Job search tips

Team Reading

We know applying for roles and going through a selection process can be nerve wracking, so we’ve listed some tips below that we hope you find helpful.

We really hope that you have a positive experience with Reading Borough Council. We would also love to hear your feedback, so please share this with us at recruitment@reading.gov.uk

How to write a great cv

A CV is a short, written summary of your skills, achievements and experience. It’s a vital tool in your search for a new job and properly prepared, your CV can be the deciding factor in getting an interview.

A well-constructed CV is a personal account of your career and professional achievements allowing your potential new employer to see what you can bring to the team or company.

How to start

Gather useful information like:

  • The job advert
  • The job description
  • A person specification
  • Company details
  • Your qualifications
  • Details about your past employers
  • Details about your past jobs or volunteering experience
  • Evidence of training courses you’ve completed

You can use this information to show how your skills and experience match what the employer wants. You should tailor your CV to suit the job description and the company.

CV layout

There are different CV styles, so use the one which best matches the stage you’re at in your life or career. The main styles are:

  • Traditional CV or chronological CV – list your work and education history, starting with the most recent
  • Skills based or targeted CV – focuses on your job-related skills and personal qualities
  • Technical CV – used in professions like IT and engineering and puts your industry-specific skills first followed by the other information
  • Creative CV – used in creative and digital arts and can link to an online portfolio, contain video or infographics, or include digital tools that make you stand out from the crowd
  • Academic CV – generally longer than a traditional or skills-based CV and often used for teaching and research careers

Your finished document should be no more than 2 sides of A4 unless it’s an academic CV.

What to include

There are some things that you need to put in your CV. You can change the order of these to suit your situation and the type of CV layout you want to use.

Contact details

  • You’ll need to include:
  • your name at the top of your document – no need to add CV or curriculum vitae
  • your full address and postcode
  • telephone or mobile number – give the number you’re most likely to be available on during the working day
  • email address – always use a professional sounding email address

You can leave out details like your age, date of birth, marital status and nationality. These are not required. If you have a profile on a professional social media site like LinkedIn, you can add a link to it on your CV.

Personal profile

This is a few short lines that sum up who you are and what you hope to do. This is a great opportunity to grab your audience, letting them know what you are capable of. Use it as a snap shot of your achievements in your recent career history, or relevance to the role you are applying for.

Your work experience history

Include work placements, volunteering and any paid jobs you’ve held. You’ll need to give details of:

  • The employer, with most recent first
  • The title of the job
  • The dates you worked
  • A brief outline of what you did – usually 2 to 3 lines

Use active words to highlight your strengths and skills for example, ‘organised’, ‘created’, ‘built’, ‘managed’ or ‘planned’. Try to give positive examples of your achievements rather than just listing duties.

If you’ve had a lot of jobs, you can use a skills-based CV to group them. This CV is also useful when you have gaps in your work history. Give examples of skills you’ve developed during the times you were out of work and how you got them.

If you’re applying for your first job, you can focus on skills you’ve learned through projects, part-time work, school work experience, internships, placements or volunteering.

Your education history

This section can be added after your personal profile when you’re early on in your career or if you do not have much work experience. Whatever order you choose, you’ll need to give:

  • the names of your qualifications
  • the school, college or university where you studied
  • the dates you attended

Hobbies, interests or achievements

Use examples that show you have skills that are relevant to the job. This section is useful if you do not have much work experience.

References

Ensure that your referees are relevant and have a clear understanding of your abilities Advise your referees that you are including them on your CV. You can leave your references off your CV to give to your potential employer once you are successful.

CV tips

Employers get lots of CVs to look at and have to decide quickly who they are going to interview. Here are some tips to make your CV stand out for all the right reasons.

When writing your CV remember:

  • Research the company and the job before you start
  • Choose a CV style that fits your situation or one that employers in that type of job prefer
  • Use clear lettering like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri, size 11 or bigger – always use the same style throughout
  • Use headings, bullet points and spacing to break information up to make it easier to read
  • Keep it to 2 sides of A4
  • Be clear and to the point
  • Match the words you use to the keywords in the job description or advert
  • Get someone else to read it to double check your spelling and grammar
  • Save a copy, including a final pdf version for emailing
  • Always send your CV with a cover letter/supporting statement

How to ace the interview

Interviews form a crucial part of any recruitment process. It’s your chance to make a good impression and show what you have to offer. You can also use it to help you decide if the job and the company are right for you.

