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Why are soft skills important for your CV?

When it comes to creating the skills section of a CV we should always refer to the job advert for guidance. Typically you should find all the skills you’ll need for the role, and it’s a simple task of matching them on your application – if you have them of course!

The skills section of your CV is dedicated to hard or specific skills, like computer programming, machine operation, book keeping, data analysis, graphic design, and so on. Almost all of the hard skills you will learn throughout your career are through training courses and may even require a qualification or certification. These mandatory skills are often role specific and require many years of experience to gain and perfect – but what about soft skills, and why are soft skills important for your CV?

What is a soft skill?

A soft skill is an everyday personal attribute or trait which helps us all to function, not just in the workplace but in every situation. Communication is a generic example of a soft skill, and one which we probably use almost every minute of a working day. Whether written or verbal, an excellent communicator will achieve good results in certain fields like customer service, sales and hospitality.

Here are a few more examples of soft skills so you can begin to understand their importance in the work place and on your CV:

  • Problem solving
  • Leadership
  • Friendliness
  • Time management
  • Organisation
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Idea generation
  • Constructive feedback

When it comes to naming popular workplace soft skills, the list is literally endless. But you, the job seeker can narrow that list down and focus upon what your career demands. Your ability to present both hard and soft skills on your application is the key to gaining lots more interviews.

Why are soft skills important for your CV?

When the hiring manager reads through the many applications they receive they are mainly looking for two things. The first is how the job seeker matches the requirements of the role through their skills, experience, qualifications and achievements. Not every candidate is able to tick all the boxes, but transferable skills are also favoured by the employer. The second is evidence of their past performance, which can be exhibited through results, achievements, awards, accolades and even examples.

Read: 15 awesome transferable skills you learn through studying part-time

No matter how highly qualified, skilled and experience a candidate is, it doesn’t mean they are a high achiever. But it isn’t just a list of achievements that sparks the interest of the employer – soft skills have to be demonstrated too.

What are the most important soft skills for a CV?

Relevancy is the key to success and the employer must see within your application that you are offering the right things. Don’t make the mistake that so many other job seekers do of offering too much – especially when most if it is irrelevant.

One of the aspects that are often missed is the demonstration of relevant soft skills. Let’s look at the hospitality industry for one moment and focus upon communication, rapport building and customer service in general. A hotel receptionist would need to have all three of these soft skills – and to a high level to succeed.

With many years of experience in the hospitality sector, a candidate could be offering a very attractive CV. But what sets them apart from all the other applications that offer the same? A candidate who can demonstrate their customer handling skills is far more likely to gain an interview. The employer is reassured that they are inviting a worthy a candidate for an interview.

Read: How to develop and train for soft skills in the workplace

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10 ways to create a successful CV

One of the most frustrating aspects of job hunting is not getting a chance to give a great interview. If you are unable to impress the hiring manager with your CV you will always struggle to have the opportunity for a face to face meeting.

There are lots of job seekers out there that could ace an interview and are well qualified for a role, but fail to even make it that far because of a poorly written CV. We’ve compiled a list of the ultimate CV tips to help you reach the next step.

Here are 10 ways to create a successful CV.

1. Get to the point

An employer does not have time to read every single word or sentence of your application. They want to be able to quickly delve in and out of each one and see which make the cut. To give yourself an edge you should make sure your CV is straight to the point. It should contain zero waffle and aim to offer the employer exactly what they want.

Have a look at all of your previous jobs and see how many match up to the new role. Do you really need to list all of those tasks and duties? Probably not, and you could instead focus upon the ones that do and use your two pages wisely.

Make use of bullet points to list things like tasks and achievements. The eye can read bullet pointed lists much easier than lengthy sentences and paragraphs.

Use the personal statement to best effect. This is a short summary that goes at the top of the page (under your name, address and contact info) explaining who you are and why you’re a great fit for this role. It’s nothing like a uni personal statement (it’s at least 425 words shorter for a start) so don’t get it mixed up with whatever you wrote for your uni application! The CV personal statement is concise and a great way to hit an employer with your best selling points in just a few seconds.

2. Customise

To help ensure you create a relevant CV it’s important to customise it to the role and the company. The wrong approach would be to use the same CV for your entire career and simply update it with your last job. Instead, use your old CV to transfer the important details across, but start again completely from scratch with a blank page.

This will help ensure you keep it fresh and up to date, whilst focusing on the company’s needs. Every organisation is different, no matter how similar the job titles may be. So do your research online and read the job advert to find out exactly what they want. A tailored CV has a far better chance of getting you an interview. The hiring manager would be impressed by your passion and dedication! Here’s how to tailor your CV for interview success.

