Friday, October 4th, 2019
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are the first obstacle you have to clear when applying for a job, and building your CV can help you to do this.
The primary purpose of an ATS is to identify strong CVs and put them to the top of the pile, while weaker CVs are moved further down the list and may never be seen at all.
It’s automated – and therefore, it’s not always accurate. But the good news is that by being aware that these systems exist, you can build your CV in order to beat them.
What do applicant tracking systems look for?
Applicant tracking systems attempt to rank the quality of your CV rather than its content, so it’s important to use a standard structure and formatting.
Even the font you use can affect the ATS’s ability to read your CV, so choose a clear sans serif typeface and don’t alter the character width or character spacing in an effort to squeeze more on to the page.
Likewise, avoid any unusual symbols – such as using stars or arrows as bullet points – and stick to the classic round dot instead.
Choose the right words
Once you’ve got your standard formatting down, it’s time to think about the words you choose and how they will be seen by the ATS.
Some ATS systems are designed to spot specific key words or phrases and eliminate CVs that don’t contain them.
Because of this, you should read the advert for each job carefully and tweak your CV to make sure you include the relevant job title and any common synonyms for it.
Do they use an ATS?
It can take some detective work to find out if a particular employer uses an ATS or not. If you look carefully at the jobs section on their website, you might be able to find an ATS vendor logo, which is a sure sign that they use an ATS on at least some roles.
You may also notice that the URL for the role’s application page looks unusual, as if it is being routed via a third-party site – again this can be an indication that an ATS or similar online platform is being used.
Ultimately, you may never know if your CV is seen by an ATS, but it still doesn’t hurt to edit your career experience and qualifications so that they are presented in the same kind of language that the employer uses, to make you seem even more relevant to the role.
If the ATS says no…
The worst case scenario is if the ATS fails to detect the necessary keywords in your application, or filters you out due to some other reason like a pre-application questionnaire.
If this happens, there’s little you can do about it, which is why it’s better to take action beforehand.
However, it might not be the end of your employment chances with that company. Because ATS systems automate the admin work of searching through stacks of CVs, companies that use them are often more likely to keep your application on file.
That means if a similar vacancy comes up in future – but perhaps uses the word ‘technician’ instead of ‘engineer’, for example – your CV could still register a match thanks to the slightly different wording, and you could find yourself called in for an interview after all.
If you need help finding the right job for you we can help! Call us today to start searching for your ideal career.
Friday, September 27th, 2019
You’re likely to be decades into your career before the several-page CV becomes a necessity. For most roles, it’s best to keep it to two sides of A4 at the most.
That means when you want to add something new, you need to make space for it, whereas older information like further education qualifications might be less relevant than, for example, more recent job experience.
Here are five simple steps to a CV revamp that cuts the weaker information and puts your strongest credentials front and centre.
1. Read the job description
It sounds obvious, but before you revamp your CV, read the job description – in full – for the role you are applying for.
That way you can prioritise your most relevant experience and move anything less important, but which you think is still worth including, further down the page.
Consider your cover letter too, as you can use this to reference your most relevant attributes from your CV and give the interviewer some signposts as to what questions to ask you.
2. Summarise older information
As time passes, the older information on your CV might deserve less spelling out, so summarise it if it’s still worth including at all.
That might mean your education section becomes a short list of qualifications with only your higher education and continuing professional development fully itemised.
You might find this a useful opportunity to hide periods of poor performance in the past – it’s best not to leave gaps in your personal timeline, but you don’t have to point out past failures either.
3. Check the wording
If you’re polishing an existing CV, don’t just skim read what you wrote in the past, as your personal tone of voice may have changed in the months or years since.
Working in an industry for a long time can change the way you talk about it and about yourself, so make sure any industry-specific words you used in the past are still correct.
This helps you to present yourself as you are now, at this newest stage in your career, as well as to remove obsolete terminology that makes you sound less relevant to the here and now.
4. Don’t use filler
You don’t need five bullet points for every role in your career history. If you’re short of space, consider deleting the less significant or repetitive lines.
