Job security is often a concern for new parents. Understanding your entitlements, obligations and knowing how to approach changing work and leave arrangements can save you a lot of headaches when your baby arrives.

 

Just because you've never been paid for work doesn't mean you haven't had work experience — or that you don’t have skills and experience that are valuable and relevant to working life. Work experience can be a great tactic for people looking to enter the workforce for the first time or those returning after a break from paid work. It can be a way of learning new skills or updating rusty ones, greatly benefiting your search for a paid position.

How important is workplace culture to your success and satisfaction at work?

People need to be just as discerning about an organisation they choose to work for as companies are selective about who they employ.

Let's say you've been offered jobs by two different organisations. Both jobs offer appealing future prospects and great working conditions. While the salary packages are similar, the first job provides health insurance as part of the salary package, while the other only promises health insurance after the first six months. Which do you take?

The tendency by new entrants into the workforce would be to snap up the job that offered the largest benefits, but beware. Decisions based purely on financial considerations are not necessarily the wisest. Many a candidate has discovered this to their detriment. In fact, the key reason for employees leaving organisations has little to do with salary dissatisfaction and is more about an incompatibility of goals, indicating a huge shift in the reasons behind people changing jobs. Money is no longer the key determinant. Issues such as a motivational work environment, a compatible work culture and an appropriate work/life balance are more important than money.
If the 90s was the decade of the customer, the next 10 years will see a growing focus on employees. Leading companies are recognising that their business goals and the personal needs of their employees need to coincide and that jobs must deliver value to employees beyond pay and benefits.
In today's talent-strapped work environment, being an employer of choice has become a key imperative for organisations!

Choosing the right employer
Before making your final choice, consider the "Employer of Choice" checklist. Research the answers to the following questions, and you will be able to form an idea about the compatibility of an organisation to your own preferences and needs in a workplace. Don't be daunted, the checklist is just that - a checklist - not a detailed and exhaustive examination!

Does the organisation know where it's going?
It's essential that you find out where the organisation is heading. What are its goals and aspirations? What sets it apart from its competitors? Joining an organisation that has no viable growth strategy is a "death sentence". Unfortunately, these organisations are awful places to work for - morale is low, direction changes by the minute, and meanness and tightness replace prudent cost management.

What is the quality of leadership?
Quality leaders not only have the strength of character to make the tough decisions but they also inspire their staff. They are prepared to "walk the talk" and win the hearts of employees. At the end of the day, they make others want to follow them.

Are employees genuinely committed to the organisation and its goals?
Employee commitment is often the yardstick to a healthy organisation. Happy and committed staff usually means a strong and viable organisation.

Does the organisation have the capability to satisfy customer requirements?
There is a direct link between customer satisfaction and employee commitment.

Does the organisation in question understand and implement the things important to their employees?
As we spend most of our waking hours in the office, our work environment needs to be physically and motivationally attractive. It needs to reflect the fact that organisations value their employees.

Does the organisation have the work culture you're comfortable with?
While this may seem an odd prerequisite, it is amazing how often people leave organisations because of incompatible cultures. For example, in a company that has a sales culture, people with a research and development focus can expect to be frustrated in that sales culture's focus on short-term efforts, rather than longer-term solutions.

Is talent genuinely identified, utilised and developed and are employees provided with some sort of career-path?
One of the most frustrating experiences any employee can have is feeling under-utilised and directionless. This can be the major cause of resignations and of staff being snapped up by the competition.

Is there a direct link between business success and personal success?
All employees like to feel they financially have a share in the success of the organisation - usually through incentive schemes such as "bonus" payments and share plans.

Is the need to balance work, life and family recognised by the employer and are these policies implemented and practiced?
Busy demanding jobs need to be compensated by flexibility to ensure healthy recreation and personal growth, including family and relationship commitments. However, the nature of what is important in the work/life balance varies in the stages of employment. For example, for younger employees getting some leave to travel overseas may be important; for people with family responsibilities, having flexibility to attend to family needs may be paramount. For older employees, a flexible working week to fit in a golf game may be important!

Ultimately, is your CV going to be significantly enhanced by working for the organisation in question?
Studies have shown that employees now recognise that "cradle to grave" employment with one employer is very unlikely. Therefore, the modern CV is a more complex document than its predecessor. Most employers like to be able to see some kind of career path or pattern, however lateral, in the diverse roles that you may have undertaken in the duration of your career.

Finding the answers
In finding the answers to the employer of choice checklist, you should make a list of people who are either directly or indirectly connected with the company in question. When making enquiries, remember to be discreet and not to jeopardise any confidentiality associated with the appointment and selection process.

It would also be worth your while to tap into your potential employer's website or access company information via the Internet. Services such as Reuters could also be handy in obtaining useful company data. Seek out literature and publications and read these and assess the messages they are sending.

Utilise the interview process effectively. Remember that an interview is a two way process and prepare thoughtful questions that expand on your research to date and fill in any gaps. Remember also, that the person interviewing you is also an employee, someone who must function in the organisation on a day-to-day basis. This is your chance to gain their insight into the workplace culture.

Finally, don't hurry your decision and do your homework properly before making that all-important choice.

Many job opportunities are never advertised. It's been estimated that more than a third of positions vacant in the UK are filled through an informal network rather than formally advertised. Often called the "hidden job market", these jobs can only be accessed through networking or cold calling. These techniques are among the most powerful and effective way of finding a job, and planning and practice will increase your confidence.

Research the industry or occupation
Once you know what industry or type of job you want to do, thorough research is called for. Make some notes about what you already know about the industry or type of job you would like. A second list might be made up of what you don't yet know but need to find out. The information you need includes:
Where is the industry or job type geographically located?
Would you have to relocate to work in this area?
Is this industry growing or shrinking?
Is this a high-demand occupation or are unemployment rates high?
Which companies are the major "players" in the industry?
Is there a professional association that represents this industry or this group of workers?
Are there related occupations that face skill shortages?
Are formal qualifications required to work in this industry or occupation?
Where will you find these types of jobs?
Only in large corporations, or in small businesses as well?
Are these types of vacancies generally filled by recruitment agencies or directly by the companies?

This may seem a daunting list, but reading the employment sections of the major newspapers over a period of weeks can often provide a good feel for this information. Your local library may keep back copies of newspapers. If there's a professional association for the industry or occupation, call or visit and ask for or buy copies of the trade journal. If you're at university or high school, make use of your career guidance services. You're already using the Internet: make full use of its potential for research. It's worth taking some time to explore different search engines and how to refine your search for information. Yellow Pages directories are a good starting point for identifying names and locations of companies.

Finish this process by compiling a list of the companies you want to work for. It might be the specific department of a single company or your list might include every company in the industry that is located within a 20 mile radius of home.

Research the companies
Next, find out everything you can about your target companies: their product lines, competitors, prices, growth prospects, organisational structure, employment policies, key staff and overseas trends and developments which may effect local operations.
You can find this information in places like:
1. annual reports
2. customer newsletters
3. trade magazines
4. product brochures and catalogues
5. sales representatives.
The best option is speaking in person to someone who works there or knows someone who does. This is where your personal contact list will be vital.

List personal contacts
Co-workers (past and present), neighbours, previous employers, family members, friends, your professional advisors, lecturers, sporting buddies, suppliers and customers can all be the start of your contacts list. (Some of these relationships may be sensitive, particularly if you are already working and your employer doesn't know you're looking for another position.) Get in touch with your contacts and ask if they can help directly or by referring you to someone they know who can.
Use your contacts to explore opportunities and to gather more information. Asking outright for a job can put a contact in an embarrassing position. It's more appropriate to ask them for their advice: "John, I'm interested in moving into the publishing industry — do you know anyone I should be talking to?". If John can suggest someone, ask if you can use his name when you introduce yourself. Always remember that your contacts are doing you a favour by introducing you to other people and that your conduct will reflect on them.

Be as specific as you can.
For example:
"Do you know anyone who works for BT?"
"Do you know anyone who works as a tyre fitter and turner?"
"I'm looking for a job in advertising. Do you know anyone who works in that field?"
"I have excellent keyboard skills and I'm familiar with computers. I have three years experience as a receptionist. I want to use these skills in a customer service job. Can you give me any advice, or do you know anyone who might be able to help?"

The telephone approach #1
You: "Hello John, this is Roger Smart. Liz Jenkins suggested I give you a call. I'm wondering if you can help with some information. I'm about to graduate from the editing course at X university/I'm looking to move from a career in marketing into the publishing business and Liz thought you might be able to give me some advice, which I'd certainly appreciate. I know you are very busy, but I wondered if you would have 10 or 15 minutes available to meet up?"
Possible outcomes
Before you make the call, rehearse your opening line. Also think about the possible responses.
These might include:
John: "Look, this isn't a good time right now, I'm right in the middle of something."
You: "I'm sorry. Can I call you back at a more convenient time?"
John: "What sort of information were you wanting?"
You: "I want to know as much as possible about the industry and about what experience or knowledge I can gain to help me enter the field."
You:"I'm really interested in your company. I hear you have a great reputation for publishing technical books, which I'm very interested in. I'd love to find out a bit more about the company from someone who works there."

You should offer to travel to meet your contact, to make the meeting as convenient as possible. Let them choose whether they meet you at their office or after work. Arrive on time and have a list of questions prepared so you can make best use of the time. If you've asked for 15 minutes, don't stay longer without checking this is OK.
There are other options too. Your contact may be happy to call a contact of theirs to introduce you before you call. Or they might be willing to arrange a lunch date or an after-work drink with all three of you.

Attend conferences, seminars and trade shows
Trade shows are a showcase for companies in your industry of interest. They'll give you a good feel for corporate size, culture, reputation and you can have a chat with representatives of each company.
Seminars and conferences provide valuable opportunities for informally meeting people who are already working in the industry. These are most likely in professional occupations and they are often expensive. They are worthwhile as long as you're willing and able to "work the room."

The meeting approach
You: "Hello Fiona. I'm Roger Smart. I was really interested in your presentation this morning. I'm about to graduate from the editing course at X university/I'm looking to move from a career in marketing into the publishing business. I understand that Context Publishing is a big client of yours. I'm really interested in working for Context, and I'd love to know more about them from an insider's point of view. It might not be the best time now, but is there a chance we could arrange to talk further?"

Ask for the job
Cold calling still means ringing strangers and asking for a job. You'll be better equipped to do this once you're armed with a good knowledge of the industry or company.
Know the name and title of the person who has the power to hire you.
Rehearse your opening line, including demonstrating your knowledge of and specific interest in that company.

Mention how you can benefit the company.
Depending on the type of work, your goal in making a call may be to organise a visit or to send your CV, which you then follow up. Your research should have revealed what is the more effective strategy for the industry and job you are chasing.
The examples below are only a starting point. Anticipate more questions and prepare accordingly. Think about how you can create opportunities to explain what you can offer. Role plays can be a very effective way of preparing for cold calls. Practice with a friend — in person or over the phone.

