barrier this can be dealt with there and then.
You haven’t heard anything back after the interview, what next? Nobody wants to give bad news so if you don’t hear anything back this is not necessarily a bad reflection on you so you shouldn’t feel disheartened. It’s worth noting that if you are unsuccessful the hiring manager may simply just not have any feedback to give to you, it will be easier to give you the reasons why they have made their decision on who they want for the role, but haven’t actually considered the reasons for not selecting you.
If after five days you still haven’t heard anything, pick up the phone and ask them for some feedback. This could be beneficial to simply get a better understanding of your own interview style and if you need to make any tweaks moving forward; take this as constructive criticism. Also, this keeps you on their radar if they have another role.
How to stand out?
In this current climate of the fallout from Covid-19 the recruitment pool will now be a lot larger, due to redundancies etc., with more people applying for the same roles and some may have more direct skills and experience. This is not to say don’t apply but you need to consider more carefully the roles that you are applying for; can you add value, would it beneficial to hire you – this then needs to be highlighted from application stage to make you stand out and look interesting to the hiring manager.
Use more powerful word and describe the things you have actually done to highlight each skill or experience. For example, instead of saying “I helped put on an event” say things like “I took responsibility for…”. Speak confidently about your attributes and how you think they will help the company.
In addition to having a great CV, other ways to make yourself stand out include: making yourself known, this can be through networking either online or at events; use your personal networks and utilise who you already know in the industry; make your online presence strong so for example ask people that you have worked with to write a recommendation on your LinkedIn page; and most importantly work on your own personal brand.
Below are some really useful resources that can continue to help you when working on your CV and preparing for your interviews.