Getting a foot in the door

Ensuring that your CV is irresistible and your interview skills sparkling could be what takes you up the next career step says one recruitment consultant.

It's easy to forget that mergers like Compaq-HP and TelstraClear have all-too-human consequences. The mega-unions of companies that pass the collective judgements of shareholders and corporate watchdogs inevitably shed duplicated jobs.

As do the piles of organisations still shaking off the last remnants of the dot-com crash/downturn hangover. As a result, plenty of highly qualified IT professionals are pounding the streets looking for a job.

Ensuring that their CV is irresistible and their interview skills sparkling could be what takes job seekers up the next career step, says one recruitment consultant. He suggests endless preparation for a hard-won interview.

“Can the person give a 30-second television commercial of themselves?" asks Graeme Duhs of Right Management. "It takes hours [to prepare] but the value is significant.”

Creating a "sales-oriented achievement-driven" CV of no more than a few pages will give them a better chance of getting there in the first place, says Duhs. Highlight achievements, he says. Too often, CVs are descriptive, just listing previous jobs. The issue is, “will it sell me?”, he says.

Rather than sending a resume out to all the IT job agencies and reacting to recruitment companies, Duhs advises job seekers to work out exactly what they want to do and be able to talk about it very specifically.

"[Then] they are not going to the agencies and saying ‘what jobs have you got for me’ but rather ‘what clients fit that profile',” he says.

Leslie Staines of Auckland-based executive search and selection company Horner & Partners calls the CV a marketing document.

“Busy hirers want succinct, to-the-point and quantifiable information up front,” says Staines. Waffle should be avoided in both the CV and the interview as “padding suggests either something to hide or nothing of substance underneath”.

Don't leave out the bad stuff, she says. “Everyone has had career difficulties and made mistakes. We call them ‘battle scars’ and, quite frankly, consider them a badge of a trooper. We like to hear about them. It shows you have the judgement to recognise a stuff-up and what you can do about it.”

She advises job seekers have friends tests them, and ask them to be frank if they sound like they are floundering.

Job seekers should also use their networks and other contacts, but simply asking if a firm has a job vacancy is likely to generate a direct "no", says Duhs.

In the interview, one-word answers are best avoided. “A great interview is a conversation, not a question and answer session,” Staines says. “Don’t make your interviewer pull teeth. Your masterful way of keeping a conversation going speaks volumes about your interpersonal skills in a work team,” she says.

Trying to be something you aren’t is also best avoided, as is using “corporatese”. Interviewers are smart about finding the real candidates, she says. “After a few thousand interviews in our career, we’ve learned to detect if you’re pretending to be someone you are not. Be real."

Horner & Partners, part of TMP Worldwide, instead suggests bringing the "multidimensional" you to the interview. “We’re hiring a whole person, so we like to hear about the whole person -- your values, your ambitions, your dislikes,” says Staines.

Candidates should be frank about what does not suit them, she says. If a job seeker tells a consultant a position is unlikely to be suitable, they may have other positions to talk about there and then.

Unsuccessful candidates should ask for feedback -- were they too confident, pushy, aggressive? Or shy and negative? “It’s hard to hear feedback, but worth the effort if you can make some adjustments,” she says.

Greenwood is Computerworld's human resources reporter. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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