This not only avoids wasting the interviewer’s time, it also puts the spotlight on the experiences you are most proud of and gives you more confidence about what the interview questions will be based on.
In most cases your more recent jobs will be the most interesting to the interviewer, so unless you had a particularly high-profile role early in your career, list them in reverse chronological order with more focus on the recent past.
5. Prioritise your USPs
CVs can be pretty formulaic – in fact that’s the whole point of them, to make it easier to compare one candidate with another.
If you have one or more truly unique credentials, such as an achievement nobody else has matched, major media coverage or a prestigious industry award, include it.
Even if there’s no obvious place to list it, put it in a section of its own if you have to – if you’re proud enough that you want to include it, it’s probably worthy of the spotlight.
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
The different social media sites each have their own possibilities when it comes to finding a job.
While the obvious social network for job seekers is LinkedIn with its CV-style profiles and networking opportunities, others like Facebook and Twitter have their own potential too.
Here are some ways to find a job using social media, whatever sites you are most active on.
The business social network has a clearly defined niche, so if you’re looking for a job using social media, LinkedIn is worth some attention.
First and foremost, make sure your profile is up to date, with recent career history, achievements and qualifications listed.
It’s worth keeping your LinkedIn profile active and updated – not only might you get headhunted for a lucrative role, but it’s a handy reference for facts and figures you want to remember to include on your CV too.
Facebook is ‘the’ social network and has always had more of a local community, friends and family feel to it.
That doesn’t mean it’s no good for jobhunting though – look out for relevant groups you can join, such as groups based on the area where you live, or the industry you work in.
Respect the rules of the groups you join, for example if they specifically don’t allow advertising or asking for work.
Other than that there’s nothing wrong with writing a post asking if anyone in your area is hiring, or even reaching out to high-profile individuals via their business page or group.
Twitter is surprisingly powerful when it comes to finding work. Many job boards tweet out their latest vacancies – you can use Advanced Search to restrict the results to your geographical location.
You can also find freelance and contracting opportunities just by spotting tweets from individuals in need of a particular service.
Try to build a network of like-minded individuals within your profession, or major employers in your industry, and you can increase your likelihood of seeing job opportunities on your timeline.
Finally if you want to keep a close eye on new employment opportunities on Twitter over time, consider using a tool like TweetDeck, which can keep specific searches open at all times in a separate column.
Instagram and YouTube
Depending on your chosen profession, it might be worth putting the ‘media’ in ‘social media’ by building a profile on a multimedia-based social network like Instagram or YouTube.
You can show off your artistic side, post video CVs and showreels, and curate a different audience than you have on your text-based social networking profiles.
These are by no means the only websites that allow you to do this – there are plenty of photography hosting sites too, for example – so find one that allows you to show off your work at its best.
Last of all, no matter which social network (or networks) you decide to use, make sure you post relevant content and comments, especially when looking for employment.
Think about the kind of words and phrases a potential employer might be searching for – this can help you to show up if they run a search for possible candidates.
It may also increase your chances of making the cut if they use an applicant tracking system to weed out the less relevant candidates’ CVs from the pile.
Are you on the hunt for a job? We can help you strengthen your CV and pair you with a perfect job! Call us today to get started.
Friday, September 6th, 2019
The first day at work in any new job can be challenging as you try to learn the ropes as quickly as possible, but when you’re a personal assistant it’s even more important to hit the ground running so you can excel in your role.
Once you’re past that first day, week and month, you’re likely to settle into more of a routine – although of course there will be surprises along the way too.
Here’s our guide to what to expect on the first day as a PA and what is likely to follow on a ‘normal’ day after that…
How to prepare for a PA role
By the time you’re given the job as a PA, it’s likely that you will know exactly who you will be assisting – and you probably met them at the interview stage.
This gives you a great opportunity to do your background research, find out the kinds of appointments and commitments you will need to keep on top of, and start planning a daily schedule.