3. Plug the gaps

Having a gap in your work history timeline could create all sorts of issues. The employer has to decide for themselves why you were out of work, and they are likely to assume the worst. This is why you should always plug an employment gap of at least 2-3 months.

Were you out of work because of personal health issues? Did you have to take time away to help a family member? Did you start a family and are now getting back into a career? These are all perfectly normal reasons for being unemployed and you shouldn’t shy away from explaining this.

All you need is a brief explanation in your work history timeline, or you could even discuss it within a cover letter. This will then allow the employer to focus upon more important details and move on.

For a more detailed guide on how to explain an employment gap – What’s the best way to explain an employment gap on your CV?

4. Write a personal statement

Whilst a personal statement or profile isn’t a mandatory requirement of a CV, it is often seen as such amongst employers. They like to have a little introduction to help connect the dots between your skills, qualifications, experience and the job.

Some job seekers ignore this because they feel it’s a little cheesy and potentially unnecessary, but it has become an integral part of the application and helps to personalise what is typically quite a formal process. Don’t skip this part and make as much effort with this section as you would any other on your CV. Every word you write paints a picture and must keep a positive tone.

Here’s what to include in your personal statement.

5. Track your progress

As the years roll on and you get comfortable within a job it’s easy to forget anything significant you might achieve along the way. We don’t usually consider this until we decide to apply for a new job, and by that time it’s usually too late to remember anything – or certainly not the specifics.

Always track your progress and never assume you will be in the same job for the rest of your career. No matter how happy you are, there will always be something that will come along and shake things up a little. You could be made redundant or just decide that you need to have a change. No matter what the reason, you will be glad that you’d made detailed notes about your progression – promotion, training courses, new skills, and so on.

One of the most important reasons to track your progression is to also make notes of your achievements. Again, it can be very difficult to recall certain facts and figures surrounding the accolade, and this would be very important to include on your CV.

6. Include numbers

To create a more credible and believable CV you need to include numbers wherever possible. It isn’t enough to state that you were the top salesman for 2016 if you don’t back that up with cold hard facts. It would be much more beneficial to the hiring manager if you were to include the total units and revenue.

A significant achievement, award or accolade should always be backed up with specific details. So that could be with numbers, stats, figures, and graphs. If there are no numbers to share, then go for an explanation. Tell a little story and help the hiring manager understand how and what you achieved. This creates a more credible application.

7. Be honest

It may be tempting to embellish or even tell a few white lies on your CV, but you must avoid this at all costs. It isn’t fair to represent your credentials in a false way, and the employer should be able to base their decision on facts and not fiction.

There are lots of problems this can cause. First of all, the hiring manager may be able to tell that you are embellishing just from reading your CV. You will probably never know why you keep getting rejected and rarely make it to the interview stage. Secondly, if you do make it to the interview you will probably get caught out. The interviewer will be asking tough questions to test the validity of your claims. Any hint or indication that you are lying will be spotted and you will have wasted yours and the employer’s time.

Lastly, if you do get hired based on your credentials you could be fired once you’re found out. If you are not able to put your claims into practice then you will always struggle in the role. Depending on the severity of the falsehood, the employer could fire you on the spot if they find that you’ve lied on your CV.

8. No mistakes

CV mistakes can come in all shapes and sizes – from spelling and grammar, to font size and spacing. Everything has to be perfect if you want to boost your chances of getting an interview. There are very few employers out there that will forgive you for even the tiniest of mistakes, because they have so many other flawless applications to choose from.

Avoiding mistakes is your number one priority, and all your hard work will have gone to waste. Ask a friend, colleague or family member to check your CV before it goes off. Ideally you want to find someone that has experience with reading applications and could also offer some advice on the content as well.

9. Use a CV template

A large part of the CV writing process relies on your ability to create a great looking design and layout. How confident are you that your abilities hold up to the task?

Be honest and ask yourself how creative are you? There is however another way to ensure your CV looks great, and that’s to let someone else do it for you. There are lots of websites that now offer free CV templates that you can download. They are very simple to use and will allow you to copy your details across.

Searching through the many hundreds of CV template designs on offer will feel a bit like window shopping. But make sure you make a wise choice and don’t go for something too wacky. Find something which is both professional and unique. It could have a little colour or maybe a font that you’ve never used before, but make sure it’s still appropriate for your profession.

A career in law would probably require a more formal and traditional approach, whilst a career in graphic design would benefit greatly from a colourful creative approach – so choose wisely!

