Take you career in a new direction. F1rst can help
F1rst can help take you career in a new direction

There’s plenty of hints and tips in these pages to help you get the best out of your job searching or agency experience. Everything from CV advice, understanding how to get the best from recruiters, right through to some really good interview advice!

Check out the video’s below if you prefer. Our personal favourite is the ‘Advice to think about when looking for a new job’. Some definite ‘don’t do’s’  here!

If you would like to see more advice or information on here relating to job hunting, interviews, CV’s or recruitment agencies, feel free to let us know using the ‘contact page‘ or just give us a call.

“Gone in 60 Seconds”

Busy potential employers can sometimes spend as little as 60 seconds looking at each CV that passes their desk to then decide if it is a “Yes” “No” or “Possible”. So, your CV has to grab attention and has to do it quickly.

We have interviewed candidates in the past that have told us they didn’t get considered for an ‘exact match’ job that they had previously applied for and couldn’t understand why.  When we have looked at their CV, we can clearly see why and have helped them to create a better first impression and subsequently, a better chance to secure work.

Because there is no single best way to write a CV, we have provided the job seeking visitors to our site with the option to review and use a few CV templates in order to help create or inspire a good quality CV that will go some way to help get you the result it’s designed for … getting you a job interview.

You can decide for yourself as to how you want to compose your CV and the thing to always remember is that it is the ‘very’ first thing that an employer see’s, that introduces you to them.

The CV is a tool that should only be used to get you an interview for that ideal job.  Like any tool, it has to be fit for purpose.

Having well over a decade of Recruitment knowledge, we have come across some fantastic CVs as well as those that we sometimes can’t quite believe people think will get them an interview!

We know CVs are subjective and we know there are a lot of differing opinions about how to compose that ‘super’ CV. So the advice we have put together is based on our years of experience of looking at thousands upon thousands of CVs as well as what our clients tell us they look for in a CV and therefore, what we feel works best.

Download CV Template 1

Download CV Template 2

Download CV Template 3

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A CV is a tool to help get you a job interview.  Think about this when you are constructing your CV and think about what you need to put in your CV so that potential employers look at it and want to interview as a consequence of it.

The usual rules apply when creating a CV:

  • Check your spelling (use English spell check not American) but don’t always rely on the system, proof read it once it’s complete again just in case – The amount of CV’s we get with spelling errors is astounding but it’s one of the key frustrations employers raise when reviewing CV’s as it shows lack of attention to detail.
  • Keep it easy on the eye and well laid out – A difficult to read CV is very likely to be discarded even if the skill set is a close match as the reader is not likely to get that far.
  • Avoid pictures and fancy graphics – They take longer to open and if the reader is in a rush and already has 100 other CV’s, they may just discard yours due to time restraints.
  • Email your CV rather than post unless post has been specified – an emailed CV is less likely to get lost on a desk or misfiled and is immediate.  It is also more common practice these days.
  • Avoid using jargon – You may know what you are talking about but if the reader doesn’t understand the jargon and terminology, they are less likely to put you in that “yes” pile.  Human Resource departments have an excellent understanding of the general recruitment needs of their businesses but jargon should be kept to the interview rather than the CV unless it’s for a very technically bias role.
  • Keep it to 2 or 3 pages maximum – A seven page CV is unlikely to get read and therefore a waste of 4 pages of information.
  • Make the relevant skills/experience needed for a particular job prominent on your CV – If the job demands working to very tight deadlines then ensure your past experience shows this.  If you have worked to targets or KPI’s and they are required for this role, make sure the reader can see this from your CV.

It is also recommended that you aim to tailor your CV for each job application you are applying for and try to ensure that it marries up to the expectations of that job. A standard, unaltered CV will not always be the best route to take and could cost you that job interview you’ve been waiting for.

Read the details the employer has listed on the advert along with any ‘person fit’ carefully. When creating your tailored CV, make sure you include the skills you have used that they are looking for.  It will grab their attention more. Also, try to use the terminology in the advert rather than your own as sometimes we mean the same thing but when said in a different way it can be missed. List your achievements as well if you feel they will impress and are relevant to the job you are applying for.