Make sure you know what tools you would like to use to keep track of things. You might prefer a paper diary or calendar you can easily jot things down on, or an electronic or email-based calendar that triggers automatic reminders – whatever works best for you.
First day as a PA
Your first day is about getting your bearings, and as much as you might want to start at full speed ahead, it’s not always possible to do that.
There’s likely to be certain orientation sessions, whether that’s meeting your managers and colleagues, learning about the company culture, health and safety, and fire evacuation routine, or some other kind of icebreaker or introduction.
But you’ll usually have at least some time to yourself too, and this is your chance to familiarise yourself with your new working environment, any computer equipment and other tools at your disposal, and start your planning.
How to excel quickly
The PA role is all about organisation, so the sooner you can get your plans in order, the better.
You might want to start by drawing up a timetable for regular commitments and available appointments for one-off meetings, interviews and other events.
Even if you’re a natural when it comes to time-keeping, you may also want to set up some reminders so you don’t miss anything important in your first few days.
Day two and beyond…
Congratulations, you survived your first day in a high-stress PA role – now comes the rest of your career!
That planning you already made will prove helpful in the long term, as you settle into a routine of repetitive weekly meetings and other commitments, occasional interviews and one-off events, and ongoing responsibility for timekeeping
A lot of your role may prove to be admin support, from ghost-writing correspondence from your boss, to photocopying spare copies of important documents.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s the bread and butter of the role, and should leave you able to put your attention on making sure your boss never misses an important engagement, no matter how long you are their PA.
If you’re interested in becoming a PA, give us a call today to get started on the road to success!
Friday, August 30th, 2019
You’ve landed an interview for that PA role you’ve been chasing – now how do you make sure you get the job?
Like the role itself, a PA interview is well worth preparing for. People say “you only get one chance to make a good first impression” and that’s especially true in interviews, which are usually your one and only shot at getting the job.
Here’s our guide to how to prepare, how to make that first impression, and some of the questions – and ideal answers – you’re likely to face.
How to make a good first impression
Personal assistants have to deal with a lot, from basic admin through to some very stressful timekeeping, so it’s important to appear well organised.
That means being well presented and well prepared for the interview. Arrive in plenty of time, and find a mirror to check yourself in. Have your CV, cover letter and any notes organised and ready in case you need them.
Like any job interview, enter the room confidently, make sure you greet the interviewer and any observers, be formal but friendly, and let them take the lead.
What will you be asked?
Common questions in a PA interview are mostly about organisational skills. You might be asked why you want the job – both why you want to be a PA, and why you want this specific job.
You’ll probably be asked about a specific scenario, for example how you’ll organise your first day in the job, or how you’d handle a particularly busy week’s schedule.
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you’re more than capable of answering these questions, so don’t panic – often there’s no right or wrong answer, the interviewer just wants to see that you have a train of thought when faced with multiple tasks to juggle.
Expect to be asked about your weaknesses, too. This is something you can prepare in advance – choose something that really is a weakness, but not something that is essential to the PA role, and make sure it’s something you’re already working on improving.
What skills are most important?
It’s good to base your answers around the most important skills for a PA, and these include a logical train of thought, good proficiency with computers, correspondence and all kinds of bookings, and a general aptitude for business admin.
Timekeeping is crucial – so don’t be late for your interview! You can touch on this in your answers too, giving examples of how you carefully plan to be in the right place at the right time, and have alternative ways to get there in case of emergencies.
How to leave a good impression on your interviewer
Don’t blow it at the last minute. Have a parting question to ask – this could be based on something that came up in the interview, or about the long-term future of the role.
Try not to sound too self-serving. A question about long-term prospects can be good, but don’t frame it as a question about promotions and pay rises.
Finally, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and repeat those ‘first impression’ pleasantries, shaking hands with everyone in the room, plenty of eye contact and smiles, and a confident departure until the door is firmly closed behind you and you know you are out of sight and earshot.
Give us a call if you’d like to hear more about PA opportunities.
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
What to do the night before, the morning of, immediately after and 1 week later…
Saying the right things and impressing the interviewers is pretty much a necessary part of getting any position. But many jobs are actually won, and more importantly lost, in the hours before and after the interview has even taken place.