Getting past the switchboard
Some receptionists can be very intimidating. It is increasingly common practice for receptionists and PAs to "announce" incoming calls. Accordingly they will ask everyone who calls for their name and where they're calling from. Be pro-active. Announce who you are, rather than waiting to be asked. The more senior the person you're calling, the harder they will be to reach. Being at the least polite and at best charming to receptionists and PAs will only help your cause.

The telephone approach #2
Receptionist: "Good morning, Context Publishing."
You: "Good morning, this is Angela Haines. May I speak to Fiona Smith please?"
Receptionist: "And you're calling from?"
You: "I'm calling on my own account."
Receptionist: "I'm afraid Fiona is in a meeting at present. Can she call you back?"
You: "When would be a good time for me to reach her?"
Receptionist: "You could try later this afternoon."
You: "Thank you. I'll call back between 3.30 and 4 pm."

The telephone approach #3
Fiona: "Hello, this is Fiona Smith."
You: Hello Fiona. My name is Michelle Haines. I'm currently studying the writing and editing course at X University and I'm looking for work in the industry that uses these skills. I understand that Context is expanding its Trades Division at present. I wanted to introduce myself and ask if I could send you my CV.
Fiona:Um, sure. We have no vacancies at the moment, but there may be openings coming up in another month or so.
You: Great. I'll get some information to you right away. Perhaps I could call you in a couple of weeks?
OR
Fiona: Look, we just hired someone in a junior role a couple of months ago, so we're not likely to have any vacancies anytime soon.
You: Could I send a copy of my CV for your file anyway? Perhaps I could call you in the future to see if anything's changed?

For entry-level positions, cold calling can be a numbers game. The more companies you call, the greater the odds of finding an opening. At a more senior level, or for professional roles, you may put more emphasis on "qualifying" your leads and making a handful of well-placed phone calls.

Keep a record
Keep a record of all the contacts you make. This record could be as elaborate as creating a database or a Word macro on your home computer or laptop or as simple as an exercise book, ruled into columns. How you do it isn't nearly as important as keeping your records accurate. You'll want to record:
Company name
Date
Contact name
Title
Address
Phone
Fax
Position sought
Discussed
Outcome
Referred to
When to contact again

Role plays can be a very effective way of preparing for cold calls.

Tips
If you've arranged to send a CV to a potential employer, send it promptly and always include a cover letter.

Always call back exactly when you say you will.

Always carry business cards and/or your CV on you or in the car. You never know when an opportunity may present itself.

Send thank you notes to anyone who helped you. Firstly, because it's appropriate to recognise people's efforts to assist you. Secondly, it may create a good impression with people you probably want to stay in touch with. Keep thank you notes very simple. Email is excellent, as it's low-key but still makes the point.

You may be looking for your first job, re-entering the job market or hoping for a career change — whatever your situation, job searching can be a time consuming, exhausting task. Here are some short cuts to help make the task a little bit easier. We tell you where to find seminars, services and resources that can help you as well as the services that One Recruitment offer you.

CV preparation services
If you've had some experience in creating CV's you may not need to seek professional guidance. However, if you're new to the job market, re-entering after a long break, looking to move into a new area or keep missing out on the interview, it may be well worth getting an expert opinion.

You may think that you have such limited work experience that it's not even worth having a CV — wrong. A professional CV writer could find a wealth of experience in jobs that you thought were unrelated to the work force: charity work, football coaching, social committees or school canteen manager. These jobs may have provided you with respected skills that can be related to your employment objectives.

If you're looking for help in preparing your CV you may want to seek the services of a professional CV writer. They offer a range of services varying from full-scale skills assessment and interview preparation to basic word processing. These services are often offered by former human resource manager or careers counsellors, who should know the area thoroughly. Don't be afraid to scrutinise their qualifications and experience and don't be shy about asking for examples.

If you already have your CV prepared, you may just need a secretarial service to help you pull it all together. Expect to pay £10-£15 per hour for basic word processing, and allow two to three hours for full formatting of a CV.

Upside
The writer assesses your skills and experience during a personal interview. The writer may visit you at your home at a convenient time, saving on travel time. Offers a quick turnaround. Your CV is presented in a professional format, typed, printed and bound for you. You can get changes made quickly for specific job applications.

Downside
Typically, CV preparation might cost: £50-£100 per CV . Tailoring CVs to specific jobs becomes very expensive

Where to find CV writers
One Recruitment associates can professionally prepare your CV for you. Simply call us on 01236 439499 and ask about our CV Writing service or look at our CV Writing page.

Questions to ask before you buy
What will it cost and what exactly do you provide?
Is your travelling time included in the cost?
What experience and qualifications do you have in the field?
How long have you been doing it?
Can I see some samples of your work?
Do you use more than one type of CV format, depending on my skills and circumstances?
How long does the interview session last?
Do you offer a job referral service?

How to evaluate the service
Were the service and costs clearly explained in advance?
Do you feel comfortable with the writer?
Did they seek to find out what your needs were before they started writing?
Did they take their time in the interview session with you?
Were your true skills and aspirations reflected in the CV?
Did your CV get you a job interview?

CV books and resources
Books can be an excellent source of advice, samples and formats when you're creating your own CV. You can work through the information at your own pace. The disadvantage is that there's no personal guidance. You have to decide what advice best suits your situation.
There's lots of options for finding good books and resources. You can find books at your local library, bookshop and second-hand bookshop.

How to evaluate books
These tips will help you decide between the many books available.
Read the author's biography and or introduction. There are many different opinions about what is the "best" way to prepare a CV. Critically analyse why this author's view is credible and trustworthy. What are the author's qualifications and experience?
Check to see if the book offers samples that you can copy or adapt.
Check the first few pages, to see where the book was published. Locally published books will be more in touch with workplace culture. Advice for American job-seekers isn't always effective for the UK.
If the book was first published two or more years ago, has it been reprinted, or new editions published? Does the book say how many copies have been sold? This indicates how popular the book has been.
Is the book endorsed or recommended by relevant associations or individuals? Has it won any awards or commendations?

Libraries
Your council-run library is a terrific, free resource. Membership is usually open to anyone — you don't have to live or work in a particular area to be eligible to join. Borrowing books is free; plus audio loans and search and reserve services are often available at no or little cost. Look in the White Pages under the name of your local council to find your nearest library.
Libraries respond to their members' needs and interests, so it's a safe bet you'll find books on looking for work and CV preparation. These books are also likely to be popular. If you can't find them, ask a librarian about how to reserve the books, or to request that the library purchase a particular title.
Borrowing from your local library means you can review a range of professional opinions from different authors. This includes different examples of CVs and cover letters, which you can copy and adapt. On the other hand, libraries often don't have the most up to date edition of a book. Check the publication date. Anything older than four or five years will be less useful.

Where to find the right books
Either go to the Careers Section in the library or type in the following key words into the key word search section of the library's computerised database.
Jobs
Resume
CV
Career
Employment
Interviewing

Bookshops
Bookshops offer up-to-date resources, which detail the latest in techniques and approaches to job-hunting. Most bookshops will specially order any book you want, usually at no extra cost. This is useful if you've had to return a library book you found very helpful! Don't forget you can order books online too.

On the other hand, buying books can quickly get expensive, particularly if you want to consider more than one opinion or approach. Evaluate the book carefully. Ask your bookseller or friends for recommendations.

Second-hand bookshops
Buying books second-hand is worth considering. You'll save money, but it may take some time on your part. Have a look through more than one shop and be patient. Many second-hand bookshops now have computerised records of books in stock, so don't hesitate to ask the bookseller if you're after a particular book.
You may be looking for your first job, re-entering the job market or hoping for a career change — whatever your situation, job searching can be a time consuming, exhausting task. Here are some short cuts to help make the task a little bit easier. We tell you where to find seminars, services and resources that can help you in your search and how to evaluate them before you part with your hard earned cash.

Over 85 per cent of interviews for jobs came from a referral from a friend, colleague, relative, employee or contact.

Special services for unemployed people
Job Centre Plus run a centralised job search facility for unemployed people. You can find out information like the job title, description, hours of work, pay rate, start date and number of positions available via a touch screen. Private job providers can now assist you with preparation of CV, business cards and career counselling.

Workshops/coaching
The most popular courses of training in this area involve personal presentation and/or interview skills. Personal presentation courses generally covers grooming, deportment, self-esteem, interpersonal skills and communication skills.

Interview skills courses cover those areas too but tend to focus mainly on more detailed aspects, such as preparation, question handling, interview styles, relaxation and salary negotiation.

This section will handle interview skills training specifically, although the information can be applied to personal presentation courses also. Courses are often offered on an individual or group tuition basis.

Upside
The interview is everything. Any training to assist you in handling the interview with more confidence and power is valuable.
Thinking on your feet under pressure is a great skill to have and can only be developed with practice.
It develops transferable skills that you will have at your disposal forever.
Video playback of your performance can save hours of discussion — you can see your habitual mannerisms and vocal tendencies that could be preventing you from communicating effectively.
It offers you the chance to gain practical experience in a simulated environment that allows you to mentally rehearse before the actual interview.

Advantages of group tuition include:
You can learn a lot from watching other people make mistakes.
It can be a lot of fun and you can make new contacts.
You can receive group feedback as opposed to one person's feedback.

Advantages of individual tuition include:
Can focus on specific problems.
Can be less confronting than a group situation.
Get more personalised attention and more time.

Downside
Can be expensive.
Time-consuming.
Requires personal commitment and a desire to change habits.
It can be uncomfortable watching yourself on camera.
Can be confronting for shy or introverted people.

Where to find them
"Careers Counselling" section in the Yellow Pages.
Word of mouth recommendations.

How to evaluate them
Ring them up and ask for an information pack and, if available, a video of their work to be sent to you.
Ask to speak to people who have been through the course.
Ask what the success rate of course graduates

Marina Whelen received some bad news last year. Her employer was forced to lay off staff, and she was among them.

A senior PA for 18 years in a small publishing firm, she decided to look for a new position, and re-entered a job market that had radically changed. Marina was well qualified, with a wealth of experience, but quickly found discouragement at every turn.

Some employers were concerned she would become quickly frustrated in positions she was overqualified for. She was offered salaries far beneath what she considered reasonable, or found interviewers simply not interested. Marina experienced an unstated but apparent bias against her because of her age.

Discrimination?
Employment data reveals the only category of ‘discouraged jobseekers’ that rose in 2003, was that of mature aged workers (45 and over), with drops in all other age groups.
The latest government figures tell us 61% of job seekers over 60 rate being ‘considered too old by employers’ as the number one reason for giving up looking for work.