You should never lie or mislead the reader of your CV as invariably you are likely to come unstuck and get found out somehow. As your CV is a tool designed to get you an interview based on your skills and experience, you need to highlight the skills and experience you have that fit that job and avoid embellishing those skills or your experience. Stick to the facts. If you want the job and have a similar background to the requirements of the job, you have enough to set you on your way.

These simple things can make a huge difference to the outcome of submitting your CV for a job application.

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We know how daunting interviews can be so we help you every step of the way.  Once we get you to the interview stage, we will ensure that you are given full advice, guidance and support of how to best conduct yourself in order to maximise your chances of a job offer.

The interview is your chance to tell a prospective employer that you’re the right person for the job – our experience shows that good preparation will settle your nerves and give you a much greater chance of success.

Before your Interview the golden rule is to ‘prepare’

The more prepared you are, the more likely it is that you will represent yourself well in an interview with a prospective employer.

The Job

Think about some of the tasks that the employer is looking for and when you have done those tasks in your last job.  Be prepared to give examples of duties you have undertaken that match their criteria or situations you have been in that may arise again in this role.

The Interview

Presenting Yourself
An interview is your opportunity to tell prospective employers why you are the best applicant for the job.  However, it is important to remember that interviewers often make up their minds about people within minutes – so you should consider the following:

  • First impressions
  • Appearance
  • Body language
  • Looking prepared

Appearance and First Impressions
You may only have a couple of minutes to make a good first impression so try to get off to a good start.  Like it or not, how you look will count for a lot, so give yourself plenty of time to get ready.

  • Dress smartly and appropriately
  • Don’t overdo the perfume or aftershave
  • Do not drink alcohol or eat spicy food just before the interview
  • If you are a smoker try not to smoke before your interview, if you do, have some mints handy
  • Make sure your clothing is comfortable so as not to distract you during the interview
  • Respond to offered handshakes confidently – avoid crushing the other person’s hand and seeming over eager

Common Interview Questions
There are only so many questions that an interviewer can ask and it is difficult to know exactly what will be asked during an interview.  Whilst they will almost always ask you questions about you and your CV, here are some other questions that will aid you in preparing for your interview;

Remember, your answers are your opportunity to highlight your key skills and abilities. Deliver them clearly and confidently and in an enthusiastic fashion, avoiding unappealing ‘robotic’ answers – many interviewers will be wary of stock or obviously prepared responses, so they will often throw in unexpected or follow on questions, testing your ability to think on your feet.

  • How much do you know about the job?
  • What skills or experience do you have that make you right for the job?
  • Who and what were you responsible for in your last job?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What has been the biggest achievement in your career so far?
  • What are your longer term ambitions?
  • Why did you leave your last company?
  • Could you tell me more about your hobbies and interests?

Take your time to answer questions without taking too long. If you are unsure about what is being asked, ask the interviewer for some clarification.

Never appear vindictive or bitter about a former employer when asked about them. Constructive criticism is considered appropriate, but try to be as positive as possible whilst being honest.

Don’t talk about salary or benefits unless you are asked.

At the end of the interview you will have the chance to ask questions. Make sure you have some questions to ask the interviewer as this is your opportunity to look keen and prepared and show that you have paid attention.  For example, you could say that you were going to ask ‘when you were established’ but you answered that at the beginning of the interview.

Other possible questions you could ask:

  • How many staff do you have?
  • Who are you main clients?
  • What is the working environment like?
  • Can you describe a typical day?
  • Who would I be reporting to and what are they like?
  • What type of person do you feel would best fit into the existing team/role?
  • What other departments do you have?
  • What would I be doing in the first few weeks?
  • What do you feel are the rewarding parts of the job?
  • How could my role develop over time?
  • What training would you provide?
  • What skills are you specifically looking for?
  • Is there anything else you would like to know about me?

If you are interested in the role, make sure your interviewer knows it!  You may be jumping for joy on the inside but if it doesn’t show on the outside, how will they know you want the job?

Think of it this way, if it was your company and you had a choice of two candidates who both had the same background and skill set but one seemed more enthusiastic about the job than the other, which one would you offer the job to?

If you feel you have asked enough questions or all the questions you had prepared have already been answered, don’t be afraid to say that you think everything is covered.