10. Match keywords

Writing a brand new CV each time you apply will ensure that you address as many key points as possible. This tailored approach is a proven success, but there is also one more final thing you can do – use keywords.

Within your CV you should aim to match as many keywords as possible from the job advert. You can also write a commercially aware CV by using industry jargon and recognised keywords and phrases. But most of the words you will ever need to match are contained with the job advert, and you can use these to catch the eye of the hiring manager.

Pay close attention to the types of words they use for the important skills and qualifications. If you hold these skills, personal attributes or qualifications but your current CV version has slightly different wording, then why not change them to match. It’s a quick and easy way of letting the employer know you are on the same page and you understand what’s required.

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The 3 most common types of job interview

Before you go to a job interview you need to prepare lots of things in advance. For example, did you know that you should take a pen and notepad with you? You should also practice your answers to the most commonly asked job interview questions –

‘What are your weaknesses?’

‘Why do you want to work here?’

But there is also something else you need to be prepared for, and that’s the format of the interview. There can be lots of different ways an employer will conduct an interview, but we want to focus upon the three most common types.

One to one

Relatively small businesses may choose to conduct the interview with only your potential manager present. This works well for small teams when there is possibly just the one supervisor or manager who is in charge of about 4-6 people.

One to one interviews will usually be fairly short lasting around 30 minutes at the most. Your main goal is to build up a great rapport with this individual as they will be your manager. When there is more people in the interview it can be a little harder to connect with them all, so this type of interview can be easier. You just have to make sure you take advantage of it!

With every interview format you should always prepare by researching the company and the role (if possible). Researching the company should be fairly straight forward as you can visit their website, social media pages, and anything else you can find. Try to immerse yourself in the industry and find out what’s happening today. You should be able to impress the manager with your knowledge and show them that you have commercial awareness.

When it comes to the role you need to try and find out as much as you can. You can do this by speaking to a team member and asking them what they do on a daily basis. For example, if you are applying for a retail position you could visit the store and ask to speak with a colleague or even the manager. Keep your questions brief and focused upon the role. This type of insider information will help you in the interview and could impress the manager before you’ve even stepped in.

Panel interview

A panel interview will typically have 3 people in the interview. The first one will be your direct supervisor/manager. The second person may be someone from the team. Typically this may be an assistant manager or highly regarded team member. The manager sometimes likes to have a second opinion from someone they work closely with and trust. The third person will likely be the HR manager who will tend to ask more company focused questions.

This type of interview format is harder than the one to one interview, and will require much more focus to be successful. The questions will likely come from all directions and you need to be on your toes and ready for anything. The length of the interview will likely be anywhere between 30-60 minutes, and you may even find you are asked back for a second interview. Larger companies will typically conduct panel interviews.

The manager will usually ask most of the questions with a small bit of input from their colleague (assistant manager). They may even stay silent throughout and could be their just to give their thoughts to the manager after the interview. The HR manager will ask more generalised questions relating to the company. They are also on hand to help field any questions you or the manager may have about the hours, salary, benefits, and health and safety.

To prepare for this interview you need to consider how you can engage with all three people. A great tip would be to ensure you keep regular eye contact with whoever is asking the question, and try to answer any questions to all three of them. Although one person will ask a question at time, you should try to include all of them in your answer. Don’t just focus upon the person who asked the question, and make eye contact with the other two at some point.

Take at least 3-4 copies of your CV into the interview so you can hand one to each person. They may already have a copy but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take the initiative and hand them out if someone needs a copy.

Skype interview

Some employers like to conduct initial interviews over Skype as this will save a lot of time. It will help them to narrow the field down before they conduct official interviews at the business.

A Skype or video call interview will usually be fairly short and will last from anywhere between 10-20 minutes. It will be highly unlikely that this will be your only interview before a decision to hire is made, which is why they are often quite short.

Before you enter into a video call you need to ensure you are in a quiet room which will not be disturbed. If you are at home and a young child or family member happens to walk in during the interview, it will not go down very well with the employer. They will expect you to be professional and take the interview very seriously, so make sure there is no background noise or interruptions of any kind.

Whatever technology you use for the interview you need to make sure it is up to the task. Laptop cameras are usually fine for video calls, and most modern phones are acceptable. However, be mindful that your mobile phone may not be good enough and you need to do a test beforehand to check the quality. Do not Skype whilst on the move using your phone, as this would look very unprofessional.

Always sit in a room when you Skype and choose an appropriate background. You don’t want your Justin Bieber posters in the video! So choose a neutral background, like a white wall. Again, test the quality of your video and ensure there is plenty of light. The quality of the audio also needs to be tested to ensure it comes through fine. Consider purchasing a desk microphone to help with the quality of the audio.