Mature age job seekers like Marina that return to the job market often find themselves forced to take on part time or casual employment after an unsuccessful search for jobs in their field. Many admit defeat, underselling their skills in order obtain lower paid jobs after finding themselves locked out of the workforce by employer biases.

The frustrating reality is that mature age jobseekers can often be the perfect candidates. They have the lowest rates of sick leave of any age category and can often bring a wealth of experience to a role. They are in many ways likely to be a more stable, more reliable employee.

The future?
While bias exists for many today, the fact that our workforce is aging is a certainty, and employers ignore it to their detriment. Drake International estimate 85% of all workforce growth will be supplied by people aged 45+ by 2012, up from 32% in 1992.

Our labour market already has severe shortages in many skilled trades including education, health, automotive and transport and distribution sectors. Those employers who do not open their eyes to a more balanced approach to recruiting will increasingly find recruiting candidates very difficult indeed.

"I didn't expect to be having to consider this at my age, I thought I’d be planning my retirement!"

What can I do now?
There are a number of ways to increase the odds in your favour if you are a mature age jobseeker.

Try these tips when applying for jobs:

Refresh
Update your CV, removing any references to your date of birth. In addition, you should seriously consider removing references in your employment history older than ten years. Alternatively, list your successes without dates under a heading such as ‘Achievements’ or ‘Previous experience’.

Transfer
When the search for a new role becomes frustrating, the temptation can be to apply for anything that comes along, lowering your expectations. Consider instead, expanding your options by looking at opportunities in other industries. You may double your job opportunities by thinking laterally about which of your skills are likely to be transferable.

Relearn
In a study conducted by the University of NSW in 2000, 1000 business were asked to rate their reasons mature jobseekers were less successful in the job applications. Employers identified applicants either not possessing current skills, or being unable to demonstrate the relevance of their skills as the most significant reasons for not employing them over other candidates. To ensure your skills are relevant, review each requirement in the job description, and make a note of what is most relevant out of your current skill set. Updating your skills with a refresher course in a related discipline can be effective way of demonstrating a continued interest in your field, and an intention to keep your skills up to date. Although a history of experience can work in your favour, demonstrating knowledge of the latest developments in your industry can also be an advantage for any jobseeker.

Think laterally and strategically when approaching your job hunt, and get back to work sooner!

Every year millions of people make a difference in their local community by volunteering with a wide range of not-for-profit organisations.

Why Volunteer?
People volunteer for many different reasons and in many different ways. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from making a difference to other people in your local community. Volunteering offers many other rewards too. You can learn new skills and gain valuable experience in a wide range of skills that may or may not be related to your paid work. It's also a great way to meet new people who share your interests.

Finding suitable Volunteer Opportunities
Search the One Recruitment database to find volunteer opportunities near where you live or work that match your interests and the time you have available.

Expressing interest in a Volunteer Opportunity
Once you find a volunteer opportunity you are interested in, it's easy to let the organisation know you're interested.

Find out more about Volunteer Organisations
Find out more about every organisation that lists opportunities on One Recruitment by reading their organisation profile and mission statement.

Registration and Privacy
There's no need to register with us to find a volunteer position. It's easy to use, completely free and available to anyone who is interested in volunteering. One Recruitment do not collect any personal information. You decide what information you want to share about yourself when you express your interest in an opportunity listed by a not-for-profit organisation.

We are genuinely and wholeheartedly committed to the volunteering cause. In addition to delivering this free service, we also aim to support and promote a worthwhile cause that needs volunteers each month. Our staff and management also get behind many of these, by volunteering their time and expertise.

Hands up those of you who enjoy preparing responses to selection criteria for jobs in government. Hands up those who have applied to government jobs only to be told you didn’t meet the criteria, even though you knew you could the job.

The public sector represents a very significant component of the labour market. Once upon a time, the public sector was relatively closed. People typically joined when they completed secondary or tertiary studies or entered later in life at the entry level and worked their way up. You couldn't join the public service at the more senior levels from outside, except in unusual cases. Those in the public sector quickly worked out that in order to get ahead they needed to acquire the skill of responding directly to a detailed set of selection criteria. They learned to do this by modelling their answers on successful candidates, or attending industry courses that gave great inside tips.

These days many positions are open to candidates from the private sector. But making sense of selection criteria can be can be a nightmare, right? Not necessarily. Read on.

Why Selection Criteria?
Selection criteria evens the playing field by providing a common set of factors against which to assess candidates. It makes the process fair for everyone. Selection criteria for most positions are quite broad or generic. This makes it possible to compare people with different backgrounds and experience. Resumes are usually not sufficiently detailed to enable the selection panel to evaluate experience and achievements fully.

Selection criteria also provide an objective basis on which to base selection decisions. Because of the nature of the public sector, the selection process must withstand independent scrutiny. It is an issue of public accountability. The intention of selection criteria is to provide the public with some level of assurance that each job is filled by a person who has the requisite skills, experience and attributes.

What are Selection Criteria?
Selection criteria are a list of criterion (note the grammar – criteria is plural, criterion is singular) that represents the experience, skills, personal attributes, qualifications, knowledge and expertise needed to do the job effectively. They set out the standards by which each candidate will be assessed.

If a criterion is essential it means that it is not possible to do the job properly unless you meet that criterion. (Therefore, don't apply if you don't meet the essential criteria.) If there is no candidate who meets all of the selection criteria to a sufficient extent, no one is selected and the job will be re-advertised.
Preparing
1. Copy and paste the criteria into a new Word document. Make them bold.
2. Create a space between each criterion to insert your response.
3. Examine your CV and extract all of the experience, skills, achievements, qualifications and abilities from each job that relate to each criterion. Copy and paste your experience, achievements, qualifications and so forth into the space under each criterion.
You now have the core data needed to begin composing your response to the criteria. But first…

Do's and Don’ts
An effective response to selection criteria provides the reader with evidence that you meet the requirements of the position. Presenting beliefs, philosophy or knowledge is not evidence of your abilities or experience.

Don’t write a thesis on leadership. Use examples of your experience and achievements as a leader. Telling the reader what you know about leadership doesn’t cut it. It does not demonstrate experience, ability or achievement.

Telling the reader that you have five years experience as a manager and you must therefore be a good one is not a sufficient response to a criterion about management abilities. Providing a vague, loose and generalised comment is not enough. The selection panel wants to know what you have actually done.

Context is also important. You need to consider the environment in which the position operates in order to make your own responses relevant. For example, a leadership role in a University will be different from one in another type of government department.

Criteria dealing with your commitment to an ethos are very common. A position might require, say, “Knowledge of and demonstrated commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity, Occupational Health and Safety, Quality Assurance, and the Environmental Protection Act…”

But how do you demonstrate commitment in writing? I agree, impossible. Many people simply resort to asserting that they are committed. Of course they are! Who wouldn't be, right? To successfully respond to a criterion relating to EEO, OH&S and other ethical issues you need to demonstrate that you have operated under these principles. Give concrete examples of situations where you instigated, implemented or upheld these principles. Simply being a member of a statistical minority does not necessarily prove that you have any greater abilities or insight.

Composing your Response
An effective response should:

Explain the nature and extent of your experience
Outline your responsibilities
Show your accomplishments

Provide concrete examples
Examples are an easy way to demonstrate that you meet the requirements of a position. If a job requires a person to have the ability to negotiate, provide the reader with two or more examples of successful negotiations in which you have played a significant role. Describe the context, your goal, your strategy, the reason or rationale for the strategy and the outcome of the negotiation.

Draw particular attention to noteworthy achievements
Requiring candidates to respond to selection criteria may seem like cruel and unusual punishment. But at least everyone is in the same boat. Following these straightforward guidelines may give you the edge you need to get the interview and secure the position.

The nail-biting doesn’t stop once you’ve been offered the job. Professional positions usually offer some opportunity to negotiate your salary package. Here’s a power guide to help you negotiate from a position of strength.

It's important to recognise at the outset that not all jobs provide any opportunity to negotiate terms and conditions, including salary. If you've ever applied for a job at a supermarket on the check-out, then it's unlikely there was any negotiation over your hourly wage!

So what sort of jobs do provide an opportunity to bargain? "We see far more negotiation of salary than we have in the past," says Paul Gregory, One Recruitment's Managing Director. "It now extends to junior levels, from sales reps and account managers upwards. For example, an account manager on £25,000 with a car will have some element of salary negotiation opportunity."

Research the Company
Andrew is a good example. He is a commercial manager at a major oil company, and began at the company as a senior business analyst two years ago — the type of high-level executive position where salary negotiation skills are required. "I did a lot of research on the company," he recalls. "The key efforts were contacting recruitment agents, one of whom put me in touch with someone at the company. That enabled me to find out solid information on what people were earning in the sort of position I had applied for." Andrew was wise in schmoozing a recruitment consultant — it cost him a lunch but it was money well spent. Consultants are extremely good sources of up-to-date information and as sources for other contacts. He also spoke to industry colleagues and peers, and fired up his web browser to find out information about the economic performance of the company and its recent staff movements. This information helped him establish what his salary might be worth. Talking to specialist journalists is another useful strategy. A good business or financial reporter will know industry trends and people in their area, and can frequently suggest useful contacts and avenues of investigation.

"Trust me, salary research pays off handsomely," says author Richard Nelson Bolles, in his best selling job search guide, "What Colour is Your Parachute?" There is a financial penalty exacted from those who are too lazy, or in too much of a hurry, to go gather this information."

As an example, he says you might spend three days on research. If you are in the interview and your salary is being negotiated and you ask for — and get — £4000 a year more than you expected thanks to what you have learnt through your research, that means an extra £12,000 over the next three years. "Not bad pay, for three days' work!" he notes. Put plainly, if you don't do this research, it's going to cost you.

Timing
"This is a power few people realise they have when they receive a job offer," says Nick Corcodilos in his book, Ask The Headhunter. "If you have used information effectively, and you proved you can do the job, the ultimate outcome of your job search will depend on how you exercise the power of the job offer." Don't feel excited or relieved that you've been offered the job, he cautions: instead, use the power you have in areas like salary negotiation.

Andrew used this timing to his best advantage. After his interviews, his prospective employers faxed him a job offer worth £60,000. The offer went back and forth six times before Andrew accepted a package worth nearly £68,000.

"Towards the end they said they couldn't pay any more, but I asked them to try again and they managed to add a little extra," he remembers. "I understood the leverage I had, but kept in mind the degree of freedom they had, and kept my expectations realistic — there was no way they could offer £80,000, for example. It can be a risky process, but you must see how far you can push it — no way would I accept a first offer from an employer."

Indeed, it can be a risky process. Not everyone will turn down the "final offer", as Andrew did, in the hope of a comparatively small amount of extra salary. You don't want a dream job to slip through your fingers over an extra £100 per week — especially if your negotiating skills have led to an offer above your expectations.