Thank the interviewer for their time. Tell them that you are interested in the position and give them a couple of reasons as to why you would like it.

Let them know when you are free to start a new job and ask them how soon they will be able to let you know if you have been successful.

Shake their hand and remember to smile. If they offer you the chance to look round, make sure you take up the offer as this can give you an even better feel for the role and the company.

Thank the interviewer for their time and either let them know there and then that you appreciate the opportunity but the role isn’t for you or advise your consultant as soon as you leave the interview and they will inform the client on your behalf.

After the Interview

Once you get out of the interview, help yourself by calling your consultant straightaway and whilst the interview is still fresh in your mind.

Your consultant is an experienced recruiter and your immediate interview feedback is crucial in order for them to go back to the client, remind them of your suitability for the role and reaffirm them of your interest in their role.

It is our job to ensure that if you want the job, you’ve done your best to get it and so have we!

On the flip side of this, if you do decide the role isn’t for you and you didn’t feel it was pertinent to say so in interview, we will speak to the client on your behalf in a positive way to advise them as to why.  We will also use this information to ensure the next role we look at for you, has those factors taken into account.

If you were unsuccessful, again we will speak to the client and try to clarify why so that we can use that information to ensure the next interview goes the right way.

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There are literally hundreds of questions a potential employer could ask and understanding just some of the one’s that might come up in an interview can only help.   Here are some category question types and suggestions that may help you with your job interview.

General questions

1. Tell me about yourself.

  • Keep your answer to one or two minutes. Don’t ramble.
  • If you have a profile or personal statement at the top of your CV use this as your starting point.

2. What do you know about our company?

  • Research the company’s products, size, reputation, image, goals, problems, management style, people, skills, history and philosophy.
  • Be informed and interested. Let the interviewer tell you about the company, let them define their business in their terms.

3. Why do you want to work for us?

  • Don’t talk about what you want; first talk about their needs.
  • You want to be part of an exciting forward-moving company.
  • You can make a definite contribution to specific company goals.

4. What do you find the most attractive about this position or least attractive?

  • List a couple of attractive factors such as the responsibility the post offers and the opportunity to work with experienced teams that have a reputation for innovation and creativity.
  • Say you’d need more information and time before being able to make a judgement on any unattractive aspects.

5. What is your definition of a … (the position for which you are being interviewed).

  • Keep it brief and actions/results-oriented.

6. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

  • Very quickly – after a couple of weeks getting to know your system and clients and a brief period of adjustment on the learning curve.
  • Highlight that you’re a quick learner and used to adapting to new situations.

Job search questions

1. Why are you leaving your present job?

  • Try to give positive reasons.
  • Give a ‘group’ answer if possible, such as your department was consolidated or eliminated.

2. Why haven’t you found a new position before now?

  • Finding a job is easy but finding the right job is more difficult. (You are being ‘selective’).

3. Had you thought of leaving your present position before? If yes, what do you think held you there?

  • Challenge, but it’s gone now.

4. What other types of jobs or companies are you considering?

  • Keep your answer related to this company’s field. You want to sound focused.

5. How would you evaluate your present firm?

  • An excellent company which afforded me many fine experiences.

6. What do you think of your current boss?

  • Be as positive as you can and explain working with him/her was a learning experience.

Your work habits and style

1. If I spoke with your previous boss, what would s/he say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

  • Emphasize skills – don’t be too negative about your weaknesses; it’s always safe to identify a lack of a skill or experience as a shortcoming rather than a personal trait.
  • Try to turn any weakness into a strength so that the interviewer has nowhere to go with it.
  • Always state 2 or 3 strengths and 1 weakness but with a 2nd weakness in the wings just in case.

2. Can you work under pressure and to deadline?

  • Yes. Quite simply, it is a way of life in business.

3. In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?

  • Keep it brief and don’t brag.

4. Don’t you feel you might be better off in a smaller/larger company or different type of company?

  • Depends on the job – elaborate slightly.  The interviewer might be trying to put you off to see how you respond and get a better feel of your true intentions.

5. How do you resolve conflict on a project team?

  • First discuss issues privately.

6. What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make?

  • Attempt to relate your response to the prospective employment situation.

