I often receive requests from people asking for help with their CV. When I ask why they are seeking help, I am often told the CV is not getting them the interview they want.
There are many reasons why this might be the case, but from my experience the most common reason is that the information they are presenting is not targeted with a clear message of what they WANT to do. All too often they present a list of diverse things they have DONE, without a clear message of their expertise and strengths in relation to a particular job or role that they are aspiring to do in the future.
While is it is an advantage to have many skills which might be transferable to different types of roles, there is no point in listing ALL your jobs and experience as HR will not have clarity about what you can do. I know people (falsely) expect HR to workout what they can do and find the relevant pieces of information within the CV. This approach is doomed to fail. If the reader can’t easily see what they need to find in 30 seconds, then they will lose patience, and put it in the bin.
Keep it short, keep it to the point - clarity is king!
Comfort Osilaja was pulling her hair out. Yes, it’s a regular experience for recruiters who are looking through CVs for international development internships and jobs. Comfort has many years experience in the sector and has worked for Anti-Slavery International, Cafod and the Commonwealth Foundation. One of her current projects is ‘Identity Careers’ which she runs with Kevin Cusack. Identity Careers provides training and coaching for people looking to start in the sector.
We spoke to Comfort about the damage she is inflicting on her hair. “The problem is we do get lots of applications. For example a recent internship was up on our site and JobOnline for just a week and I had to look through 42 applications. In some ways basic errors make my job easier. For example I can easily set aside applications from people who don’t include a covering letter when asked to do so. Or applicants who plaster Curriculum Vitae in big bold letters across their CV and have lots of ‘special effects’ – but then don’t include a name. Believe me it does happen.
How can people make a good impression then? One thing lots of students do is automatically start with their education. Now if the position doesn’t really demand a degree or masters you may be better advised to start with your work experience. Practical experience will always trump academic qualifications. For example lots of entry level roles – and indeed roles for more experienced people – need solid administrative skills. These are more likely going to be demonstrated through work experience than university education?
Make it easy for the reader to see you have the right skills. For example you may know that your accountancy experience has equipped you to deal with databases and data entry but make sure you explicitly talk about the latter and don’t assume we will realise it. We could probably work it out but we are skimming applications very quickly to narrow down the candidates.
Finally a common mistake is that people emphasise far too much how the role will benefit them and how much they will enjoy it. To be honest recruiters are more interested in what you can do for them. Its what you can do not what you want.
Does developing country experience make a difference? Honestly, its usually more important that people can find their way around an office than around Africa. Certainly for the entry level office work we were advertising recently. It is important that people demonstrate a passion for the sector but that can be done more practically through longer term volunteering in the UK than a six week experience in the summer holiday.
What is Identity Careers? Kevin and I produce one day workshops and 2-hour CV workshops for small groups of people on getting into development – usually no more than 20 at a time. It’s different from the one day course The Careers Group, University of London offers because participants will get individual advice and the opportunity for follow up coaching to better develop their cvs and put together an action plan to really get them started on their international development careers, which is really important, as we all know how easy it is to get fired up by a workshop and then do nothing afterwards
Many people I speak to are unsure about if it's the “right” job or at the “right” level for their experience, etc. If you are unsure about what jobs to apply for here are my words of advice. Ask yourself these key questions:
- Do you meet the requirements? Just go down the person spec list and check the essential criteria; do you meet it?
- Do you like the sound of the job and what it entails? Many people read this first and get excited about the opportunity, but if you have not done the above and matched what they are looking for then there is very little reason to get excited.
- Do you agree and share the organisation's mandate/values? And how do you evidence this in your application?
If you answered no to any of the above questions then it's unlikely that you will be offered an interview or if successful, then longer-term you probably will not enjoy the job or working within the organisation!
If you answered is yes; then it's worth making an application, providing you have considered the secondary (practical) questions and these are:
- Can and are you willing to travel to the place of work?
- Are the hours and package acceptable?
- Is the salary acceptable?
- What extras do they expect – e.g. working overtime/weekends without extra pay?
If you have said yes to these, then make an application. If you answered no, then you need to consider how flexible and adaptable you can be.