Going First
Andrew was lucky — his employer made the first move when it came to talking turkey. This brings us to another important rule in salary negotiation: don't be the one who first raises a figure. "You want the employer to be the first one to mention a figure, if you can manage that," says Richard Nelson Bolles. "Never mind the reason why, what has been observed over the years is that in this contest whoever mentions a salary figure first, generally loses."

"Lead with your requirements," recommends Nick Corcodilos. "What does your past salary matter if you won't accept an offer below £X? (Understand that this cuts both ways: you've got to be willing to figure out what your abilities are worth.) If you decide to divulge what you've earned in the past, do so by firmly stating that your current salary is one thing; your required salary range is another. This is how you level the playing field: by getting them to divulge the range they're willing to spend."

A cunning interviewer/employer knows that it's not to your advantage to mention a figure first, and an interview can be like verbal arm-wrestling. They will float leading questions, like "What kind of salary are you looking for?", or "What do you think this job is worth?"

Philip Garside, in his book The Secrets to Getting a Job, also recommends not negotiating salary conditions until you have been offered the job. "It is not always possible to avoid this negotiation," he says, "but if you negotiate without having been offered the job the pressure to go low is enormous. If the interviewer asks, 'What salary do you envisage if you were successful?', you could reply, 'I'm happy to start on the industry standard, perhaps with a review built in for when I have demonstrated that I am worth more than that.'" Of course, the interviewer is likely to immediately reply, "and what do you believe is the industry standard?"

Philip Garside counsels putting forward a range of salary levels, and not tying yourself to a specific figure. And, as you've done your research on what the position will be worth, you can confidently aim at the high end of the scale. "If you believe a fair salary for the position is £42,000 but you are prepared to accept £39,000, the range to put forward would be £39,000-£45,000," he says. "If offered the position, you are much better placed to negotiate the deal you want. It is your task to get the starting salary as close as you can get to £45,000, and theirs to get you as close as possible to £39,000."

This is where the role of a recruiter changes the situation. A recruiter is given a lot of responsibility from their client, the employer; the recruiter can negotiate with the employee on the employer's behalf. "Our role can be quite strong in that area," Ray Hince confirms. "We represent our client, but we also help the candidate put their best foot forward. We know the salary range on offer, so an employee should identify their minimum salary level but aim higher, giving themselves space for negotiation."

A recruiter will also know the past earnings of a candidate, so both parties have a pretty good idea on what to expect from each other. A recruiter wants to deliver a value-for-money quality employee to their client, but usually their fee is a percentage of the employee's salary.

There is still room for negotiation when a recruiter is in the picture, even when the latter has indicated the employer's expectations — usually, there is still a salary range to explore. "Provided the lines of communication are kept open between the candidate and the employer, then there are no surprises when it comes to salary negotiation," says Ray Hince. "When an employee is making a direct approach, then it's a different environment. Through research they should identify the likely range, determine their minimum salary level — and negotiate from there."

"I told them what I thought I was worth, which was a different figure to what I was earning in my previous job."
There is a financial penalty exacted from those who are too lazy or in too much of a hurry to research salary information.

Salary History
When it comes to establishing a salary range or starting with a figure for negotiation, a prospective employer might bring up that old chestnut: previous salary history. The theory is that what you were most recently earning will have a strong bearing what your new salary will be. Nick Corcodilos doesn't buy that theory. "Employers have no business asking for your salary history. It's confidential. It has nothing to do with hiring you. Imagine what they'd say if you asked to see the history of salaries they've paid for this job over the past ten years. Or, if you were to ask the manager what his current salary is. In fact, your new salary is a judgement of your present (and future) value. It's the employer's task to work out what your job is worth, and it is completely unrelated to your past earnings."

Andrew agrees, and takes a positive view of the past-salary question. "I told them what I thought I was worth, which was a different figure to what I was earning in my previous job. But if you can't avoid it, the past-salary figure enables you to put the first stake in the sand and argue, 'If I'm earning that currently, why would I move to a new job with you?'"

When you divulge your salary history, you put yourself in a corner that's very difficult to negotiate your way out of, Nick Corcodilos says. "I agree philosophically with that argument, but in practice your recent salary is going to be an indicator of what you're worth," counters Ray Hince. "These days there are strongly established market ranges within professions — food sales reps, for example, earn a certain salary with standard conditions. Talking about past salary isn't a big bogey, and by and large, your past salary history will be clear to a prospective employer."

Are you wondering why you have to learn all this stuff about salary negotiating? If you like the employer, and the employer likes (and wants) you, aren't they going to try and make you a happy and productive employee with a wonderful salary? "The employer will rarely tell you the most they are willing to pay," Richard Nelson Bolles says.
"The employer's goal is to save money, if possible. Your goal is to bring home the best salary that you can. Nothing's wrong with the goals of either of you. But it does mean that salary negotiation is proper, and expected."

It was expected in Andrew's case. "If I had rolled over and laid down with the first figure they offered me, then my employer wouldn't have had confidence in the work I was doing for them. Obviously, if you're a hard but fair negotiator for yourself then you'll also bring those qualities to the job."

"Employers respect a person who can negotiate well," confirms Ray Hince. "But they also like people who will pursue realistic goals in negotiation."

So you think you’ve got what it takes to be your own boss?

Buying a business is a very serious decision and can be one of the biggest investments you make in your lifetime. We look at the steps involved in buying a business. It provides a good starting point to ensure you’ve considered all areas before making the big commitment.

  • We've broken down the process of buying a business into -
  • Evaluate yourself
  • Business structure
  • Due diligence
  • Evaluate the location
  • Sale of business contract
  • Employment issues

Evaluate yourself

Owning a business is certainly not for everyone. It’s up to you to ensure you’ve considered all the options before making the decision to be your own boss.

You have to identify and accept your strengths and weaknesses. It’s always a good idea to put these down on paper. List not only your professional strengths, achievements and skills but also your personal characteristics, as these will play a crucial part to your suitability and success.

Are you personable? A leader? Good with numbers? Comfortable giving presentations? Some of the important qualities of a business owner include:
1. perseverance
2. dedication
3. entrepreneurship
4. leadership
5. self-belief
6. confidence

If you’re not a natural decision-maker or lack in confidence, then you may need to reconsider owning your own business.

Business structure

In conjunction with your accountant and lawyer you should consider your business structure prior to buying a business. There are asset protection issues and taxation considerations that need to be addressed.
Some of the possible structures which can be adopted include:
sole trader, company, partnership, trust or a combination of a company and trust structure

You should bear in mind that each type of structure described attracts different setup costs, ongoing compliance costs, tax rates and personal risk. You should also be aware that adopting a company structure, for example, imposes numerous duties on the directors of that company. You should discuss those responsibilities with your lawyer.

Due diligence

You should do your homework and undertake extensive research before investing in a business.

Research should include obtaining information about:
the business owner's reputation in the market place
any current or threatened legal proceedings against the business owner
historical trading information and financial reports in respect of the business
the lease for the premises you may be occupying and the lease needs to be assessed by your advisors. You also need to ensure that any local government council permits or licences are obtained as required.

Evaluate the location

The location may be critical if you intend to be reliant on passing trade. If the location of the business is within a shopping centre you may request from the owner or the centre management traffic management information. This can provide helpful information about the area near the location of the business.

Sale of business contract

You need to ensure that the owners of the business, if a company, personally warrant that various matters relating to the business are in order.

For example, there may well be a warranty that the employee salaries are as detailed in the Schedule to the Contract. The warranties should be given by the directors of the vendor, if the vendor is a company. A further warranty may be that there have been no Work Cover claims in respect of any employee or that the financial accounts as annexed are true and correct. There are numerous warranty issues and a good business lawyer will identify those issues for you on a case by case basis depending upon the particular business.

Employment issues

You should be aware in acquiring a business to give careful consideration to all potential employment issues which may arise.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • statutory entitlements
  • the terms and conditions of employment
  • applicable industrial instruments
  • termination of employment
  • equal opportunity and
  • occupational health and safety obligations

These issues should be discussed in detail with an experienced legal advisor prior to signing any Sale of Business Contract. It is critical that a prospective purchaser is aware of the range of employment issues as there is various legislation imposing obligations on a business owner of or
incidental to their employees.

Buying a business is a serious undertaking and careful planning in terms of due diligence, financial budgeting and a detailed business plan, including an exit strategy, are critical in ensuring that you make the right decision.

Things have to change!
Maybe you’ve decided you need a complete change, a new challenge, or perhaps you’ve been made redundant and forced to re evaluate your career goals. Whatever the reason, changing professions can be daunting, however with a little planning and soul searching it can be easier than you think.

Change for the right reasons
You may have decided to throw in an advertising job for a career in publishing, or perhaps you’ve resolved that teaching rather than administration is where you need to be. Whatever the decision, to make sure you are planning a radical change for the right reasons, consider the points below:

What am I aiming for?
First things first, you need to identify how much you are willing to change your lifestyle. Will the new role offer enough challenge? You may have to work more hours in your new employment, or perhaps you intend to work less, but will have to survive on a lower income. Are you and your family willing to make these changes to achieve your ambition?

Will a career change solve the problem?
Sometimes wanting a drastic change is just a symptom of another issue. Consider carefully whether you are making this move for the right reasons. Are you changing professions for example, because you don’t like your boss? Would you still pursue this course if you were able to resolve the problem? Perhaps a temporary arrangement such as a holiday or off-site training for a week would give you the break you need to evaluate your situation objectively. When you have a clearer picture of what is motivating your decision, your next step will be that much clearer.

A new position in the same industry
A move within your industry may perhaps offer what you are looking for. For example, rather than moving from administration in the insurance industry to school teaching, perhaps a career in insurance training is a better move. After all, you can take your wealth of experience about the business with you, which a prospective employer will look at favourably.

The same position in a new industry
Perhaps you need a change from the type of business you are in, but love the work you’re doing? Rather than make a more radical move, looking for a similar role to the one you are in but in a different industry might be the key. For example, rather than moving from administration in the insurance industry to school teaching, perhaps a career in administration at a school is the direction you should take? You may not yet know about the intricacies of working in education, but you can bring with you a wealth of transferable skills.
"…show your prospective employer how valuable you can be to them"

Making the change
Studies show the average jobseeker will change careers (not jobs!) several times over the course of their lifetime. Is it time to take the plunge? If the answer is yes, then use this 5 step plan to ensure you’re on the right path.

Determine your likes and dislikes.
Whether you have identified your new career path or not, take a moment to evaluate what you like and dislike about your current role. What excites or bores you? Where do your passions lie? What are your personal interests, and could you find a career in them? Spend some time singling out what you really want, it’s the most important step to finding a career you’ll love.

Research your new career
Ok, so now you know what your passion is, what motivates and excites you in a job, it’s time to work out what career is right for you. How much research you do will of course be determined by the scope of the change you are intending to make.