Take the interview seriously and dress appropriately. If you would wear a suit and tie to a job interview, then you should wear it for a video call – there is no difference in the importance. Although this may be a fairly short interview which hopefully leads to the next stage, you still need to have the same mindset – so prepare in the same way.

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3 examples of how to explain your weaknesses in a job interview

One of the most difficult questions to answer in a job interview is – what are your weaknesses? The reason why this is so difficult to discuss for most is because it’s essentially being honest about possible flaws.

In a job interview you always want to be positive about your abilities, and explain to an employer what you have to offer. So talking about your weaknesses feels like you’re admitting to not being up to the task – but it doesn’t have to reflect that way if you know what to say.

Here are 3 answers you can give when asked what your weaknesses are in a job interview…

I am too critical of myself

Being overly critical and doubting your own abilities can hinder your efficiency in the workplace. This however can easily be turned into a positive, as you can explain that you’re a perfectionist and are always looking to ensure everything is done correctly.

Any weakness you give as an answer should always be explained properly, and closed out by confirming what you’re doing to improve. This example is a really good one to use in an interview because it can actually be perceived as a good trait in some instances. Accuracy is always important in any role, so the employer may favour a perfectionist over a sloppy employee, even if that means they take a little longer than others.

Are you a perfectionist and worried it may be holding you back? Here’s a great article to read and find out more to help you in your question to become the perfect employee – Why Being A Perfectionist Can Hold You Back

I try to go it solo sometimes

With this example you can talk about how you often get too engrossed into your work that you can sometimes fail to seek help when a problem arises. Maybe your pride gets in the way a little from time to time, and you’re aware that seeking help and guidance from others is far more important to ensure your targets are met.

To close this one out you could say that you are now a lot better at asking for help when things go wrong, and that you’re aware of the benefits of interacting and learning from other co-workers and managers.

A question that is often asked in an interview is – Are you a team player? Click here to find out how to answer this difficult question.

Afraid to take a risk

This example depends highly on the role and industry you are applying too. Taking risks can sometimes be deemed as reckless, whilst some careers depend on it. Try to figure out beforehand if this one is the right answer for you, as it could backfire.

A sales role will likely need you to take risks now and again to close out a deal. So this answer could fit nicely into the interview, as you could then go on to say that you are now taking more risks to get the job done. On the flip side, you could reverse this by saying you’ve taken too many risks in the past and are now a much more conservative and calculated person.

3 Ways Taking Risks Makes You Better

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The 3 things an employer looks for in a CV

Applying for a job is like entering a competition. Essentially you are taking part in a Battle Royale like Fortnite, and the last person standing is the victor. So how are you going to gain an advantage and survive until the end?

Your goal is to impress at every stage of the hiring process, and the first chance you’ll get is with your CV. To make sure you make a great first impression, here are the 3 things an employer looks for in a CV:

Skills, qualifications and experience

Starting with the most obvious, the employer wants to instantly see that you have what they’ve asked for. However, as obvious as this tip might sound you’d be surprised at how many job seekers fail to fully read and acknowledge the job advert.

The best way to ensure you write a CV that demonstrates the requirements of the job description is to tailor it. Although your current CV may already be industry and career specific, it doesn’t mean to say you should make amendments to match the new role and the company.

Find out more – The 10 Most Important Skills To Show On Your CV

Make note of the keywords which the employer has used and try to match them in your CV where possible. There can be lots of different ways of calling a skill or even job title, and you don’t have to be stubborn and lazy when it comes to re-writing your CV.

Don’t stick with the same generic CV for years and years, only ever updating it with your previous job and duties. Keep yours looking modern and fresh, and always amend your CV for each different company you apply too. With a brand new CV detailing the exact skills, qualifications and experience, you are far more likely to succeed.

Commercial awareness

An employer wants to read your CV and be able to instantly recognise that you know what you’re talking about. Your awareness and knowledge for the industry should be second to none, and should ooze off of the page.

Injecting commercial awareness into your CV can be done in many ways. Using the right technical jargon and industry recognised terms is a start. But you can also take another approach via your cover letter. This additional document sits very nicely as an introduction to your CV, and will allow you to further impress the employer.

Find out more – How to demonstrate commercial awareness to an employer

Use a cover letter to explain what attracted you to the position, what you have to offer, and your aspirations for the future (aligned with the employer). Within your letter you can also briefly touch upon current industry affairs.

Take care not to plagiarise – there are lots of great examples of how to write your CV and cover letter on the web but employers DO scan for plagiarism, particularly those using ATS systems. Use an online plagiarism checker such as StudyClerk.com or PlagiarismChecker.net if you’re not sure what you have borrowed and what you have written yourself.

