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Careers: Make your CV stand out

Leading recruitment consultants and HR directors tell how to make a CV stand out from the rest, interview well and promote yourself using LinkedIn and social media.

Sharpen your interview technique

  • Moira Benigson
    Founder, MBS Group


    “If you’re serious about the job, then you should know everything about the company you’re interviewing for - including the financials and who the key people are. Presentation is key - you should try and dress similarly to the people who work there. You don’t want to turn up in a suit to a company where everyone is wearing denim, because they’ll think you won’t fit in. Be engaging, bright and know what you’re talking about. In a recent interview I wanted to find out if someone was culturally savvy and asked them to tell me about an exhibition they’d seen in the past six months. The way she was describing it, I knew she was lying. I’d have preferred for her to have admitted she wasn’t into exhibitions and instead talk about another interest like the theatre. It shows they’re not genuine if they’re lying. You also need to know the latest trends. I know Donna Karan showed a candidate her bangle and asked them to describe a range around it. Be ready for anything.”


  • Louisa Rinaldi
    HR director, Karen Millen

    louisa_rinaldi


    “You should know the job description inside out so you can articulate your personal experience to match the role’s responsibilities and skills requirements. For me, the job interview is all about showing your personality. Be authentic and genuine. In the interview, they’re looking to see how you would fit into the culture of the organisation, so do show them who you are as a person. Get to know the company culture. Look at their website, speak to people who work there or used to work there - in retail everyone knows someone who’s connected, so ask around. Remember it’s a two-way process. You should walk out feeling that you got what you needed from it as well. Do ask questions at the end but make sure these are points you’ve got a genuine interest in finding out - don’t just ask a standard question just because you feel like you should.”

Make your CV sparkle

  • Andrea Cartwright
    Group HR director, SuperGroup

    Andrea_C


    “A good CV has a really strong opening paragraph. It needs to be punchy and should say what is special about you and what you aspire to do, rather than just focus on what you’ve done before. I’ve received thousands of online applications and there are so many cut-and-paste jobs. A strong CV also sets out not just your education at college or university but the learning you’ve continued to do, such as any courses. This shows the tenacity to continue learning. It’s competitive out there and the industry is changing so rapidly, so if you can demonstrate you’re adaptable and agile and have a hunger for learning, that’ll make you stand out. However, make it relevant - don’t list every course you’ve ever done. Grammar and spelling is of course important but cut the ‘corporate bull’; use plain English. And don’t list your hobbies - no one is interested if you scuba dive or watch plays.”


  • Shelley Pinto
    Managing director, Fashion & Retail Personnel

    Shelley_Pinto


    “Recruitment agencies and retailers receive extremely high volumes of CVs so it’s essential yours is eye catching to make them take notice. Typically a CV should be two pages and highlight all of the relevant areas and transferable skills for the role you are applying for. There’s no need to list in detail what you did in non-relevant jobs - a job title and dates will suffice. Do remember to list your achievements - this is your opportunity to sell yourself. It is a far more powerful way than just listing your key skills. Make sure there aren’t any gaps on your CV. Don’t include a hobbies section unless it’s actually something relevant, for instance if you are applying to a snowboarding brand then it’s useful to say if you are a keen snowboarder. Also, make sure you spell check the whole document before you send it to anyone. I would say that 99% of CVs that we receive have spelling mistakes - ‘liaise’ is most commonly wrong.”

Use social media to your advantage

  • Lewis Alexander
    Founder and director, Lewis Alexander Executive Search

    Lewis_Alexander


    “Professional and social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs can today be the first impression people make of you - whether you are a future business or creative leader. Well thought out online content with opinions and posts should always stay positive, or neutral and professional. Remember, a high number of hiring professionals perform internet searches before interviewing job candidates, and if they link unprofessional content to your name, their opinion of you may be affected. Personal conduct can have an effect on professional life, so be proactive in managing your reputation. For example, make sure if someone posts about you, it’s a link to that blog, not tagging a questionable photo, because this will all affect your algorithms and the preferred content will find its way to the top of the search engine.”

  • Jamie Homer
    Director of European HR and talent, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People


    “It’s very important for any candidate to have a presence on Twitter and Instagram. As an HR director, I want to know that they are engaged and up to date with the industry and what is happening in the market. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they need a Klout score, however, I think they should be active and participating on these channels. And I don’t restrict this to those specifically in ecommerce either. I’d argue that buyers pick a lot of their trends from bloggers and therefore need to find a way to connect and engage with the blogging community to stay relevant, for this season and next. If your Twitter account is being used primarily for work, keep it professional. Same as for Facebook. If you wish to engage with Twitter and Instagram professionally, I’d recommend you restrict your posts to something you would be comfortable with a current or future boss seeing.”

Actively manage your LinkedIn

  • James Hudson
    Head of recruitment for Europe and Asia, Forever 21

    James_Hudson_Forever_21P


    “Think of LinkedIn as a living, real time, digital CV, with the power of Facebook and Twitter combined. There hasn’t been a single recruiter I’ve spoken to over the last five years that doesn’t use LinkedIn. Complete your profile as fully as possible, being specific around actual responsibilities and achievements. Do upload a profile picture - it makes a massive difference to the number of views, but remember to keep it professional. Follow companies you’re interested in working at, as recruiters can see if you follow their organisation and you’ll go to the top of their shortlist. Try to be as active as possible on the network - I try to post at least one status or news link per day that’s caught my attention.”


  • Mary Anderson-Ford
    Managing director, Aquaretail


    “Ensure your job title and company are prominent and up to date on your LinkedIn profile. If you’re looking for a role, then you can amend your title to something relevant like ‘Menswear buyer seeking a new opportunity’ to attract attention. There is the option to upload a full CV as a PDF, but I would advise against this as there are some unscrupulous recruiters who will submit this to companies without your permission and tarnish your reputation in doing so. Do connect to as many relevant people as possible - specialist recruiters, HR teams and those in your field. Additionally, join a handful of groups that operate in your world so you see targeted posts. Do contribute to discussions which impact your role and industry, but don’t try to be humorous or controversial. Do look professional in your profile picture - I’ve seen some atrocious profile pictures, including one of a woman walking up the aisle with her dad and one of someone in a bar next to a table of Jägermeisters, grinning excitedly. This sort of thing sends the wrong message.”

 

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