Top 12 tips to help you get the job offer you want

Today’s job market is very competitive. Here are some key tips and suggestions to help you find success

Many students have part-time jobs in the local pub or shop, but taking a step up the career ladder can be daunting. It’s no longer enough to fire out the same CV to businesses in the area; the CV now needs to be tailored. Interviews become more demanding; the employer wants to see more than your ability to show up and be a polite, pleasant and well-presented person.

Before you even have a hope of getting an interview, it’s important to have standout CV that sets you apart from all the other applicants. So, what puts one CV in the yes pile and another in the shredder?

Aidan McLaughlin is the director of international communications and public relations at recruitment firm "Employers know what they are looking for when it comes to skills and qualifications. This is why the CV is so important: to get an interview and really stand out, you need to get in the door."

McLaughlin identifies six rules for creating or brushing up a CV

1. Cover the basics


Include educational degrees or certifications. Put down work and volunteer experience but don't include everything you did in your past jobs; instead, focus on achievements over responsibilities. Write in your contact information including your full name, the city where you live, your email address and phone number. Finally, include your relevant skills and your level of mastery – for instance, 'conversational Spanish' and 'familiar with Microsoft Excel' is different from "fluent in Spanish" or "expert at Microsoft Excel".

2. Explore other CVs

Search resume databases for the job title, industry or company that you’re thinking about and see how others present their backgrounds and skills. You can get a sense of the internal language used within a particular industry or company.

3. Less is more

Use as few words as possible. McLaughlin advises formatting your experience as a list of short statements that can be easily scanned. Keep it to two pages at the most. If you’re not sure what is essential, ask yourself if what you’re including is relevant to what the employer is asking for in the job description.

4. Quantify your achievements

Numbers and data bring your work experience to life. When you can, back up your achievements with real data to boost your credibility and add informative detail to your resume.

5. Use the keywords that you see in the job description

Hiring managers want to see that you can speak their language and know the lingo of their industry. When they see their own keywords mirrored back to them in your resume, it reinforces the idea that you’re a strong candidate for the role.

6. Proofread several times

A single typo or spelling mistake can be enough to destroy your chances. Do a word-by-word, line-by-line review. Reading content backwards is a good way to pick up mistakes you might otherwise miss. Applicants should ask someone to look over the CV before you submit it.

Once you’ve followed these steps, McLaughlin says you have a better chance of being called to interview. But how do you prepare for that? Again, he outlines six steps and, perhaps surprisingly, these are focused primarily on politeness and body language.

1. Be prepared

This is the most conscientious thing you can do before an interview. Arrive fully prepared to answer their questions and ask your own insightful questions.

2. Be respectful

It’s important that you treat everyone you meet with respect. From the moment you leave your home on the day of an interview, make a conscious effort to be respectful. Imagine cutting off the boss in the parking lot or not holding the door open for the hiring manager – only to find them interviewing you a few minutes later. And remember: security guards and receptionists may be asked to give feedback on you.

3. Be polite but confident

This is about your body language. Hold your head up and pull back your shoulders as you walk into the building because this conveys confidence and professionalism. While waiting, sit with your back straight and shoulders open. Don’t spread your legs or put your feet or belongings on another chair. You should avoid being on your phone. During the interview, find the right balance for your energy. Be upbeat but not aggressive, avoiding leaning back too far or forward too much.

4. Get the introductions right

Stand up before you shake hands, look them in the eyes and smile. Handshake: not too limp, firm but not too tight. Make eye contact when asked questions, but not too intense or continuous.

5. Table manners

If the interview is conducted over a meal, don’t forget your manners. Don’t start your meal until the others have their food too, don’t talk with food in your mouth and take small, manageable bites. Best to avoid alcohol during an interview.

6. Send a thank you note to the hiring manager within 24 hours

This can be a quick thank you for their time or a longer note that elaborates on what you spoke about. A handwritten note leaves an impression; even if you don’t get the job, the note can be a way to continue a professional relationship.

Check out

This is a very useful website for anyone applying for a job, containing reviews from employees about what it is really like to work in different organisations. What is the employer really like? Get the inside track here as well as asking classmates, friends, relatives or anyone who can give you information about the company you’re applying to. As well as arming you with the information about a company that you need for a job interview, it should also give you a sense of whether you really want to work there.

The biggest mistakes you can make on a CV and in the interview

There are three major mistakes that people make mistakes on, says Aidan McLaughlin of “These are simplicity, brevity and accuracy. A CV should be a clear document detailing your experience and skills, and it should be written with the reader in mind, but most CVs are written from the perspective of the candidate and so the important information is buried. Grammar and spelling mistakes are the death knell of an application, because if you cannot take the time to ensure your CV is free of mistakes, how will you perform under the pressure of the workplace?”

Mike McDonagh, director of Hays Recruitment, agrees that spelling mistakes are the biggest error you can make with your CV. “Even in the age of spellcheck, they still happen, so make sure you get someone to review the CV.”

McDonagh says that a recruiter can easily spot a generic CV and that they are unlikely to be impressed. “We urge candidates to write bespoke CVs or, at least, tailor each CV to each job application. While this means that they have only the time to apply for between five and seven jobs, instead of 15, they will be the jobs that they are really interested in.”

Another big no-no is giving too much personal information, says McDonagh. “We don’t want a list of what people do at the weekend. Even more experienced applicants might put down how many children they have but that information is not necessary. If you are putting down information about yourself, the focus should be on how it benefits the company so, for instance, if it is a sales job it may make sense to provide information that shows off your outgoing nature, while in a research-heavy role it won’t do any harm to mention that you are an avid reader.”

Calling an employer to ask if they received your CV can be frowned on. “If it’s a sales job, definitely do it,” says McDonagh. “But if it’s a role in the not-for-profit or public sector, canvassing can disqualify and that is often stated in the ad.”

There are some big mistakes that can ruin your interview. “Lack of preparation can be obvious, so make sure to think about the questions you will be asked and write down the answers that you might give. Get someone to role-play with you. You want to show that you have done your research but don’t simply regurgitate statistics. Take the research and show that you are interested in working across the organisation because you have the personality and experience they need.”