Preparation

  • Read the job description and person specification carefully and be clear on the skills and qualities the employer is looking for
  • Check the company website to find out more about its products or services and their plans for the future
  • Go over your CV or application form and think about things the employer may ask you about
  • Prepare some examples that show you have the right skills, personal qualities and experience
  • Practise your timings on presentations and keep a back-up copy
  • Ask someone you trust to practise answering questions
  • Write down 2 or 3 questions you can ask at the end of your interview, that show you’re enthusiastic about the job
  • Prepare something suitable and comfortable to wear
  • Check what time you need to arrive and the name of the person you need to see
  • Make sure that you know how to get to where the interview is being held
  • If you have a disability and need adjustments to make the interview accessible, you can get advice from Scope on how to ask for them

The STAR Method

Use the STAR method to plan your answers to interview questions, it can also be used to show your skills and experience on a CV or application form

STAR stands for:

  • Situation – the situation you had to deal with
  • Task – the task you were given to do
  • Action – the action you took
  • Result – what happened as a result of your action and what you learned from the experience

You can use the STAR method to structure the examples you give to questions, especially in interviews. You can use it to highlight particular skills and qualities you have that the employer is looking for. Keep examples short and to the point, but feel free to use examples for home, work or volunteering. Try to get your points across in a conversational way so as not to appear too rehearsed but be prepared to answer follow-up questions about the examples you give.

Video Interviews

2020 has seen the rise of video interviews, this interview style will be with us for the long term now, so it is worth thinking about your approach. In advance of the meeting, make sure you have the relevant links, log in to make sure it works without any additional downloads. Think about your location, what behind you, and is the lighting right. Remember to set your space in somewhere aware from distraction and external noise.

At the interview

Before you go in:

  • Make sure your phone’s turned off
  • Use breathing techniques to calm yourself – try to remember, a few nerves are normal
  • Smile and greet your interviewer confidently
  • Ask for some water if you need it

During the interview

In the interview, remember the following:

  • Be polite and use the right language and tone for a formal situation
  • Listen carefully to questions and think before you begin your answers
  • If you do not understand a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it or explain further
  • Use the STAR method to answer questions about your skills, for instance talk about the Situation you were in, the Task you had to do, the Action you took, and the Result you achieved
  • Be positive about your experiences – if you’ve faced difficult situations, show what you learned from them
  • Tell the truth – do not exaggerate or come across as over-confident
  • Ask a couple of questions when you’re invited to do so – choose questions that make you sound keen, like ‘What opportunities are there for training with your company?’, rather than ones about pay or holidays at this stage
  • At the end, thank the employer for their time and tell them that you are looking forward to hearing from them
  • When you leave the interview, try to write down some of the harder questions you were asked – this can help you to prepare for future interviews.

After the interview

If you’re offered the job, let the company know in good time whether you want to accept the offer. You can also agree the start date and what to bring on the first day.

If you decide not to accept the job, decline it politely, as you may want to work for them in the future.

If you do not get offered the job:

  • Be positive – this is a chance to learn from your experience
  • Ask for feedback on your interview
  • Think about the things that did not go so well and what you could do to improve next time
  • Get some interview practice – you could ask friends, family, colleagues or a careers adviser to help

Types of interview questions

Employers use different types of questions when interviewing. They may be:

  • Competency-based – the focus is on the things you can do, so you’ll be asked to give examples to show you have the skills needed for the job
  • Strengths-based – these explore what you enjoy doing or do well and is used to check things like your practical or teamworking skills, or how you work under pressure
  • Technical – for jobs in science, IT, engineering, finance or law – they test your job-related knowledge and understanding of work processes
  • Situational judgement – test how you would react in typical work situations and check things like your ability to solve problems, make decisions or work with others
  • Values-based – commonly used for health and care jobs, particularly in the NHS, to confirm that you share the values and understand the culture of the organisation
  • Motivational – these help an employer to see what drives you and to make sure you’ll fit in with their company

You can find more information and examples of interview questions on the national careers website.

Additional support for your job search

A range of organisations can support with your job search, some examples are below.

Berkshire Opportunities

Adviza

National Careers Service

New Directions College

Job Help Campaign