For example, I know people that have applied for jobs and the journey is going to take them 2 hours each way – you'll soon get bored of that (plus be unhappy with the associated high cost of distance travel). You need to hold a degree of realism when reading job adverts, no matter how convinced YOU are that the job is right for you.
Some coaching clients' feedback that they are despondent and feel fragile from the lack of positive response to applications and I encourage them to be pragmatic in their approach when looking at jobs. If you are can relate to this - stay positive…
As Disney's Snow White sang "someday my Prince will come", try singing ‘someday my job will come (if I make sensible applications.)’
Unsure whether to apply for that job?
I met up with Kevin yesterday to put the finishing touches on our preparations for Tuesday's International Development Career conference with 2Way Development and our up-coming workshop on 6th December. We were talking about some of the mistakes people make when they put together their CV and there are many. We have seen CVs with some really fundamental errors - CVs that are almost as long as a book; CVs that are riddled with errors; with inconsistent formatting. I even saw one CV where the person forgot to put their name at the top!
The first task is getting people to understand what the real purpose of a CV is. Once someone understands this, then everything else falls into place. I know, I've been there myself. After 13 years at CAFOD, searching for a new job was quite a daunting challenge, and even though I knew what the basic principles of a good CV and application form were especially since I had been on a number of interview panels, I still needed help in putting together a really good CV. So I went and got some, and what I learnt was invaluable. especially as I have been able to successfully build on that advice time and time again.
Do you need help with your CV? Do you know what the real purpose of a CV is. If you would like to know more, come and see us on Tuesday at the International Development Conference for a CV check
, or better still come to our workshop on 6th December. Click here
to buy your ticket, which includes a 30 minute coaching session valid until 31 January as well as the 2 hour workshop.
See you on the 6th December.
It could be that you are making bad applications, applying for the wrong jobs (or with the wrong type of organisation) or that the job is 'in the bag' already for an internal person.
Unless you have had an interview you will never know the reason why your application was not accepted. So don’t dwell on it. The key to keeping your self-esteem is not to take the rejection personally and stay positive about what you can offer.
Yes, we know it’s even more competitive than ever to land a job in today’s market; there are jobs so you need to make the best application to be short-listed.Build your confidence
Do a skills inventory – know, and be confident in, what you can offer. Make sure you provide evidence and examples for all the criteria on the application form or CV.
Research and know the organisation as if you worked there. Use their language and house style.
If you are doing all the ‘right’ things and not getting interviews then we’d like to suggest that you’re not doing it right. This is why we exist; our knowledge and experience of the sector will give you another pair of (expert) eyes to look at your cover letters, CVs or applications. If you have never employed a coach then contact us
to talk about the benefits of working with a coach and how we can help.
In the meanwhile, keep job hunting (every day), make sure you are volunteering or temping so you'll have no gaps in your career history and stay positive!
If you are applying for jobs and not getting a response then something, somewhere, needs changing!
How many pages should a CV have 1, 2 or 3? Conventional wisdom says no more than 2, but have you heard of a ½ page CV? No. Well come to the Identity Careers CV workshop on 6th December and find out exactly what a ½ page CV is and how you need to use it to get your CV noticed when applying for jobs.
As well as a thorough grasp of how to construct a CV to get you noticed, you will also get a free 30 minute follow-up coaching session for a final review of your CV and be entitled to 10% off any Identity Careers workshops you attend in the next six months.
There are only 15 places available at this workshp so book now
One of the most popular requests we get at Identity Careers is for a CV review. To get a job in international development you need to understand what skills and experience is relevant and how best to present them. In response to this need we are running a 2 hour CV workshop on Tuesday 6th December in central London. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a returned volunteer or a career changer, the CV workshop is for you. At the workshop you will learn:
- · what key skills and experience are most relevant in the international development sector
- · which skills and experiences you have that are transferable into the sector
- · how best to present your skills and experience so your CV gets noticed
- · exactly how to build your cv from scratch so you can do it time and time again
At £45 the CV writing workshop is one of the best investments you can make in your career as it will pay off time and time again!And if you get a chance, come and see us at the 2 Way International Development Careers Event on 30th November. Click here for more details, and get a 10% discount with the code ID.