Quantifying your experience and accomplishments

1. Have you helped increase sales? Profits? How?

  • Describe your contribution in some detail.

2. Have you helped reduce costs? How?

  • Describe your contribution in some detail.

3. How much money did you ever account for?

  • Be specific.

4. How many people did you supervise on your last job?

  • Be specific.

5. In your current or last position, what features did you like the most? Least?

  • Be honest but positive.

6. In your current or last position, what are or were your five most significant accomplishments?

  • Refer to the key accomplishments already identified on your CV.

Personality questions

1. What are your interests?

  • This is your chance to show that you lead a balanced life both inside and outside of work.

2. How would you describe your own personality?

  • Keep it honest and positive.

3. What are your strong points?

  • Present at least three and relate them to the interviewing company and job opening.

4. What are your weak points?

  • Don’t say you have none.
  • Try not to cite personal characteristics as weaknesses, but be ready to have one if the interviewer presses.
  • Turn a negative into a positive answer: ‘I am sometimes intent on completing an assignment and get too deeply involved when we are late.’

5. What gets you frustrated?

  • Again, be positive and show how you overcome any frustrations in your job.

6. How do you integrate yourself when you start a new job?

  • Refer to past jobs and ensure you are proactive in your approach

Experience and management questions

1. You may be overqualified or too experienced for the position we have to offer.

  • Strong companies need strong people.
  • Emphasize your interest in making a long-term commitment.
  • The employer will get a faster return on investment because you have more experience than required.
  • A growing, energetic company is rarely unable to use its people’s talents.

2. What is your management style?

  • If you’ve never thought about this, it’s high time you did.
  • Open door is best… but you get the job done on time or inform your manager.

3. Are you a good manager? Give an example.

  • Keep your answer achievement- and task-oriented
  • Emphasise your management prowess: planning, organising and communication skills.

4. What do you look for when you hire people?

  • Skills, initiative, adaptability.

5. What do you see as the most difficult task in being a manager?

  • Focus on the bigger picture – getting things planned and done on time within the budget

6. What is your biggest weakness as a manager?

  • Be honest and end on a positive note, for example, “I have a problem reprimanding people so I always begin with something positive first.”

Salary questions

1. How much are you looking for?

  • Answer with a question, i.e., “What is the salary range for similar jobs in your company?”
  • If they don’t answer, then give a range of what you understand you are worth to be in the marketplace.

2. How much would you expect, if we offer you this position?

  • Be careful; the market value of the job may be the key answer. Say something like: “My understanding is that a job like the one you’re describing may be in the range of…”
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It’s easy for us recruiters to forget how daunting it is registering with an agency or looking for work again after several years in a steady role. With this in mind, we have tried to put together some answers to regularly asked questions. If there is a question that you want to ask and it isn’t here, feel free to ask us using the contact page.

How does using an agency work?
Basically, an agency will advertise a role on behalf of a company they are recruiting for. They will take phone calls/receive CVs on email from interested candidates like yourself and if a prospective candidate sounds like they meet the initial criteria that their client has set out, they will invite that person in to ‘register’ their details and interest in the role.

Why do I need to go into the agency’s office and meet a consultant?
The whole face to face registration process is absolutely essential in order for the consultant to work out someone’s personality, attitude and how they present themselves in an interview situation. Until we meet a person, we can’t gauge this.

We also need to make sure that a personality fits in with the office environment we are recruiting for.  There is little point putting a quiet and reserved person into a throbbing sales environment if that will make them feel uncomfortable or a loud and lively person into a quiet office as this could irk the existing team. If an individual comes in to the agency with a poor attitude or untidy or very well prepared or lively, etc. the consultant is better able to decide the best role/s for that person, if any.

A good consultant will advise and guide the individual (sometimes this can be difficult) so that they can help with getting them a job.  Once a consultant has established the personality along with the skill set of the individual, they can then match them to the best job AND environment. All this is very difficult to do without meeting a person.

Can I sign up to more than one agency?
You can ‘register’ with as many agencies as you like. No one agency can request exclusivity from you or stop you registering with other businesses.

Do I have to pay?
Recruitment agencies and businesses offer a completely free and confidential service to candidates. No one should request any money off you as they charge a company for their services, not an individual.

