Advice & Tips

How to land your dream job!

Your CV and covering letter represents you. It is your first impression and the only way for you to let prospective employers know just how good you are. You might be the perfect person for the job, but if your CV is not up to scratch, you’ll be passed by and your application will go in the “this CV is too hard to read” pile.

Getting it right is crucial

When sending your CV, unless told not to, you should include a covering letter explaining which vacancy you are applying for and an overview of why you should be considered. But don’t just repeat all the information that’s in your CV.

If you are sending a speculative CV, write a short note explaining what kind of position you are interested in.

You should structure your CV by including:

·         Your name, address, telephone number (evening and daytime)
·         Academic qualifications (e.g. GCSEs, A levels, Degree etc)
·         Vocational qualifications (e.g. HGV driving license or Microsoft Certified Engineer etc.)
·         Work history (starting with the most recent and working backwards)
·         Other major achievements (e.g. charity work or climbing Mt. Everest)
·         Hobbies and interests

Once you have got your content you need to arrange it into a cohesive structure. Take a look at the example structure we suggest.

Don’t expect to use the same CV for every job you apply for. You should edit it and refine the way it looks depending on the type of job you apply for.

Finally, be concise. Always restrict it to a maximum of 2 sheets of A4. This does not mean that you have to leave things out, but it does require you to be brief and to the point.

Before sending…

·         Ensure it is always typed and contains no spelling mistakes.
·         Take the time to produce a document that is both easy to read and professional looking.
·         Tempting as it might be, avoid the use of gimmicks, elaborate typefaces and fancy designs just to get noticed.

Cover Letter Tips

Demonstrating your career interests and highlighting your most relevant strengths and experiences, a professionally set out letter can say a lot about your motivation and your attention to detail.  

Well-written covering letters are also particularly effective for speculative applications outside of a recruitment cycle and for explaining any personal circumstances or anomalies in your application.

Briefly introduce yourself, state what position you are applying for and where you saw it advertised. For a speculative letter, include the type of work you are seeking.

·         Explain why you are interested in this type of work.
·         Explain why you are interested in working for this particular organisation.
·         Provide evidence of your key strengths by referring to experiences on your CV. Aim for your key strengths to reflect the requirements of the employer and position.
·         Take the opportunity, if necessary, to explain any anomalies in your experiences such as a gap or anywhere you do not match the selection criteria.
·         Indicate availability for interview.


The interview is your chance to present the evidence of your ability to do the job. Preparing for the interview will ensure you make the most of this opportunity.

Do your homework

·         Research the job and the company in detail.
·         If you make it your business to learn about the company, it shows you are genuinely interested in working for them.
·         Who is conducting the interview and what is their role?
·         Find out what format will the interview take?

Plan how to present your skills

·         Know the job description and the responsibilities that go with the role.
·         Know your own CV and work history inside out.
·         Make notes on the points you want to emphasise during the interview which are particularly relevant to the job description.
·         Try to anticipate the questions they will ask. Think about any awkward points that might be picked up, and how you will handle them.


Create a good impression

·         Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. Asking questions demonstrates that you are interested in the role.
·         Find out how to get to the interview and how long it will take. You should plan to arrive 10 or 15 minutes early.
·         For the interview, dress in attire that is suited to the environment.

Types of Interviews

Competency-based interviews

The interviewer will ask questions that are designed to help you give evidence of the personal qualities needed to perform the role. Usually, you will be expected to give an example of how you have demonstrated these qualities in the past.


Questions might be along the line of:

·         Describe a situation where you had to…

·         deal with an unhappy customer
·         prioritise work tasks
·         work as a member of a team
·         show initiative
·         work to a tight deadline
·         overcome a difficult situation
·         go above and beyond the normal duties of your role
·         work with others to solve a problem
·         In competency-based interviews you are presenting information from previous experiences so there are no right and wrong answers.
·         The trick is to give the interviewer relevant information that shows how you will be able to perform the job in future, not just tell a story.
·         In your answers make sure you have explained the situation fully, reached a conclusion about how you handled the situation, and linked to a particular competency that you know is relevant for the role.


Biographical interviews

·         These interviews will probably be based largely around your application form or CV.
·         The interviewer will probe more on what you have done in previous roles, schools etc and focus on areas of particular interest or relevance – such as projects or duties.
·         Don’t be too brief in your answers – this is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you are the right person for the job due to your previous experiences.


Telephone interviews

·         Interviews over the phone may involve biographical or competency-based questions.
·         Before the interview, find a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed and where background noises are at a minimum.
·         Have a pen and paper ready for instructions of next steps. 

Assessment Centres

·         Assessment Centres differ greatly depending on the employer.
·         They are designed to test your capabilities to do the role. The employer will set tasks aimed at testing your strengths and abilities. In turn, you will learn more about the role, culture and company.
·         Assessment Centres normally take longer than interviews and often have multiple candidates attending. How you interact with your fellow candidates will be part of the assessment. 

Group Exercises

·         Having the right attitude from the start, is key. You must be positive, enthusiastic, respectful of your group members’ thoughts and contributions. Not considering others, being dismissive or rude can contribute to a less favourable outcome.
·         Contribution to the group is vital – if you do not speak you cannot be marked.

Role Playing

·         In this task individuals will be assigned roles. The scenario will usually be related either to a typical day on the job or a particularly stressful, awkward situation which must be managed with quick thinking.
·         Always role play from the perspective of how you would like to be treated in that particular situation.


·         For psychometric testing there is little that you can do to prepare.
·         Always answer honestly. Most testers can tell if your answers have been truthful.
·         For numeracy testing, don’t be afraid to ask if you can use a calculator.