The night before
Confidence comes with knowledge.
In our experience, not being prepared is the number one reason you might not get the job. Yes, you might be the best candidate, but lack of preparation doesn’t go down well and just demonstrates a lack of willingness to put the effort in.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to get yourself in the best possible position and here are a few of our top tips.
Prepare your answers…and your questions.
Write down any answers to expected questions and rehearse them. It will give you great confidence when the question comes up to know exactly what your answer will be.
Also, research the company and even the people you will be meeting (it’s easy on Linked-In) and have some great questions prepared. This shows a real level of interest of your part, people love talking about themselves.
Practice in the mirror.
OK, we know this is a bit awkward at first but remember, this is how the interviewer will see you. So, rehearse a few of your answers whilst watching yourself…you’ll be surprised how things look from the other side of the desk.
Get to bed.
Ok, clothes ironed, answers rehearsed and it’s time to get some sleep. Don’t go out clubbing, get to bed at a reasonable time. You don’t want to turn up looking like you need a good kip.
The morning of the big day
Get up early.
Make sure you’re not in a rush. You can relax and make a cup of tea whilst you go over your interview answers.
This will not only impress the interviewers, but it will give you extra confidence.
Leave the house in plenty of time.
With sat-nav and Google maps at your fingertips there are no excuses for being late. Interviewers hate it and you’ll be starting from a negative position.
Be lovely with the receptionist.
You’ll be surprised who gets to chip-in with their input on who gets the job. So be lovely and engaging with whoever you meet en route to the interview room.
Don’t forget your notes.
Make sure you take your notebook and a pen. You can refer to your answers if you forget something and you can write down all their answers to your great questions for reference later.
Immediately After the Interview
Go and get a Costa to calm the nerves and congratulate yourself. If you’ve taken all the steps mentioned above, then we expect your interview to have gone pretty well.
Then, follow up with a nice email to say how much you enjoyed the meeting.
Try not to ask if you’ve got the job here, just demonstrate a willingness to communicate, compliment the company and ask them to let you know if you can provide any more information to further your application.
A week later
It may be just a few days after but it’s important to follow up.
A reasonable amount of time has passed now, and you have every right to ask if you were successful. You might only be looking for a second interview or the job itself, but take the initiative and be proactive.
If you weren’t successful, ask why and if there is anything you can do to change their minds.
We’ll call you
When we sent you to an interview, we’ll make sure to call you before, to make sure you can get to your interview and that you’re prepared. We’ll call you afterwards as well to talk through how you feel it went. We have a great team here and we’re experienced in what will make the difference, so get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. Call on 0161 929 6665.
Friday, August 16th, 2019
The workplace is changing fast and the stuffy old ways of interviewing can often go by the wayside.
So don’t be surprised if the interview process is a bit different from the norm.
These are really common nowadays as so many companies recruit remotely. But it can also just be the first stage of a longer interview process, especially if the interviewer is some distance away.
Much of our communication is done visually through body language, but in this case, you’ll be relying solely on your voice.
So be expressive. Alter your tone and pace to make it interesting and here’s our top tip – practice in private first and record your answers on your phone, then play them back.
At first, you might be surprised how awkward you sound, but practice makes perfect.
This is the standard and you should be well prepared, both in terms of your punctuality, dress code and your answers. Try and make sure to have a great conversation rather than a robotic questions and answers session.
The pressure is off here a little as you’ll be working in a group. But remember, the main objective of the interview team is to see how well you’ll fit into the company team.
So, muck in and make sure you interact with all the other interviewees as well as the existing employees. Try a mix of toeing the line and taking the lead.
A nice tip here though is to ask a specific question to one of the team. This will help them remember you.
The pressure is on here and this can seem pretty daunting but this is actually a great way of speeding up the interview process as the key people can all be in the room at the same time and make a quick decision.
The key here is to make eye contact with everyone and remember their names.