Why do Companies use recruitment agencies?
Recruiting can be a very time consuming process and HR functions or Managers often already have very busy working lives so using a recruitment agency can help alleviate the pressure of recruiting the right person. Whilst there may be a lot of people looking for work, many of them will not meet the criteria of certain roles but will still apply regardless. Sourcing the right skill set can be difficult especially when there is a high volume response to a vacancy and an agency can give this task dedicated focus and therefore a faster initial result.

Why do I never hear back from employers once I have submitted my CV for a role?
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to respond to all job applications as this can detract from doing what we do best which is finding jobs for people.

All CVs will be reviewed by an agency so if you have not heard back from them about a particular role it is likely that you do not meet the requirements their client has set out on that occasion. If you have not heard back from an agency within 3 days of sending your CV, you could always call them and pick up a conversation to see if there are other roles more suitable to your skill set.

Why do I not hear back about a job when I think I have exactly what the job requires?
It is sometimes difficult to show all the job requirements and people criteria when advertising a job so whilst you may feel you meet all the client criteria, the recruiter may see what is missing. Of course, if you do have exactly what the employer needs but your CV is not well presented, then this could stop the application in its tracks. Take a look at our general CV advice page and see if there is anything in there that you can use to your benefit.

Why haven’t the agency contacted me since I registered with them?
The key to getting the best from your agency is keeping in contact with them, regardless if they do not keep in contact with you. Being pro active is essential when you are looking for a new job. Sometimes, the recruiter is so busy looking for job opportunities for you and speaking to potential employers about how good you are and the skills you have, that they can miss making a call to you to get an update on your situation.

Of course they register people regularly so in order to keep ahead of the competition, make sure your name stays fresh in their mind by keeping in touch with them. Don’t rely on them keeping in contact with you!

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How to get the best from an agency.

Agencies have lots of people contact them for work opportunities, advice, speculatively and to introduce themselves for a job that the agency have advertised.

Getting the best from an agency can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle so we have put together some tried and tested tips in order to help ensure that wherever you go, you will make the most of your contact with your chosen agency.

  1. You can ‘register’ (meet with and register an interest in working with) with as many recruitment agencies/employment businesses as you wish. No one single agency has the right to say you can only register with them and no other.
  2. When you are looking for a new job, it is advisable to use agencies as well as your own methods as they have contact with many businesses that you may not know about or may not be actively looking for people but will consider good quality candidates when presented to them.
  3. Even if you have registered with a dozen agencies, treat your next registration as you did the first one. First impressions matter and if you come across as fed up, uninterested or standoffish, the person registering you may decide not to look for work for you as they don’t feel you would represent them well or have the right attitude. Remember, these consultants have spent time building up trusting relationships with businesses and want to find them the best applicants for roles.
  4. Keep in touch with your consultant, drive them mad with phone calls, anything that keeps your name fresh in their mind! The consultant isn’t infallible, they can forget too. If you haven’t got a skill set they can work with, they should have told you at the point of registration or over the phone before you met them so you must have something they can work with.
  5. Your actions have consequences for other job seekers. If you fail to turn up for an interview or assessment centre, someone else could have taken your place so in essence you have stopped them from having the opportunity that was given to you. This costs businesses valuable time and effort and the agency supporting that business could lose its custom and therefore the chance to get its registered candidates a job there.
  6. Be honest with your consultant and they will be honest with you. Most consultants work very hard behind the scenes to get you a job opportunity based on what you have requested.  Candidates often only get to see the end result and not the effort that goes before that result.
  7. Build up a relationship with your consultant. Let’s face it, if you like someone you are more likely to work harder for them.  Once you are registered, consultants have a duty to work on your behalf regardless but going that extra mile is not obligatory.
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You can never be too careful when applying for jobs. Preparation is always key!

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Social media can be really useful to help you understand a less ‘corporate’ view of a what people are saying about a company. Bear in mind that this can work both ways though.

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We can’t say this enough……Preparation is key!

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A good CV is your ‘shop window’ to a new job opportunity that might change your life. Don’t show a charity shop window, show a high end shop window…. because you’re worth it!

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