On Thursday, June 17th, Mason and Dale were proud to host the first in a new webinar series. With Catherine Maskell, expert marketer and moderator (bio), at the helm, we talked all things CV with Mason & Dale founder Chanell De-Gannes (bio) and CV expert Charlotte Eve (bio), owner of CK Futures, a specialist CV writing company.
As a CV is your first opportunity to make a good impression (99% of the time, anyway!), getting the fundamentals right while creating a compelling read can feel daunting – but there is no dark art here. As our experts explained, it comes down to time and effort on paper combined with strategy, networking and relationship building to see results from your applications…
As we return to a new normal – what are the new rules in starting to find work?
‘There isn’t one set rule for applying for roles; there are multiple routes to market that candidates can take advantage of. Linkedin is a must, and I recommend connecting with as many people as possible within your desired sector or niche. Another tip is to get recommendations and referrals within your network, don’t be afraid to ask as you never know what people are looking for and who is in their extended network. Don’t just apply for jobs. Engage with the job poster, hiring manager, even the director or owner and show a real interest in what they have to offer.’ Chanell
‘For obvious reasons, there have been profound changes in the last year with the number of vacancies, job security and so on. But a recent study found that 55% of employers said they would be recruiting again this year – so opportunities are out there. It’s always been competitive but now more so than ever before, so the key here is to do what most other people don’t do when applying for work. So, try to avoid applying for lots of jobs online by just uploading your CV. Pick up the phone, provide a covering letter – even if they don’t ask for one – add genuine enthusiasm and have a personal approach to help yourself stand out. Crucially – adapt your CV for every role you apply for, making sure it’s highly relevant to the job specifics. Take quality over quantity approach to job application by applying for less and taking your time to maximise your potential with each one.
Finally, your network comes from being vocal about it – so tell everyone! Start the conversation yourself. If it is safe to do so, drop into businesses and see people where appropriate to drop your CV off in person – especially with semi-skilled and customer-facing roles, as you make it easy for the manager to hire you now or in the near future.’ Charlotte
What are your thoughts on how furlough has affected candidates concerning gaps in CVs? What can you do with your CV to handle this?
Recent gaps on CVs are ‘normal’ at the moment. However, you do need to fill it, otherwise, the employer may make assumptions. Put yourself in the mind of the hirer or interviewer and answer the questions before they are raised. There are plenty of excellent examples of positive things you can do in a career gap. What have you got? What material can you use? Put all the positive things you HAVE done in that gap such as free courses, webinars, any kind of skills training, education and anything you have tried to do to keep up to date.’ Charlotte
‘Also – look a bit deeper into your market. Marketing, for example, is leaning on the digital piece right now. Take the time to clue up on the current state of play in your niche or desired market and stay educated so you can keep yourself in the conversation. Free industry newsletters and blogs are an ideal way to do this without costing you anything to stay ahead.
But also know that employers will be understanding of the last 18 months. I and others can tell you that most employers were unlikely to employ in these times anyway, and they understand so much has been outside of everyone’s control.’ Chanell
If you are entering the job market as a grad or are new to work entirely – where do you start? With a slim CV or few practical skills, is a grad scheme the way to go?
‘Grad schemes are a fantastic route to go down, but while you’re applying, get work where you can in-between. Try and get a role even slightly relevant to the grad scheme you are going for, as they often ask for any experience. There are lots of schemes out there and plenty of opportunities across a breadth of sectors. As with all employment now, the market for grad schemes is more competitive than previous years, with the added matter of last year’s cohort looking too – but they’re still doable.’ Charlotte
‘I’d say keep an open mind – they are great – but look for roles that are offering development and training schemes too, as you may not necessarily need a grad scheme.
In the holidays, take the time to register with quality temp recruitment agencies and consultants who will help you to find roles that help you build up some experience in the areas you want. Even for three weeks, a month, FTC’s – they’re all helpful and show willing.’ Chanell
Yes, working with a recruiter can really help…
‘A recruiter can and should work with you to truly understand what you need. Some candidates aren’t very responsive, so make sure you are. Equip your consultant with the correct contact details, be transparent about what you DON’T want – if the location it’s too far away, say that! Be honest and help them to understand you for a much smoother process.’ Chanell
Let’s talk about a career change. For example, people that are looking to move on from the hospitality market. How can they best show their skills to move over to something new?
‘With career change, look at your existing experience and identify the skills, knowledge and characteristics you have to be able to offer to something else. This is slightly harder as you go up the ladder but transferring your skills is absolutely doable. I have worked with 48 police officers who are coming out of the force to go into different careers entirely, and it is finding those sweet spots that transfer.
Communication, organisation, problem solving, decision making are fantastic examples of transferable soft skills. More practical knowledge can include project management, IT and tech skills, which have vast appeal. Invest time in yourself to identify your soft skills and tech or practical skills.