When it comes to answering the questions, it’s courtesy to aim the greater part of your answer at the person who asked the question, but also include the others in proportion. Do this by making eye contact during your answer with those who didn’t ask the question.
Also, try not to fidget, three people can pick up more of your body language than one, so once again, prepare in the mirror and stop any of those quirky twitches to a minimum.
These are more likely to occur in technical interviews, but they can also creep into mainstream jobs such as secretarial positions. It’s not uncommon to be asked to demonstrate your Microsoft abilities such as creating a spreadsheet or a presentation, sometimes against the clock.
A portfolio interview is a meeting where you will be expected to demonstrate examples of your existing work and talents. For example; you might be a graphic designer with a portfolio of creative work you’ve done for existing clients.
Of course, you’ll want to present your work in the best possible light, so as well as having some examples on your laptop or iPad, have some printed out on high-quality materials and leave these with the interviewers.
We can help you prepare
If you get stuck, give our team a call on 0161 929 6665 and we’ll arrange an interview where our skilled advisors will draw the best out of you.
Friday, July 12th, 2019
A strong CV can not only make the difference when it comes to getting a job, it can be a deciding factor in whether or not you even get an interview.
When you send off your application, your CV has just a few seconds to stand out from the crowd before probably being lost among a sea of other applicants.
Here are some CV do’s and don’ts, CV hacks and instant wins that together add up to give you our top CV writing secrets.
CV do’s and don’ts
Do give your CV a logical structure, with separate sections for basic contact details, education, career history and outside interests. Our CV Builder can help you make sure you’ve covered everything you need to mention.
Don’t go into too much detail. Make sure the important points are mentioned but remember you can provide more background in your interview – and don’t go over one or two sides of A4 unless you’re sure it’s appropriate to do so.
Do tweak your CV for each role you apply for – but don’t spend more time than you need to on each new version!
Do put your most relevant info up top so interviewers can find it easily. Don’t neglect the basics like your name and contact details though, as you want recruiters to be able to contact you easily.
These three CV hacks can help you to say what you want to say, without cluttering the page:
- Use a narrow/oval font. The letters are narrower than in a typeface based on circular characters and you’ll fit more words on a line.
- White space makes text more readable. It’s better to make your text slightly smaller if it means you can miss a line between sections or use 1.5x line spacing.
- Stick to a single font (or at most, a second font just for titles and subheadings). Any more than that starts to confuse the eye.
Remember, you want your key information to be easy to find and easy to read, so interviewers can cast their eye over your CV in just a few seconds and notice what you want them to notice.
CV instant wins
Some tweaks can have a big impact on your CV in literally just a few seconds – these are our CV instant wins:
- Change the font to something modern, elegant and easy to read on-screen and in print. Remember the tip from above about font widths.
- A border usually isn’t necessary but a horizontal line can help to mark the divide between different sections. Larger titles help to draw the eye too.
- If you’re just a few words over a single page but can’t find anything to remove, very slightly reduce your character spacing, line spacing or margins to make it fit!
Don’t take it to extremes – it’s all about finding balance and making the page look good overall – but with these top CV writing secrets and the help of our CV Builder, you can be sure of making the right first impression.
Friday, July 5th, 2019
It’s not easy to get a job with no work experience, but we all have to start somewhere and many employers recognise that fact.
However, that doesn’t mean you can just walk in and expect to be offered a job. You’ll still need to make it through the recruitment and interview process.
So what can you do to help your CV look less empty when you apply for a job without work experience? Here are our top tips.
1. Focus on other areas
This is the most obvious solution – if you don’t have relevant work experience, don’t try to make it look like you do.
You can prioritise other parts of your CV, such as relevant education or qualifications, or even any outside interests, hobbies and pastimes that give you knowledge of the role you’re applying for.
Don’t be afraid to put your career history at the bottom of your CV instead of at the top, if it’s not as relevant as some of those other areas. Look to our CV Builder if you need help deciding which sections to include and in what order.
2. Transferable skills
A lot of work experience comes in the form of transferable skills, sometimes called ‘soft skills’.