While you may be aware of the more visible roles in an industry, you may not be as familiar with the myriad of positions around it. For example, you may want to work in radio. You know there are jobs announcing, but behind the announcer there are numerous team members supporting them. Finding a mentor, somebody already working in the industry, can give you the inside track. Understanding the ups and downs of the job can help you clarify whether a position is really the right one for you. A mentor can also help you to understand what appeals to employers in their field.

What can you bring with you?
When you sit down for an interview, you need to be clear about what you can bring to the table. To show your prospective employer how valuable you can be to them, review carefully what transferable skills you have now. Experience in areas such as communication, leadership or planning can be the kind of flexible skills that add weight to your application. You may be surprised how much experience you have already!

Taking on new skills
Taking a course in your new discipline can help you on a number of levels:
It will help you to understand some of the intricacies of the role.
It will also show a prospective employer you are committed to gaining new skills and take your new career seriously.

You will of course, gain a qualification that may be critical to moving within your new industry later.
If you decide to take on further study, there are a number of flexible options available to you. Alternatively, if you are looking for certification, you don’t necessarily have to trek down to the local College or University.

Volunteering may also be a viable option to get some ‘on the ground’ training, and displaying your dedication to employers. A volunteer position may also give you the inside track on what jobs are available and where.

Set goals
Be realistic about the task ahead of you, and get ready to be flexible about how quickly you can get into your intended field. A good approach is to identify the next best position, or the best springboard for your career change. If you find yourself being knocked back for your ideal role, you can change tactics quickly and start applying for your second choice instead. You may not achieve your ideal position right away, but you can place yourself in the best position to get it next time.

Lifestyle versus work or life
The workplace is changing, as many of us have found out the hard way. Marcus Letcher, author and consultant, has a message:

Modular work is all about customising work to suit individual needs. Letcher aims (and largely succeeds) in showing that the quality of life needs not be lost to the dictates of the employment market — that a balance between earning a living and living a sane, satisfying and sustaining life is possible. His main message is that through an intelligent selection of part-time modules of work, employment and personal enterprise activities can be meaningfully combined. He says, "Modular work is more than a job mix — it is a job composition, in which each distinct module of work has a rightful place and function which enhances the unity, form and purpose of the whole". Ideally each job should have the potential to reinforce the others so that all are mutually supportive. If the modules of work are strong and interrelated, they can be bolted together for a tight and reliable fit, then dismantled and regrouped to match new situations.

Instead of "a job", you need to think in terms of "work" that you can supply in a number of ways. Instead of a "job title" that limits your scope, harness your capabilities to "provide services". Think not of what you are, but what you do. It's all about raising your employability factor through adding value. Instead of being at the whim of an employer, you can create the flexibility to choose when and what you want to do

Who is it for?
He describes three groups of people hit hard by the changing nature of the workplace. He calls these the "overs", ""unders" and "outs". In the past seven years, full-time jobs have risen 1 per cent and part time by 27 per cent. This has added to the plight of involuntary part time workers. "Under employment" is marginalising more and more people. Those with "commonly held...and non-specific skills are falling behind...the highly sought after 'knowledge' or 'gold collar' workers," says Marcus Letcher. Such people simply don't earn enough to meet their needs.

The "over-employed" suffer from the perception that "if you are not working a 12 hour day you're perceived to be not serious about your job". Their lot is the "fabulous job, no life" syndrome.
Thirdly, the unemployed are "out" of the loop of employment, where their skills, self confidence, networks and employment savvy all diminish over time.

The modular work message is this: "Exploit the new jobs for your own purposes before they exploit you." You may find the modular work mode attractive if you:
have retired early
have been or are threatened with redundancy
want a vehicle for career transition
are young and unable to find opportunities which offer worthwhile development opportunities
want to cut back a demanding work style but stay connected to the workforce
live in a rural area with disappearing full-time work opportunities
are a single parent
want to start a small business enterprise
want to give voice to your special talents
feel stale after many years in the same job
mature and unemployed

What is it?
Modular work revolves around three areas: the core module, support modules and gap fillers.

Core Modules
The core module is the centrepiece around which your work matrix is built. It may only be small, but it makes the rest worthwhile because it is your vision, the work that transcends the mundane purely cash flow jobs. Your core module will maintain your profile and networks in that field. It will also assist skill development — it's usually easier to develop skills related to your existing skills base than to acquire entirely new ones. Letcher suggests that in attempting to identify your core module, ask yourself questions like these.

What excites you?
What gives you energy rather drains you?
What are your hobbies?
What can't you wait to start and never put off?
What have you been doing when you look up and can't believe how much time has passed?

Support Modules
Support modules are constants — usually a part-time job with income that is reliable. At best these will dovetail with your core module so that areas overlap in networks, skills and technologies.

Gap Fillers
Gap fillers are just as the name implies. These may be used to plug up gaps in your income stream, and are generally short term. If they are longer term, they usually require minimal time input and again it's desirable if they have synergy with the other modules. Don't underestimate the potential of the gap filler, as they can tide you over mortgage payments and other necessaries when your other income streams are low. The similarities between any of the modules multiplies the advantages of cross fertilisation. This adds to your own multi-skilling and builds transferable skills that are essential in this nature of work. Self-education or training also benefits the different modules. As Marcus Letcher wisely points out, "Just as you would invest cash into a business, invest in yourself, your training and development and thereby increase the return on your most valuable asset: You."
"The conundrum of our times: the only way to make a living is as a specialist and the only way to have a life is to do a variety of things. The way to live and make a living is to have a speciality and apply it to niches across the field, to have broad skills that can converge to create and recreate career pathways." Marcus Letcher goes on to say that if we are to embrace this, we need skills that are saleable, valued, valuable and transferable.

A balance between earning a living and living a sane, satisfying and sustaining life is possible.

What do you need?
While it appears exciting and full of marvellous potential, the modular work model is not a cure all for everyone. Like most things in life it will suit some but not all. It needs some fundamental essentials, without which the process is likely to be derailed, re-routed into a backwater, or just run out of steam.
Marcus Letcher lists six things he believes are essential for the model to work:
a skill or skills around which you can position the modules of work
the art of career self-management and the insights it needs
the ability to be enterprising in the application of your skill and the way you apply it
potential customers and knowledge of how you can bring yourself closer to them
good networks and the ability to build these in appropriate areas
access and understanding of technologies which will lighten your load
These are the practical nuts and bolts of what is required, but for many the first step is to perceive yourself, the job market and "the crisis" in a different way. There are two characters comprising the Chinese pictogram for 'crisis'. One is danger, and the other is opportunity. You have to be able to change your perspective from one that sees opportunity rather than danger in order to grasp the potential of modular work and its application in this ever changing work landscape. By going out to meet the crisis on your terms, you are minimising the element of danger, and maximising the element of opportunity.

The most successful modular workers according to Marcus Letcher are:
optimistic but realistic with their feet firmly on the ground
well organised
initiating
imaginative
curious
resilient
self-reliant
self-managing

“Modular work is more than a job mix — it is a job composition.”

A personal reflection
Five years ago, I was working for a government organisation, after having been seconded from teaching three years before. I could see the writing on the wall. My options were to wait to be sent back to my school, return voluntarily or jump ship altogether. I had been in education for nearly 20 years and the thought of returning to the classroom filled me with dread.

So, I resigned. I took up a part time job as an editor, which allowed me to explore my interests in curriculum writing and to develop skills in desktop publishing, proof reading and writing. I also expanded existing networks to assist in this venture. At the same time I took on contract work as an instructor in bicycle education — work I had done previously but which was now outsourced. This was in several two-day blocks throughout the school term. A few years before all this, I had completed my certificate in clinical massage, so now began actively promoting my massage services as another part time business. I also began a small gardening business which fell over due to poor marketing and a physical injury. As my desktop publishing skills developed, I was able to offer these services to those in my networks. After three and a half years, funding for the editorial position ceased and I was asked to apply for an education officer's position that I now hold three days per week.

I do not advertise any of my services, but have work referred to me through my networks. This model of employment works for me extremely well. I have a great deal of flexibility in when I work (I can choose when I desktop publish, massage and instruct) and am able to keep closely in touch with current developments in education through my three-days a week job and the instructor's work. These networks are often overlapping and mutually supportive. The desktop publishing work comes from my contacts in these educational fields, and my massage clients come from word of mouth in my other work areas, and even other tradespeople whom I employ (like the electrician's wife who had a bad back!). I also have the freedom to work some days at home.

For me, this mode of work has been life changing. I thought I didn't work as many hours as I once did. However, the hours are about the same but as they are at more suitable times. I have more useable free time which I can spend playing golf or making furniture as a hobby, and sometimes even to sell! My income stream has remained similar and I no longer suffer the feeling of burnout. I still have sufficient people contact and enjoy an enormous variety in my working life. The thought of returning to a five-day a week job doing the same thing at the same place is not one I can any more imagine for me.

"This sense of control — real or illusionary — is now considered crucial not only to the productivity but to the health and psychological well-being of a workforce." It has truly been a liberating experience.

We have prepared the following checklist and tips to help you make sure that your CV gives you the best possible advantage.

The checklist is by no means exhaustive, but if you follow these points, you will have a CV that is worth reading and maximises your career opportunities. Each point is important and it is equally important to make sure that your CV incorporates all of them. Miss out on one or two and you could see your good work on the others possibly wasted.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are your achievements expressed in terms of the benefits and value you have added to your employers?
Many people talk about their achievements from a personal perspective rather than from their employer's. For example, some people include in their achievements that they were promoted to this or selected for that or won a trip or that they developed their expertise in a technique or methodology. While these are definitely achievements (for the individual), what is missing is an indication of the value or benefit to the employer. Future employers want to know what contributions you have made in your career to the organisations for which you have worked. They want to know what you have done for others so they can decide whether you are likely to be able to do something of value for them.

Some people leave out the value or impact of their achievements. For example, We read many CV's where the candidate says something like: "Led a review of the company's sales function and recommended the centralisation of the order processing department." What is missing here is the impact or benefit. What happened as a result of the re-structure? Or, some people say: "Developed and implemented an effective induction program." That's fine. But what was the benefit or value of the induction program? What improved as a result?

2. Are your achievements clearly corroborated by evidence and examples?
The claims you make in your CV about your accomplishments and contributions are strengthened and have more credibility if you can provide examples and evidence. For example, if you introduced a method that improved workforce productivity, what indicators demonstrate that productivity increased and what was the benefit of the increase in productivity? If you reduced error rates, by what percentage? If you improved your employer's reputation in the market, what evidence indicates that this occurred and what was the benefit to the firm of this improved reputation?