Think about where would you like to go and what could transfer over. I have moved someone from accounting to art, so there really are transferable skills you can work into your ‘brand’ – your essence of you. Ideally, don’t just list them. Have a section on the first page that says skills and strengths and give an explanation to each one. Organisation for example – “I am probably the only person on the planet that finds joy in a to-do list” A believable and personal skills section demonstrates trust and is a great way to set yourself apart’ Charlotte
‘I second Charlotte’s points here, and it really is about showcasing your skills to get you through the door. Be mindful that some industries can be a little less forgiving and will want specifics, but the market overall is so much more flexible now and open to new ideas and fresh talent.’ Chanell
We had some great questions sent to us too…
Do I need to include a photo on my CV?
‘There are absolutely no rules – and rules can be broken anyway! I would say, though, it is harder to read a fancy CV – so avoid tables and columns as harder for automated CV software algorithms to read and result in missing information.
Photos are prevalent worldwide, so I did a little experiment and started putting them on to see the reaction, and the results have been amazing – they’ve all gone over to interviews. Even in sectors, you wouldn’t expect. I recently put forward a law grad for a legal career entry role with his photo after he’d previously applied for over 30 companies with zero success. With a re-write of his CV and the photo addition, he got interviews for everything he applied for.
So, top tips for photos –
Only you – not chopped up wedding pictures or in groups
Professional but suited to your job market’ Charlotte
‘Absolutely a professional picture – put simply, employers buy into people. Front of house/reception roles welcome a professional photograph.’ Chanell
How far back should my history go?
‘Think more about making sure everything is relevant. If many years ago you were doing something that has no relevance to the role you’re applying for, keep it brief if there is no value there. You can add it to your skills section if the role might help, say L&D from a teaching role and so on. If your history is particularly long, you don’t have to date it – you can group it in a timeframe, for example – the 1990s. Just be mindful it can encourage agism, so another way is to label an experience as ‘earlier work’. Charlotte
If I have been featured in school papers or something like that – should I include it?
‘Relevancy is key here. I would say to keep your most relevant pieces at the top to catch the employers attention. So yes, if you’re applying for a journalism role, then absolutely. If not, or nothing at all related, think about what that might bring to the table’ Chanell
And what about accolades and awards? Is it boasting?
‘It can be hard to know what to include, but it is important to show you are good, especially if it supports the role you applied for – it’s not boastful if it’s factual! Show you’re a top performer in anything you are, as this will help set you apart. If you have made things better, supported people or come up with ideas, it shows you can deliver results and perform.’ Charlotte
‘Absolutely – toot your horn! Frankly, no one else is going to do that for you, and such great achievements should be talked about!’ Chanell
Should I be tailoring my job to every job I apply for
‘YES’ Charlotte & Chanell
‘Why? Because every job you apply for has different requirements and your details must reflect that. In addition, 97% of job boards use applicant tracking systems that filter out candidates if the information is the same every time, meaning you can lose out on the job you really want for the sake of a few tailoring tweaks’ Charlotte
To add, a good consultant will get to know you and supply the client with a proper synopsis of you, so don’t leave all your eggs in one basket with online job boards when a consultant can help you.’ Chanell
What are your opinions on creative CVs?
‘They are ordinarily reformatted for ease, so make sure the content says more than the aesthetic. Articulate and quantify your experience as a priority. Crucially, make it hard for your consultant to detract from your CV what they need to know about you’ Chanell
‘If you’re going for something creative and you’re in the creative industries, then great, it’s relevant. If you are applying online, it will be rejected because most ATS read documents left to right and can’t read over formatted, creative CVs. These type of CVs only work if you are applying directly via email to an individual.’ Charlotte
‘Keep the jazzy stuff for interview stages and wow them there! Demonstrate your passion, and that’s your opportunity to shine.’ Catherine
What’s your view on putting personal interests on a CV?
‘Make sure it’s appropriate! Try and limit anything controversial on there, leaving you open to questioning and assumption before they have even met you’ Chanell
‘I do include them. Just a couple of sentences – but they generally support their skills or strengths and include creative hands-on projects, even building an extension, climbing mountains, and side hustles. Also, your approach to life – do you love the outdoors? A little window into what you’re like. Don’t put socialising!’ Charlotte
How is the UK job market for someone abroad shifting from Hospitality to Marketing – I need a UK sponsor.
‘First of all, find and reach out to sponsorship-open organisations, as many don’t offer it. Target those and do your research. Make sure your CV is well suited and make sure the organisation can support you.’ Chanell
‘Yes, using the tips we’ve discussed to get skills front and centre’ Catherine
‘Employers that are most receptive to overseas sponsors tend to be global organisations as they can see the value in your global reach – you can be a more attractive candidate. Language skills and knowledge of diverse cultures are highly sought after’ Charlotte
What is your one piece of advice for someone looking to get the job they want in 2021?
‘Do the best CV you possibly can – invest time in it – if it isn’t working, then change it! And use a good recruiter…’Charlotte
‘ Yes, I second this and also network as much as you can. Be savvy about the way you’re applying and register with me, of course!’ Chanell
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