Before you begin
Before you start
- The most important candidate advice at the start of finding a new job is treating this as a job in itself. Set aside time each day for your search.
- Be honest with yourself about how much time you are able to commit to a new role. For example how much stress you can take on.
- Put in place the relevant support, so that when you are offered an interview you are completely ready. If you are prepared you will be more confident to take on a new challenge.
- Spend time working out what your strengths and skills are. Strengths being what you are naturally good at and the environment you like. Skills are experience and learnt attributes. As a result you may lean towards a job suited to your strengths rather than your skills.
- Avoid the temptation to scattergun applications. Focus your search as much as you can and concentrate on your job fulfilment above all else.
- Remember that no job is 100% perfect.
- Get stuck in. No time is going to be completely perfect. Start applying for roles you are interested in as soon as you can. Good luck!
Create a network of people to help with your search and, if relevant, your caring commitments at home.
Try to find opportunities to meet different sets of people and join existing business networks. Many people will have great advice that may widen your search, increase your knowledge and bolster your confidence.
Please do not find yourself hung up about new technology, worry not, this may all be learnt. Employers are focussed on looking for transferrable skills if you are moving industry or returning to work after a break. Think of your skills and strengths rather than focus on any negatives e.g. technology or a work gap.
Please remember that technology is changing so fast that no-one is up to date. You will be amazed how quickly you catch up once working again.
Employers may look at your social media, as a result, make sure it is suitably professional.
Taking a career break, for whatever reason, is sometimes a part of life. Therefore you do not have to explain, justify or apologise for it. However you must cover any career break in your CV and at interview. Below are a couple of suggestions about how you may wish to mention it.
- CV: emphasise that the break was planned e.g. "Following a planned career break (give dates), I am now seeking xxx role". An idea is to sandwich it in between previous and future careers. Therefore it looks part of your business experience.
- Interview: discuss your break between your previous career and what you are looking to do next, this way you don't begin or end on it. e.g. "My background is xxx. I took a career break and during this time I was able to do xxx. I am now looking to use my xx strengths/skills in xxx."
Be proud to be a Returner. You will find many companies are embracing Returners realising their enormous value.
We have found that Women Returners' website is an excellent source of advice for all candidates (men and women).
Additionally they run exceptional courses, (which we have attended) that are positive, inspiring and packed with really useful information on returning to work.
Get Business Ready
Flexible working practices have become much more the norm and there are several variables:
- Full time
- Part time
- Fixed Contract
We aim to cover a full range of these on this web-site.
Create a master CV and covering letter (see below) and organise references before you apply for any role.
Set up a professional email address. This looks far better than a joint family one and ensures confidentiality.
Include everything you can think of and use this as a basis for each new application. It should never be ever sent out. It is merely a prompt! You will need a new CV for every role you apply for. Ensure it passes the following rules.
- Does it pass the 6 second test?
- Does it reflect everything you have achieved and all your successes?
- Would I hire myself?
Highlight relevant skills and experiences listed in each job advertisement and delete everything irrelevant.
Analyse what each advertisement is really looking for. Ask yourself what transferrable skills you have. Tell employers this in both your covering letter and your CV.
Repeat the words used in the advertisement.
Is key. Make sure your CV is accurate, check for typos and runs to no more than 2 pages of A4. If printing it print on clean, crisp white paper. It should never be crumpled or folded so use an A4 envelope to post applications.
- Name: Bold as the central heading. If you have qualifications after your name use them. Give yourself a title, e.g. HR Manager, or seeking HR Manager Role. Do not put Curriculum Vitae as the heading.
- Contact details: List your name, address, if you are happy giving this out, a mobile telephone number and a business email address. Do not list your age, dob, gender, marital status, whether you have children or not, or include any photographs.
- Personal Statement: Max 5 lines/bullet points with the skills relevant to the role you are applying for. If you are returning to work following a break please say so here. Pack a punch and delete any generic sentences.
- Chronological career history with dates (roles on left, dates on right): Roles in reverse date order with up to 5 bullet points for achievements. Include 'Planned Career Break' as a section with dates and a reason. Sandwich it between other roles, work experience, volunteering or other events you will have been involved in during your career break. This will emphasise it was planned. Include positive achievements or positions during your break.