3. Have you indicated how you achieved what you did?
One of the frustrations an employer or recruitment consultant faces when reading a CV is when the method, approach or strategy adopted to get the result is not clear. This is important because employers will want to know whether your approach or style would suit their culture and way of doing things and whether you adopt strategies that seem sound and logical.

For example, if you increased sales by 10%, how did you do it? There are many ways of increasing sales. The value of the achievement is obvious, but was it achieved by penetrating existing accounts further with the same services and products or by introducing new products to existing clients or through a marketing campaign that attracted new clients? Or was it achieved by increasing the number of sales people? The how can often be as important as the what.

4. Are your key strengths and abilities obvious and demonstrable?
A CV is like a brochure. You are the product. This means that the benefits of inviting you to an interview must be obvious from the outset. An effective approach is to summarise your competencies, skills, areas of expertise - the "offer" - up front. The rest of the document should then corroborate and expand on your offer and provide examples to substantiate what you claim to be your key strengths.

This last point is important. We have seen too many CV's where the person claims to be an excellent contributor to a team, only to find no evidence in the rest of the document to suggest that they had ever worked in a team (see point 5 below). I recommend the key strengths section be limited to those attributes, qualifications, areas of expertise and knowledge that really are your strong suits. This means that a list of 30 (and I have seen this) so called key strengths is unlikely to enhance your credibility.

5. Are your strengths linked to your achievements and accountabilities?
For example, if you claim to be an effective leader, then your experience and achievements should verify this. In this case it would mean, at the very least, that you have had significant experience in being responsible for managing the performance of one or more teams during your recent past. At best, it would mean that you have improved the performance, morale, motivation and turnover rates of the teams you have led.

6. Does it encourage the reader to read the rest of it after they've read the first half page?
There is a corporate myth that your CV will only get 30 seconds attention. This is not true. Some CV's only last 15 seconds before they reach the circular filing cabinet. It takes most people about that long (some claim even less) to form an opinion about you based on your CV. If they like the first half page, what it says about you and how it depicts you, it will stimulate them to make the effort to read the rest. It's a bit like a newspaper or magazine article. If the headline and the first few paragraphs interest us, we are more likely to put effort and time into the rest.

Therefore, ask yourself: "What is of interest to my reader in the first half page?" Most people ask the reader to read their home address, e-mail address, phone numbers, date of birth, marital status, name of their kids and dogs and all sorts of detail before they get to the heart of the matter. Put your contact details in the header or footer of the document. Many people start off with their qualifications and education. Why? This is of little interest to the reader at this point. If they don't like what you have to offer, they won't care where you live or how to contact you or that you have more degrees than a thermometer.

The first half page or so should be like a teaser. It should stimulate interest and arouse curiosity. You can achieve this by providing a brief career overview and setting out your offer up front.

7. Does it explain what you do beyond your job description?
One of the main weaknesses we see in CV's is when people provide the reader with a list of duties or tasks and think that is all the reader wants to know. In many cases, the reader will already be familiar enough with the nature of the work you have done to know what your duties were. For example, if you are a Financial Accountant for a commercial enterprise, the reader, either a Recruitment Consultant specialising in finance roles or a manager in charge of the company's finance or accounting function, will have a reasonably good grasp of what a Financial Accountant does. In fact, if you were to examine position descriptions for the Financial Accountant of 50 different organisations you will find an 85% overlap. Just look at the job advertisements for ten or so positions in your own field of expertise and note the similarity between the position requirements.

Therefore, you need to ask what you can tell the reader that they might not know and that will interest them. I am not saying that your responsibilities or duties should not be concisely summarised, but an effective resume will deliver more than this. The reader will want to know what you were accountable for ensuring or achieving, what value your current and previous jobs were designed to add to the business of the organisation, the level, nature and scope of your accountabilities, your decision making authority and the impact the job has or had on the organisation.

8. Is it well structured and organised?
There should be a logical flow and structure to the CV. You can read 11 books on writing CV's and find 12 opinions on the best way to structure and organise them. At the end of the day, the reader needs to know where you worked, when you worked there, the nature of the business of the organisations for which you worked (unless they are household names), what you were accountable for ensuring or achieving and what contributions you made or value you added. They need to know what you have to offer and how to contact you.

Many people agonise over whether to use a functional or chronological or hybrid format. The CV books will advise you what is most suitable for different situations. The main issue is whether the document has a structure that leads the reader from the general to the specific and whether it allows the reader to gain a quick overview if they want to and whether it provides easy access to the details if they need them.

9. Is it visually appealing?
Some people go to extraordinary lengths by using sophisticated graphic design programs, charts, photographs, clip art and so on. Remember, you are probably going to send your CV by e-mail. Therefore, it should be created in Microsoft Word (saved as one version earlier than the current version, since organisations might not upgrade their version as soon as it comes out), only use fonts that come standard with Word and produce it in black and white, since most organisations will use a black and white laser printer and your efforts in selecting nice pastels will look a bit washed out. Clip art is cute, but cute is not usually what you want to sell.

Word has plenty of capacity to allow you to be a little creative in format and design. However, unless you are a graphics expert, we recommend that you keep things simple. Flamboyant attempts at "design" often fall flat unless you are trained. Some people try to create fancy cover pages. These are largely a wasted effort. They add no value. Remember, substance over form. Don't use fancy borders and other special "effects". The distract the reader from what is important and can unwittingly create suspicion in the reader's mind.

We recommend using a different font for headings and text. For example, you might use Arial or Tahoma bold for the headings and Times New Roman or Garamond plain for the text. Use tables to create plenty of white space to help the reader scan the document and reduce eye fatigue. We usually recommend making the line of text around two-thirds to three-quarters of the width of the page - short lines are easier to read and improve concentration. Use font sizes that are easy to read. We have seen people use 9 point Arial or even 9 point Arial Narrow in an effort to minimise the amount of pages used. This can only annoy the reader.

A four or five page well laid out document that is easy on the eye and leads the reader smoothly through the information is more effective than something crammed into two pages that makes it impossible to find anything and requires the reader to make a superhuman effort to deal with the information.

10. Is it likely to differentiate you significantly from the rest of the candidates?
This means that if you were to take your name from the top and replace it with someone else's, would it make a difference? A CV should reflect your individuality, your unique achievements, your particular combination of skills, expertise, achievements and contributions. It should set you apart from the other applicants.

11. Is the language simple and straightforward?
The most persuasive writing is typically the easiest to read and understand. If your CV is full of jargon and technical terms or phrases that are only commonly used by a handful of people, the reader will reach their tolerance level much sooner than you want them to. I appreciate that some jargon is necessary. However there are two issues to consider.

Firstly, not every recruitment consultant or senior manager or Human Resources Manager will be as intimately familiar with the terms and jargon as someone who uses it all the time. Therefore, write for a somewhat broader audience than your colleagues or immediate manager. Someone once told me that they would not work for anyone who did not understand the technical side of the job as well as they did. They are still looking!

Secondly, an employer and recruitment consultant will want to know whether you understand the broader business implications of what you do, not just the terminology and technical aspects. By talking to them in more general business terms you create an impression that you understand more than your particular field of specialisation. This creates an even better impression that you might be a candidate for promotion in the future.

Some people have MBAs and other post graduate business or commerce qualifications. If you know someone who does, you may find something strange happens to their speech and writing patterns. The word "strategic" appears in every other sentence and twice in others. Perfectly adequate, simple terms and phrases become tortured and vague so that the reader has to read three times before they think they know what is being said. People are impressed by CV's that express achievements and accountabilities in clear, concise, unambiguous, direct, active terms.

12. Does it criticise your employers?
Hands up anyone who has ever worked for an organisation or a boss they didn't like or who made dumb decisions or who treated people badly or who were incompetent and so on. Make absolutely sure there is no criticism, even implied, of your current or former employers in your CV, justified or not.

CV Guide

Everybody, regardless of the stage of their career, needs a current CV close at hand, ready to respond to a great opportunity.

Your CV is a vital part of your job search toolbox. One Recruitment can help you to cut through the confusion and get started on preparing the best CV you've ever had!

CV Content
A list of essential information can be a great starting point, a checklist to help you evaluate your skills and aspirations.

Personal details
Don't waste paper with a cover sheet. List your name and contact details at the top of the first page, including your postal address and a telephone contact number. Include your email address only if it is private and you can check for incoming messages at least once a day. As a general rule, don't include your work number unless you have a private office where you can take a phone call without being overheard.

An alternative is to include your home phone number and check for messages at regular intervals during the day. If you don't have an answer phone, consider subscribing to voice mail while you are job-hunting. If you live in a share household, make sure your flatmates know you may be receiving calls from prospective employers.

It is no longer usual to include details under headings such as gender, age, marital status, religion, ethnicity or health. Some experts strongly counsel against including these details. It can make your CV look dated and this personal information is not relevant to your ability to do the job. If any of the factors are relevant and an employer has an exemption to discriminate on these grounds, mention the appropriate information in your cover letter.

Career objective
Differences of opinion exist about including a career objective. Some experts dislike them, viewing them as an Americanism, cliched or adding no value. If you do use one, expect to rewrite it, even slightly, to match each job you apply for.

Three sample career objectives:

Accountant
An accounting position in a blue-chip media/entertainment company. Long-term plans are to advance into a management position with responsibility for financial functioning of the firm.

Graphic designer
To obtain an entry-level position as a graphic designer that will utilise my creative and organisational skills and will provide an intense learning experience.

Retail manager
To become a store manager in a national retail chain with opportunities to advance to state sales management.

Professional experience
The best CVs are brief and informative, so every word in this section must work hard for you. As a general rule, include the most detail about your current job. If you've been in the workforce for some period of time, simply list the position, company and dates of your earlier or least relevant jobs. You are not obliged to list every job you've ever had. A tactic for older job seekers is to only list jobs since, say, 1995. This only works if your most recent jobs are the most relevant to the position you are seeking.

Try to illustrate a logical pattern of career development in your account of your work experience. If you have "downsized" your career or moved sideways, you may wish to include a brief reference to the circumstances that motivated your move. For instance, "By accepting a less senior position, I was able to accommodate part-time graduate study. In this role, I..."

Company and title
Make a decision about whether the companies you have worked for are more important than your job titles. The most important information should go first, followed by the job title on a new line. Make sure you maintain a consistent style to allow for quick scanning and comprehension.

Job summary
Don't just describe your duties and responsibilities. Emphasise your achievements and show how you contributed to your employer's business. Carefully consider how you can quantify your goals and achievements.

As an example:
"Transformed an inefficient call centre with low morale into an organised, lean and quality focused organisation, increasing revenue by 12 per cent, decreasing costs by 20 per cent and decreasing staff turnover by 25 per cent."

In some cases there won't be a quantitative measure of your achievements. Find other ways to show your contribution. For example:
"Conducted a production inventory and calculated costs as a consultant to a national retailer; findings led to a shift in the purchasing strategy"

There may not have been a problem in the first place. You did however initiate an action and get a result.
"As a self-employed contractor, set up databases for organisations that led to increased productivity for account managers."