We completed another successful workshop this weekend and have received very positive feedback from the attendees. During the day we ask attendees to evaluative every session – once again the Interview with an NGO Worker session received top marks. This weekend we were joined by Firoz Patel, who is the founder and CEO of Childreach International, for the NGO Worker interview. Attendees to the workshop can access our web site secure area to find more resources and listen to all the NGO Interview recordings from our workshops. However, I’m sharing some of Firoz’s ideas. His top tip to someone trying to get into International Development was to get sector experience through an internship and/or volunteering. He also said that those with the following skills stood a better chance:Can do attitude with bags of initiative, proven fundraising ability, or skills in HR, IT, finance, or project management. If you are wondering how you can break into the highly competitive International Development industry then you need to register your interest for our 2012 workshops.
Ok it’s a little later than promised, but here’s the explanation behind the 6 spheres model. The model was created as a methodology for developing a career job in the international development sector. Below is a brief explanation of the 6 different spheres and what they mean.
Sphere 1: You
In Sphere 1 we examine your motivations for wanting to work in the international development sector as well as the skills, experience and knowledge you have gained so far to see how these might be a fit for a career in the sector.
Sphere 2: The Sector
In the second sphere we explore the international development sector. Looking at how the international development sector has become what it is today – looking at the key highlights over the years. We also gain an understanding of the actors within the sector, again with a view to understanding where you may fit in and who you might work for.
Sphere 3: The Trends
Sphere 3 examines the trends. It explores what the current trends are and how the sector will develop over the next 10 years. It also explores what jobs might be available over the next 10 years and what skills might be needed to do them.
Sphere 4: Your Brand
Now you have a clearer idea as to what career path you might take, sphere 4 is about developing your brand and marketing your self. In this sphere will revamp your CV and tailor it to the sector and the type of jobs you want to apply for. You will earn how to highlight your unique selling point for use in applying for jobs and networking, and you will also learn how best to present yourself in interviews.
Sphere 5: Your Road Map
Sphere 5 shows you how and where to find the jobs. Part of this includes finding out where and how to find the jobs
Sphere 6: Your Action Plan
In sphere 6 you develop the action plan. The work you have done in the previous 5 spheres is crucial in developing a clear idea of what your future career might look like in the international development sector. Sphere 6 is about making sure it happens. You will develop a realistic action plan for moving forward, ensuring that you have the right support to stick to that plan and make your dreams a reality.
The 6 spheres are interlinked and you might be working on more than one sphere at a time, but the whole model is a tried and tested way for finding your ideal job in the international development sector.
So our next workshop is a little over a week away, and Kevin and I thought it would be a great idea to share with you the story of Identity Careers and how it started to help you understand why we do what we do. Kevin and I met for the first time in November last year just 10 short months ago. It does feel like we've known each other for years, pobably because we both share a passion for providing relevant, accurate information, support and advice to people who want to work in the international development sector.
Kevin had been providing information to people for years through World Service Enquiry and speaking at workshops and seminars, whilst I had spent several years in various guises working in the international development sector (for more detail on our respective backgrounds visit the about page on or website). However we both felt that although there are numerous resources out there in cyberspace and workshops to help people understand the development sector there was a lack of indepent, cost effective comprehensive resources available. So we got together and created Identity Careers to provide exactly that: independent, comprehensive information, support and advice for people wanting to develop a career in the international development sector. Our package is delivered through a one day careers workshop with follow up coaching - because we've all been to workshops when we've left all fired up to conquer the world and then lost our momentum the moment we got back home, and we are currently working on a stand alone workbook and a weekend workshop for next year, so watch this space!
Our whole package is based on what we call our "six spheres model". The six spheres model was developed to provide a wholistic process which helps you identify exactly what your ideal job in international development is and what steps you need to take to get that job. To find out more about how the model works read our blog tomorrow.
Don't forget to take advantage of the 10% discount offer for our next workshop which ends midnight on Sunday.