Your previous performances and achievements

An employer will receive lots of applications which all demonstrate the right skills, qualifications and experience. So to stand out amongst other qualified candidates you need to show how well you’ve performed in previous roles.

Having all the right credentials doesn’t mean to say that you are still good at what you do, and proving that on your CV is the key to gaining an interview. Most job seekers fail to realise this important point and will struggle to convince the employer.

But how do you demonstrate performance on a CV?

It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds, and can be done in many different ways depending on the role you’re applying for. Remember, your examples of performance and achievements need to closely relate to the role, with the exception of unique and outstanding achievements which should always be present on your CV.

Find out more – How to write Achievements in your CV

You need to show how you made an impact in your previous roles, and not just list all of the designated tasks and responsibilities. Again, this will not show the employer how well you did, and most of the time they could guess what you did based on the job title anyway.

Here’s an example of how you can demonstrate performance:

‘Made 12 sales per week on average from outbound calls’

Using numbers, revenue, sales figures, graphs, charts, and anything else you can think of to show how well you performed will be well appreciated by the hiring manager. There is a huge difference in writing this kind of CV when comparing it to a generically written one that simply lists the candidate’s life story.

BONUS TIP : CV design is important, especially with the prevalence of ATS software. Here’s a smart free CV template you can use that will make a great impression.

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4 ways to use your personality to ace a job interview

If you’ve been asked to attend a job interview it obviously means that the employer is clearly happy with your credentials. Your professionally written CV has gotten you to the most important stage of the process, and now it’s time for your personality to take over.

You must be polite and respectful, whilst remaining positive and passionate about the role. In addition, here are 4 ways to use your personality to ace a job interview…

1. Be confident

Using confident body language will not only project a positive attitude, it will also make you feel more confident. It’s a bit like telling someone to smile but don’t feel happy at the same time – it’s quite hard to do.

You will of course be feeling very nervous and anxious, but you have to ensure that doesn’t show through. Acting confident will instantly help you get over those expected nerves, and help the interview go much smoother.

Breathing is one of the best ways to shake off some of the interview nerves. Take lots of deep breaths before you go in and greet everyone with a smile and a firm handshake. Sit straight and don’t slump or lean back. Slouching in your chair will show that you are not interested in being there, whilst leaning back will look overconfident to the point of arrogance.

Look everyone in the eye when you are engaging in conversation, and when there is more than one interviewer you should ensure you address everyone during your answers. This will show that you respect everyone in the room, and not just for the person who asked the question.

Find out more : Why is Confidence Important in a Job Interview?

2. Show respect to everyone

No matter who you come into contact with on your way to the interview room, you should treat everyone with respect. You never know who might be reporting back to the interviewer, and every opinion of you could affect your chances of success.

You could be greeted by another member of the team you could be working with, so making a good impression with them could pay dividends. They are likely to be questioned by the manager or could even volunteer their thoughts on you. Make sure it’s a positive review that they give!

Don’t forget that simple things like arriving on time also show your respect for your interviewer, according to Delvin Jones at Wikihow. The folks at Job Coconut also remind us that dressing well shows respect.

3. Tell a tale

When discussing a previous role you may want to grab the opportunity to recall a funny story that happened at work. Try to keep it appropriate for obvious reasons, and consider planning it in advance so you don’t have to improvise.

Having a couple of funny stories up your sleeve ready to pull out at any moment is a great way to bring out your personality in the interview. It will help to relieve some tension in the room, and if you’re a great story teller you could dramatically increase your chances of being hired. Personality is everything in a job interview, so try to get them eating out of the palm of your hand.

“Try out your story with a friend or partner to see how they react beforehand,” recommends Martin Carline at CV Template Master. This will give you confirmation that your story is appropriate and actually funny.

4. Thank them for the opportunity

At the end of the interview you should thank them for their time and the opportunity. The end of an interview is a little bit like listening to a live band. If the guitar player caught a few bum notes or the drummer skipped a beat during the song, it can all be forgotten if the ending of the song is spectacular.

You are bound to make a few mistakes during the interview, or at the very least think you have, so closing out with a couple of your own questions is also a good idea. Make the interviewer realise that you are passionate and very interested in the role, which means you should not hesitate to ask your own questions at the end.

After you’ve thanked them you should also send a thank you email or letter directly to the hiring manager to again thank them for the opportunity. This will further backup your interest in the role and keep your name at the top of their thoughts.

You may like : 11 Perfect Questions to Ask at an Interview