HOW TO GET A JOB INTERVIEW
There are various factors to consider when selling your self to a prospective employer. Within this article we will explore how to get a job interview in these difficult economic times. As competition for jobs in many science disciplines is fierce, you will need to impress prospective employers by showing that you have more than just the technical knowledge they require.
In many cases where all the applicants are graduates employers will be looking for other attributes which could include some of those listed below.
- oral communication
- interpersonal skills
- foreign language competence
- time management
- problem solving
As well as these general considerations, some tips on how to approach the different routes into science employment are given below.
Graduate recruitment fairs – these events offer the chance for you to sell your self to companies as well as for them to make you want to work for them. Some key points to remember when visiting recruitment fairs:
Always be prepared – think about what type of jobs interest you. Look at the list of exhibitors and find out about the ones you like the sound of. Identify the questions you want to ask each company, write them down and take them with you.
Dress appropriately on the day – first impressions are extremely important.
Talk to employer’s representatives and look interested when they’re talking. Ask questions but be subtle – don’t tell them you’re desperate for a job, you may come across as unprofessional. Take a few copies of your up-to-date CV with you. Leave copies with all prospective employers so they can look at it later when they have more time.
Curriculum Vitae (CV) – your CV is your chance to make an impact with a prospective employer. There is no right or wrong way to write a CV but the following provides some examples of best practice:
Keep a copy of your CV on your computer (or on a storage device if you don’t have your own PC) so you can easily update it as necessary.
Always tailor your CV to the post for which you are applying. Consider the type of job, the company / organisation you are writing to and any other relevant information you can find.
Ensure that your name stands out on your CV, for example include your name, address and contact details as header as this makes it easy for the reader to know who you are.
Where possible, your CV should be one side of A4 but certainly no longer than two sides.
Ensure your CV is presented immaculately – check and double-check spelling, grammar and punctuation. Avoid using complicated or fancy fonts and don’t make them too small.
If you need more advice or help on how to write a CV then we can assist you. We also offer a professional CV writing service.
Use bullet points and bold type titles to present a reader-friendly document where information is easily found and print the final versions you send off on high quality paper in black ink. Order your CV sections with the most recent and important information coming first. The information should, wherever possible, be organized logically and chronologically.
Your CV should include the following basic sections/information:
Qualifications – List your qualifications starting with the most recent first. If you have recently graduated include the type e.g. B.Sc., the awarding university or college and the grade. If appropriate it may be useful to identify the main areas covered during you course. You should also list your other qualifications such as A-Levels, Scottish Highers, GCSEs etc. including the subject and date awarded. You may need to include separate sections for other professional or non-academic qualifications, particularly if they are relevant to the post for which you are applying.
Work experience – Begin with your most recent post held. Include a paragraph detailing your key responsibilities/achievements within this role, with examples. In general, you should write more about your more recent posts, unless a post held some time ago is particularly relevant to the position you are applying for. If you wish to draw emphasis to a particular strength or skill then use an example from your experience to explain. Think about how you can fashion the information about your previous work experience to suit the new post you are applying for.
Other interests – This is an area of the CV that many people neglect, but it is important as this is your chance to show your personality, and that you are more than a set of qualifications and work experience. It is best to keep the details brief, possibly just listing your main areas of interest.
References – Ideally you should include contact details for at least 2 referees. One should be a current or recent employer while the other should be someone who knows you well, for example a colleague/friend. If you have recently graduated, you could include your tutor or supervisor. You should only include referees with their prior agreement and ensure they know they may be contacted.
Application Forms – filling in application forms can be time consuming but it is important that they are completed as fully and neatly as possible. Always ensure that you have followed the instructions. If, as is very likely, you are required to detail your qualifications on the application form do not include a copy of your CV and write ‘see attached CV’.
Employers expect applicants to be able to follow instructions! Only include copies of your CV, certificates etc. if there is an instruction to do so as part of the application form or pack.
Generally as part of an application pack you will receive a Job Description and a Person Specification along with the application form. As well as referring to the information in the application pack, you can use your CV to help complete the various sections on the form.
Immaculate presentation is essential as an inability to read an application form may be used as a criterion for sifting out applicants. Your handwriting should be clear and legible because if the person reading your form struggles to decipher what you are saying they may well give up. It is advisable to practice filling in the form on a copy. Use a high quality pen, check and double-check your spelling grammar and punctuation before filling in the final form – you do not want to end up using a correction pen.
Aim to complete each section of the application form as fully as possible, making full use of the space given without using excessively small writing or squashing text. Many forms allow for the use of additional sheets if necessary. Always ensure that the section to which they refer is clearly indicated and it is obvious that they are part of your application.
Application forms tend to follow a fairly standard format and are likely to include the following sections:
– Position applied for
– Personal details
– Where you saw the post advertised
– Qualifications – these should be listed chronologically, with the most recent first. This may be split into 2 sections to cover higher education and secondary education. You are likely to be asked for the institution you studied at, the dates you were there, qualifications gained, the main and subsidiary subjects of your degree course, degree class obtained and examination grades for secondary education.
– Present/most recent post held – you should include the name, address and type of business e.g. pharmaceutical manufacturer of your most recent employer. You should also include a brief outline of your main duties and responsibilities, emphasizing where possible those most relevant to the post you are applying for.
– Previous experience – you should include any previous work experience even if it does not seem particularly relevant to the current post. This section can be very helpful for those who have little work experience e.g. recent graduates as you can include any temporary work which may offer the opportunity for you to provide examples of some of the required attributes other than your technical knowledge. The jobs should be listed chronologically with the most recent first. There is likely to be less space than in the previous section.
– Other qualifications / experience – this section provides space to provide details of qualifications obtained outside formal education, professional qualifications and areas other than your chosen subject e.g. first aid etc. You can also include details of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses and any additional training courses you have attended that relate to the new role, whether you attended as part of a previous job or in your own time.
Personal Statement – this is often seen as the most important part of the application form as it offers the opportunity for you to demonstrate how your experience, skills and personal qualities fulfil the requirements of the Job Description and Person Specification. Your aim in this section should be to explain why and how (using examples) your knowledge and experience make you suitable for the role you are applying for. Where possible provide examples that relate to the requirements of the Job Description and Person Specification. Do remember that you are likely to be asked about the information in this section at an interview so make sure you can provide examples to support your claims.
Leisure Interests – this section gives you the chance to show you are a rounded person with interests outside your work. You may be asked about these at an interview, especially if you include some thing out of the ordinary such as possessing a pilot’s licence.
Referees – you will most likely be asked to supply details of 2 referees – usually your current employer or course tutor if you are newly qualified, and a previous employer or colleague. It is standard practice for references to be taken up if you are invited to attend an interview, so you should ensure that they are aware they may be contacted.
– Declaration and signature
If you are applying for a post with the Civil Service there may be a section at the end of the form asking for details of your parents and a declaration regarding criminal convictions to enable a security check to be carried out. This is standard practice for people working in government, especially such departments as the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office.
– Covering Letter – if you are writing to a company making a general enquiry about vacancies the covering letter that accompanies your CV is very important. The letter should explain why you are writing, outline what sort of job you are interested in and summarise your qualifications and experience. The covering letter in this situation would include the same sort of information as you would use for a Personal Statement section of an application form.
Some adverts for specific posts may request applicants send in a covering letter and a copy of their CV. In this case, the information included in the covering letter can be more specifically targeted to the advertised post.