The best CVs are brief and informative,

Education
The level of detail depends on the balance between your qualifications and your work experience. It may be suitable for graduates with little experience to list selected classes and to include results if these are better than average (or requested).

As a general guide, the less recent your qualification, the less information you provide. A typical format lists the name of the qualification, the date you graduated, the institution which granted it and your course. For example: LLB, 2001, University of Glasgow Degree: Law

Begin with the highest level of educational achievement. You can leave out details about high school if you have a higher degree or qualification.

The education section usually follows the employment details unless you are recently graduated or you are pursuing an academic position where your educational achievements are more relevant.

References and referees
It is increasingly uncommon for past employers to provide written references. Instead, a new employer will want the names and contact details of referees — people who know you well and can be contacted to check the details in your CV.

Choose your referees carefully. You must gain someone's agreement before listing them as a referee. A new employer generally won't contact referees until they have selected a preferred candidate — or if they are trying to decide between two candidates.

Consider not including details of your referees on your CV. Once you have been interviewed you can offer details of referees. It is a courtesy to advise referees that they may be contacted. It is also a valuable opportunity to tell them briefly about the position, what it involves and to gently remind them of your relevant skills.

Sometimes a job advertisement or position description will specifically ask for the names of referees to be included with your application. In such cases, you have little choice but to include them.

Optional extras
A good CV is as brief as possible. Only include items listed below if they will truly strengthen your application.
Professional training
Professional affiliations and memberships
Licences and accreditations
Knowledge of foreign languages
Publications
Special accomplishments such as awards
Interests

"A new employer generally won't contact referees until they have selected a preferred candidate — or if they are trying to decide between two candidates."

Tailoring your CV
Ideally, tailor your CV for each application you submit. Every job is unique and requires a different mix of skills and experience. Don't focus your CV on what you want. Instead, understand the needs and problems facing the employer. Research the company and industry to work out what problems and challenges the company faces. If you are responding to an advertised vacancy, read the ad closely to identify what issues or problems the successful candidate needs to solve.

Next, go through your work history, retrieving the skills and experience most relevant to this employer and position. Summarise or leave out those parts of your work history which won't help you get the job. Essentially, you are emphasising some skills and achievements and de-emphasising others. Don't lie.

As part of this process, give some thought to what tone to use in your application. For example, aggressively selling yourself may suit a high-powered sales role. A graphic artist might want to develop a CV that reflects their creativity.

Once you have written the CV be sure to get somebody whom you trust to read it. An objective opinion can help improve your CV, but keep in mind that there are many different ideas about the ideal presentation. Weigh advice carefully (including ours).

"… tailor your CV for each application you submit"

Different CV formats
There are three main ways to organise your CV: the chronological, functional or hybrid model. Each format is best suited to different circumstances.

Noel Waite makes a case for "career insurance", as she considers the future of work for professionals. The old career paths and expectations are gone, she says. Actively managing your own career is vital. And managers have a role too, in assisting their employees with career planning. We're experiencing global, environmental, organisational and technical change of unbelievable rapidity. This is a time of change and rapid adjustment which can be painful for some and wonderful for others. How will you react?

Managing your own career is becoming absolutely essential as companies pay even more attention to returns to shareholders and external competitive pressures. In the 1990s, both public and private sector organisations have been downsizing and restructuring to create a rapid reduction of overheads. The massive change experienced by management and the workforce has both negative and positive effects. Change used to be natural and progressive. Now because of many factors, particularly economic, we are looking at imposed change.

The traditional model of company security, vertical career paths, promotional layers and associated rewards has given way to the new order of business. Today's organisation is flatter, has varied career paths and doesn't offer assumptions as to career progression, security and subsequent rewards.

The changing nature of work has resulted in a changing work environment.
The main features emerging are moves: from continuous employment to continued employability; from vertical careers to lateral careers; a single lifetime career to multiple careers; from employer-managed careers to employee self-managed careers.

In the UK, career management is certainly becoming recognised [by managers] as an integral part of raising morale, lifting productivity and assisting with succession planning. It can be a positive step for developing co-operation and acceptance of change as an opportunity rather than a threat. The days of "the company will look after me" have gone and career development programmes focus on self-development and individual action plans. The responsibility for career planning rests with the individual while the responsibility for career development support should rest with the employer. The employee has to make his or her own career and life decisions and must have ultimate control over the critical variables, whether to seek or accept new job assignments, whether to stay in the organisation and whether to take action on higher performance and personal growth.

Regardless of status and type of employment, optimal work satisfaction is only achieved by matching the unique characteristics of a person with a particular occupation. Change is not related to the economic, organisation and work environment only. People are constantly changing and factors such as age, personal circumstances and lifestyle priorities are becoming well recognised as prime influences on a person's productivity and welfare.
I believe in the concept of lifetime occupation, career options and every individual having a fall-back position or "career insurance" — in other words an alternate career for continuation long after leaving a company [when you turn] 50 or 60. My personal view is that this life/career planning should commence as early as 20 years and continue indefinitely. I don't believe in the word "retire", rather "change of occupation".

We have seen so many distressed people who may have been spared some of the trauma experienced from redundancy had they already planned their career insurance.

When operating an out placement facility for a major bank, we counselled hundreds of bank managers who had never experienced life on the employment market or having to search for an alternate job. The emotional trauma cannot be underestimated. However, many success stories have emerged as a result of self-appraisal and change of occupations.

Career development programmes focus on self-development and individual action plans.


Career development/transition programmes
Career crises are ageless in that they can strike at any time. The best way to avoid crises is to monitor personal progress and re-assess your career and skills on a regular basis.
As the supply and demand for certain sets of skills and experiences fluctuate, individuals need to be flexible with their career choices and future directions. It is accepted that students leaving secondary education today will change careers on average four to five times during their working lifetime. One vocation is unlikely to be sufficient in the workplace of the future.

Career development counsellors claim that each career has a lifecycle made up of four steps: 1. Exploration 2. Advancement 3. Maintenance 4. Decline.

A [fuller] description [might be] commencing with ambition, advancing to the plateau, then losing incentive and possibly seeking a change. These career life cycles can continue indefinitely. Career transition programs can be extremely exciting and stimulating for those who have never taken the time to thoroughly review their past and future directions. Life and career options, skills, interests, environment, job content, goal-setting and action planning are only some of the areas to be covered. Many participants experience a great change in self-concept, becoming much more focussed and able to make career decisions based on sound information.

Accept the concept that career security comes from within.
Career ownership
What are an individual's coping mechanisms for the 2000s? The first priority would be to accept the concept that career security comes from within — not from the organisation. Creating career security means taking complete ownership and responsibility for yourself and your own career management. This takes awareness, energy, enthusiasm and confidence. The latter is only achieved by having a complete picture of self and a planned direction as to future goals and aspirations.

Personal growth is building your job market value and entails learning new skills. The changing work environments will open new avenues for development. Individuals must think creatively, keep up with current trends, investigate where the organisation is going and try to determine where the next jobs will be in say, 12 months or five years time. Determining critical needs of the company will assist you to determine your own extra training needs. Being multi-disciplined is essential for a changing environment, however the new skills must sit comfortably with you.

Your career insurance will be to develop portable skills and position yourself accordingly inside or outside the organisation.
Let us look at a typical career journey, which may [help] you think differently about self and business exploration. We may perceive ourselves in one role only and close our minds to the many facets of our skills, abilities and possible vocations. To find your potential and career options you need to cover these vital elements of career management: lifestyle priorities; employment preferences; realistic skills audit; skills versus preferences; career choices; goal-setting; balancing work/family/you; action plan — personal/career. Visibility and networking are essential elements for career positioning.

Future jobs
Do your homework. You must investigate leads as to where the jobs will be in this rapidly changing environment. Finding a mentor within the business will help, however you must do the research, you must be the investigator:

evaluate the business; seek out future options; investigate company facilities for career management; select a mentor; identify promotional opportunities; examine work practices and values.

Match your career aspirations to your knowledge of the future human resource needs of the organisation. Some senior financial executives are already opting for a portfolio career or working towards it. This can be a combination of consulting, teaching and directorships or solely directorships. This is a fast-growing new trend, particularly for women. Many professionals are aware of the need to market products and services yet have a complete resistance to the concept of self-marketing. Leaders in the 2000s will not only have high-level technical and interpersonal skills, they will ensure that the package is right. This also involves a portfolio of marketing tools such as a CV that is concise, targeted and represents a true track record of achievement.

Add breadth to your skills. [For example], finance executives should be exposed to current high technology, marketing and human resources for future general management. There is no automatic path to senior management and/or directorships. However, grasping opportunities and positioning yourself where you will be seen to do a good job will certainly help you along your way. These self-marketing strategies don't happen by accident. They are a result of calculated preparation. They take concentration, time and targeted investigation. Once the package is right, visibility and networking are essential elements for career positioning. One of the most important aspects of networking is to remember that people generally love to be asked for advice. Move outside the comfort zone and meet interesting men and women outside your organisation and outside your present profession. Never hesitate to give of yourself — it undoubtedly brings returns which contribute to your personal growth.

Above all — don't accept limits.
This article is an extract from a speech delivered by Noel Waite. by Noel Waite, Chairman, Waite Consulting

Your CV's primary job is to win you an invitation to an interview. But that's not all it can do.
Your worst enemy in a job interview is time. Therefore, making the most of the time allocated to the interview is critical to gaining a competitive edge. How do you want to be remembered by the interviewers? As the candidate with whom they spent 75 per cent of the precious, never to be repeated time clarifying your skills, experience and achievements? Or as the candidate with whom they had an in-depth discussion about your ability to contribute to the organisation's future success?

Listing your jobs in chronological order and succinctly summarising your duties is not enough. Consider what an employer really wants to know before they even pick up the phone to talk with you. They want to know what difference you have made to your previous employers. They want to know how your skills, qualifications, abilities and know-how have been applied. And they want to know how your efforts have added value to the organisations for which you have worked.

If your CV satisfies these needs, the interviewer does not need to spend valuable interview time discovering what you did, how you did it, what you achieved and what difference your achievements made. The interview therefore starts at a much higher level. Interviewers can dispense with clarifying the basics because it has all been clearly explained to them. They can probe more deeply and you can engage them in a more advanced conversation about how you do things and why you do them in that way.

In short, the interviewer gets more from the experience. They remember you as the person with whom they had an interesting in-depth discussion. They perceive you as knowledgeable, insightful and competent as you really are. They understand you at a deeper level: your motivations and drivers, your approach to tasks, how you would fit their culture and how effective you are likely to be.