These are things like teamwork, flexible thinking, adaptability and capability in a crisis, and they’re the kinds of characteristics that all employers value, so don’t neglect them.
Again, give careful thought to the order of the information on your CV – if you have relevant transferable skills, give them priority, even if they were learned as part of a job in a completely different industry or sector.
3. Give more detail
If you don’t have many individual examples of past experience to list, give some extra background detail about each one to fill the space.
Consider your wording carefully – it shouldn’t just be filler – and keep it to brief bullet points to put your point across in as punchy a way as possible.
Remember, you’re aiming to give the interviewer an at-a-glance guide to the things you want to discuss in your interview, so keep it relevant to the role but bring in your best attributes from across the board at the same time.
4. Mention past wins
If you’ve seen major success in a role that was completely different to the one you’re now trying to get, it’s still worth mentioning.
At the end of the day, success is success and employers will often value a good business head or a commitment to delivering on a project, even if your only examples of this are ‘irrelevant’ on the surface.
Make sure you highlight how this relates to your current application – and if possible, quantify your success in terms of how much it was worth to your employer or the return on investment you achieved, as money always talks too.
5. Make a statement
If you have nothing else you can use to fill your CV, consider making a short personal statement. This is traditionally not particularly common in the UK but it’s on the increase.
A brief statement can allow you to make clear that you have passion and enthusiasm for the role you’re applying for, and that you will be quick to learn on the job.
Just make sure to be specific in what you say – vague promises to work hard don’t mean much compared with, for instance, giving a specific example of when you have thrived out of your comfort zone in the past as proof that you can and will adapt quickly. Our links, tips and tricks can help provide some more insight and prepare you for the next step – the interview!
Friday, June 28th, 2019
We all know that to make the best impression on the interviewer, you should tailor your CV properly for each role you apply for – but how do you go about doing this?
If you’re applying for a very clearly defined role, then your CV might not need changing much each time, although you should make sure to update it regularly anyway.
But if you’re applying for a number of different roles within your chosen industry, and especially when applying for jobs where you’re slightly less experienced, tailoring your CV can help to present you as the right candidate for the job.
1. Start with an up-to-date CV
It doesn’t hurt to have a generic CV to use as a starting point, and choose the most relevant experience and qualifications from there. Take a look at our CV builder to get started.
You might want to make this ‘master’ CV longer, listing all of your qualifications, transferable skills, career experience and so on.
Don’t send this monster master to recruiters, but instead adopt a ‘delete as appropriate’ approach to trim it down to the requisite one or two sides of A4 for each application.
2. Structure it well
A good overall structure provides you with a framework within which you can change individual details to prioritise the most relevant information about you.
Our CV Builder is a great way to make sure you’ve covered all the important areas, from education and work experience, to transferable skills and relevant hobbies.
Just login to start building your CV today, and we’ll also make sure you don’t miss any of the basics like name, address, telephone number and email address so the employer can actually contact you.
3. Change the order
You can change the order not only of information in each section, but of the entire sections themselves.
So for example, if you think your transferable skills are particularly strong for one application, you might move them higher up the running order.
Alternatively, you might have directly relevant work experience to list first instead – or if you’re straight out of education, it could be your qualifications that take top billing.
4. Trim the dead weight
It can be tempting to list absolutely everything you can think of in an attempt to impress the interviewer, but an unwieldy CV is rarely welcomed by recruiters or employers.
At first glance amid a stack of competitors’ CVs, you have barely a matter of seconds to make your application memorable, so keep it simple and make good use of formatting to give prominence to your absolute best features.
5. Don’t panic
If you’re applying for a number of jobs, don’t spend weeks tweaking your CV – instead, learn to prioritise what you know are your best features and quickly put the most relevant ones up top.
Again, our CV Builder can help you to keep track of your core talents, career progression and all those elusive dates and full names of past qualifications.
That way, you don’t have to write entire sections of your CV from scratch each time, but instead you can quickly and easily build a new version of your master CV that shows only what you want to say.