- Charitable work and volunteering: Include this along with education and training.
- Interests. Make this interesting and brief.
- References. Available on request.
Take notes and create bullet points of the areas you have experience of.
Experience: Use assertive, positive and upbeat language. Words such as 'developed, organised, achieved, implemented, leadership' and so on. Use achievements rather than responsibilities and use figures wherever possible to underline successes.
Skills: make the most of them; 'communication, computer skills, team working, problem solving, sales'.
Please remember to take examples from anything outside work too, a sports team for example, or any voluntary role. It all demonstrates experience and skill.
Highlight anything that shows how diverse, self motivated and interesting you are. However you must have actually had experience of doing whatever it is, not that you wish it to be an interest in the future.
Some companies are now using computer generated ATS, Applicant Tracking Systems therefore:
- Avoid putting Curriculum Vitae at the top of your form. A computer will think this is your name.
- Try not to use any complicated formatting that ATS cannot read.
- Match your CV to the language in the advertisement so ATS can find a match easily.
Go through key skills in each advertisement that catches your eye. Highlight the ones you feel you have. If you have 80% of what a company is after you should apply for the job.
Take the earliest interview date possible. Interviewers will stop once they find a good candidate.
Try not to focus on the perfect job. Most importantly get your foot through the door if it is the company or industry you are trying to break into and look around once inside.
- Employers will be looking at a number of letters so make it easy for them to understand your skill set.
- Avoid generalisations.
- Use the same wording as in the advertisement and match this to your CV.
- Check spelling and grammar.
- One page in length.
- Work out what your employer is looking to hear
- Dress appropriately
- Plan your route the night before
Write down questions you may be asked. A useful tool in crafting answers is to think STAR, Specific situation, Tasks that needed to be done, Action taken, Results.
- Either ask someone to practice interviewing you. Mortifying as this is it is incredibly useful.
- Tape yourself talking and play it back again and again. Listen to your tone, the words you use and do you answer the question?
- Practice in front of the mirror. Do you move around too much or fidget.
Look through the website of your potential employer and any others linked to it. Additionally, check through news reports, Companies House etc. so that you don't ask fundamental questions that are probably in the public domain.
- Arrive in good time, look an interviewer in the eye and smile. Put your hands in your lap, don’t fidget and lean forward without looking desperate.
- Take notes if you are nervous, this is a good tool and makes you look conscientious.
- Take off rings, bracelets or necklaces prior to interview if you know you fiddle with them. It is very off-putting for an interviewer!
- Talking: Clear, calm and comprehensive, keep discussions detailed, upbeat and honest and slow down.
- Listening: make sure you are, don’t butt in and take time with your reply. Remember that listening isn't waiting to talk, it is about absorbing what is being said and responding at the appropriate time.
- Skills: Focus on your skills not your knowledge.
- Avoid: Discussing time commitments or salary at the onset or what days you cannot work.
- Try not to fidget, keep your hands in your lap if you do!
- Ask questions only if they are relevant.
- Finally, thank the interviewer for seeing you when you leave.
- If you researched the company please avoid telling your interviewing how much you know in the hope this shows you in a good light. They know about their own company. They want to know about you.
- Discussing at the onset any restraints on your time, personal commitments similarly don't mention salary.
- Lack of knowledge or technical know how. Likewise with new jargon. All these can be caught up on. Make a note of which areas you felt you were lacking and google them when home.
- Showing off, a considered and balanced sense of yourself is far more attractive. Remember to give credit to others when it is due, importantly this creates the impression of being a team player.
- Bad mouthing a previous employer.
- In short, avoid any negativity.
Email the interviewer to thank them for seeing you and ask any other questions you may have forgotten at the time. Importantly this is a good opportunity to reiterate your interest in the job. Keep the note brief!
Most importantly please remember:
- Meet at the interviewing company's office.
- Meet during office hours.
- Make sure the office is manned.
- Tell someone where you are going.
- Do not give out personal information that is not on your CV.
If there is something about your interview or interviewer that makes you feel uncomfortable, leave at once. You do not have to explain why. Go to a safe place where there are other people and contact the police (999) immediately and us if you have time (0207 720 3615).