Some clients have asked whether this is dangerous: the more they know you, the more likely they are to decide against you. We suggest looking at it from the point of view of the more they know, the better the decision. If you aren't right for the job or the organisation, or if the job or organisation is not right for you, isn't it better to know before you start? There is nothing worse for a career than finding out three months after starting that there is not really a good fit after all. Unless of course, you find out three weeks after starting!

Revising your CV also ensures you have more time at the interview to fully explore the career opportunity and the organisation being presented to you.

Emphasise outcomes not activities
Often we take for granted what we do in our day to day work. Employers and recruitment consultants do not have the same depth of understanding about what you have done as you. They want things spelled out for them. They don't want to have to read between the lines. Your CV should explain everything they want to know.

When we discuss this issue with our clients, many ask whether including all this additional information will make their CV excessively long. People will read what they find interesting and useful. There are ways of formatting and designing your CV that make best use of the page. There are ways of expressing information to minimise the word count without diminishing the value of the information. Knowing what to exclude is also important. Knowing where to position information is often as important as what to say.

Let's look at some ways of expressing achievements:
Before
"Developed and implemented a new data searching methodology."
After
"Reduced the time required to search the database by developing and implementing meta data structures."

The achievement in this example is not the development and implementation of the methodology, but the time saved by so doing. Anyone can see the benefit of saving time. But not everyone can see the benefit of the new methodology unless it is articulated.

Another typical way of presenting an achievement is:
"Successful tour of nine cities delivering key marketing messages to business partners."

Our Question: "So what?" What did the tour achieve? In what way was it successful?"

These are the questions that an interviewer would be duty bound to ask. The question consumes time and the answer pilfers even more. And having to explain the benefits of each achievement at an interview is frustrating. You want to get on with it, but they won't let you because you have not satisfied their curiosity.

The fact that the person toured nine cities is irrelevant. Saying that they delivered key marketing messages is irrelevant and wasteful. Why would you deliver an unimportant marketing message?

Let's satisfy the interviewer's curiosity by saying something like:

"Increased product sales and market penetration by 5 per cent after elevating our business partners' sales and marketing abilities through education programmes and advice and by providing more timely product information."

The achievement here was the increase in sales. The method was to improve the abilities of the company's partners. The process was education, advice and better product information. Does this take up more words? Yes. Does it deliver a more effective message? You judge. Could we have said even more than we have about how they went about doing what they did? Yes, but there has to be something left for the interview! It's a matter of judging how much information to provide.

The conversation at the interview can then start at a higher level by focusing on the content and process of educating the business partners, how they won the hearts and minds of the business partners and how they overcame any barriers in achieving this result.

If you do this for one achievement you will have one meaningful conversation. If you do it for all of them, the entire interview will have more depth. You will probably be so interesting that they will give you more time than your competitors!

Quantifying achievements
Some people ask whether it is always necessary to try to quantify achievements. It is always best to try to do so if possible. Numbers make sense to people. They provide a universal way of expressing the magnitude and value of an achievement.
Before
"Negotiated and implemented a Workplace Agreement with the workforce."
After
"Negotiated and implemented a Workplace Agreement that significantly reduced overtime claims and rectified numerous anomalies in employment terms and conditions, reducing confusion and conflict and saving the company around £50,000 annually."

At the end of the day, the company must believe that it will get value from the new agreement and it should, if it is a good business, attempt to measure the outcome. In this example, there was a tangible cost saving as well as intangible benefits (reduced conflict and confusion). Although it is difficult to quantify the benefit of less conflict and confusion, I doubt any employer would like to see more of them!

Review your CV and ask yourself these questions
Does it showcase not just your skills but your achievements?
Does it show your achievements in a clear, logical and quantifiable way?
Does it show the reader exactly what you have to offer?

When you are invited to an interview it means that the hiring manager believes you may be a good match for the job opening, and he or she wants to know for sure. The interview is used to determine whether you are qualified for the position. Also one important thing as the job seeker is, you should make use of the interview to determine whether you can be successful in the available position.

A candidate who can answer questions in a way which is acceptable, but not necessarily right, to the interviewer, someone who knows something about their potential employers business and the post they hope to fill. These are really the basic components of any candidate who 'interviews well'. There are undoubtedly other aspects employers may look for in relation to specific posts - having their own ideas, thinking on their feet, aspects which will be related to the job and to the company's preference in employees.

The key to successful interviews
We all know the main aim of the job interview. Your potential employer has worked through the entire laborious process and if you're still in the game, you'd have to assume that you now have a reasonable chance of landing the job. The interview is without doubt the most stressful point of the job search process for the job seeker and also the one that counts most.

Your potential employer has received a pile of applications and CV's. These have been weeded through. Now it's time to put faces to the paperwork and ask probing, insightful questions to determine the perfect candidate for the prized position. But, as we also all know, what we aim for isn't what always happens. It's the person who gives the best interview who wins — whether they're the best one for the job or not.

One important point to remember is that we are only human. And so too are our interviewers. Some of us perform badly in interviews. And sometimes our interviewers perform badly, too. There are times we go in poorly prepared. And occasionally, they do too. Sometimes we ask foolish questions. And sometimes they ask questions they have no right to ask. Whatever happens, don't be disheartened. See every interview as a learning experience. If you are not successful, ring and ask for feedback. Determine what you did well and where you need to improve.

Preparation
See the interview as a competition — one in which there is rarely a prize for coming second. So you have to win. And before you can win any competition, you need to prepare for it. Identify four or five of your most valuable strengths, thinking along the lines of personal qualities. These could include the ability to stay calm while other around you are panicking; commitment; willingness to work long hours; lateral thinking; team leader, team player, sense of humour. Prepare an example of how you have demonstrated each of these strengths and make sure you get an opportunity to mention them somewhere during the interview. At the same time confront some of your weaknesses. While you don't need to share these with your interviewer/s, you don't necessarily want to land yourself a job you will hate.

Demonstrate a "good fit"
List the requirements of the job point by point, then match your experience to the appropriate requirements. Learn them. But make sure that, when the opportunity arises, they come out naturally and spontaneously — don't regurgitate them in an obviously rehearsed way. If you're truly lucky, a less than total match will be overlooked. But if a gap is mentioned, try to stress your enthusiasm to learn.

If they're right onto you and probe deeply, accept that you need experience in that area. Counter any negative impact by pointing out a previous situation where you were 'thrown in at the deep end' and you demonstrated a rapid learning curve.

Know the organisation
If you can't demonstrate some interest in how the company makes their money, they're unlikely to offer you any of it. The more you can find out about the following, the better: company size, form, locations and divisions; products and services, target market; culture and reputation; financial performance and history, including turnover, profitability and exports;major competitors.

If it is a small company that is unlisted on the stock exchange, you could be limited to word-of-mouth. But if it is a listed company you can research in libraries, trade references and newspapers.

Review your CV
Read your CV carefully to remind yourself of your past achievements and identify areas to highlight at the interview. You got to the interview stage because the interviewer saw something in the CV that appealed. Identify what it is.
Practise answering likely questions on your past history that show the following. A logical progression from one position to the next. Positive reasons for moving rather than negative ones or fickle rationales. How your experience has been built by each successive employer and is now available to the new company.

Plan the journey
Plan your route carefully. Allow for delays and traffic jams. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview so that you're relaxed. Arrive at the interview venue no more than five minutes early. Use the time to soak up the atmosphere of the company and mentally go over what you want to say.

Dress appropriately
Dress comfortably but presentably. If in doubt, err on the side of conservatism, avoiding loud ties, bright socks or esoteric clothing. Make sure your shoes are clean and avoid overpowering aftershave/perfume. Dress in dark blue, black. Darker outfits give an image of control, while lighter ones tend to show a need for attention. Make sure that you are still well presented if you take off your jacket.

At the interview
You're prepared, on time, perfectly groomed for the role and ready to convince them that you're the person they need. Along with the other applicants, you will have been allocated a certain amount of time in which to convince the interviewer or panel of interviewers. It's also worthwhile pointing out that the interviewers too are in the spotlight to an extent. Even the most thorough pre-application research cannot tell you certain things about the company or the job. So the recruiter/employer is selling the company and position to you as well.

Make a good first impression
The first impression is always the strongest and most lasting. Be friendly, but not over-friendly. Leave the smart, witty rejoinders for another time. Create a positive first impression by offering a firm, non-bone crunching, handshake and make direct eye contact.

Deal with nerves
Being nervous is normal and most experienced interviewers understand this. And it rarely harms your chances if you acknowledge your nervousness. However, excessive nervousness can work against you — especially if you continually apologise for it. It makes other applicants, who are more relaxed and confident, seem more attractive. Also many people tend to be overly talkative when nervous. If you fall into this category, try not to go off on tangents. Stick to the question being asked and answer it concisely. You will control your nervousness more effectively if you have taken the time to practise answering questions before the interview.

Ask questions
Interviews aren't supposed to be grilling sessions. The intention behind a good interview is to find out more about you, while you find out more about them. In other words, to get a good match between the person and the job. Interviews should be a two-way street. Probing, intelligent questions can help the employer to evaluate your professional and personal needs. Your chance of being successful increases when the employer believes that the position will be mutually beneficial. Consider bringing a notepad and pen to take notes of answers to your questions and pertinent facts and figures. It shows you have come prepared and are taking the opportunity seriously.

Answer honestly and completely
Answer questions honestly. Avoid the temptation to overly embellish your experience, qualifications and abilities. If you're questioned deeply about a fact that you've creatively enhanced, your credibility could disappear. On the other hand, try to avoid giving blunt "yes" or "no" answers. They reveal nothing. Certainly, a "closed" question ("Do you perform well under pressure?"), generally indicates an unskilled interviewer. You could simply answer "yes" but this doesn't help you. If you get a closed question, give a brief but comprehensive response. Use it as an opportunity to sell yourself. "Yes, it gets the adrenalin going and I get a real sense of achievement. But I also like to plan and manage my time so as to avoid crises when possible." As a general rule of thumb, try not to speak longer than two minutes at a time and never dominate the conversation.

The recruiter must feel in control.
Furthermore, in What Colour is your Parachute, Richard Bolles points out that studies have shown that people who mix listening and speaking activities roughly 50/50 have a greater chance of getting hired.

Don't complain
Avoid making negative judgements and criticisms of past employers and companies — even if encouraged — unless you want interviewers to make the following judgements: you're a "know-all"; you're a "buck-passer" who refuses to accept responsibility for your own performance;
you'd criticise this organisation and its members when applying for a future job.

Ask for the job
Don't be afraid to strongly communicate your desire for the job. Acting cool won't get you anywhere. An interested candidate always gets the offer over the non-interested candidate.

Here is an example of how you might phrase it
"I'm very interested in what you're doing here and the products you're developing. The working environment appears pleasant and the people I've met seem knowledgeable. It's a very interesting opportunity and I believe with my background I could make a significant contribution."