Job seeker career advice
Need some additional guidance on how to secure that next HR job? Read the latest tips from putting together a CV, your ultimate selling tool, through to how to cope at interviews.
Where to look for jobs in HR
Looking for a job in HR? This page will guide you on where to look.
Rather than exclusively using recruitment agencies, many organisations try bringing people on board directly. You'll find a wealth of job boards and career websites online, where you can request regular updates on roles that interest you.
Organisations are increasingly advertising vacancies on their own careers sites. So, if you'd like to work at a particular place, check the website and their available positions. Many organisations recruit graduates into entry-level positions but don’t advertise these as a Graduate Training Scheme. Don't be put off: these can be great places to begin your career.
Make social media work for you
Create a profile on websites like LinkedIn. Recruiters use LinkedIn to find people with particular skills or experience, so highlight these in your profile to make it easier to find you.
Develop your own networks. Chat to friends and ex-colleagues about your job search. Employee referral programmes are also popular in many organisations where employees refer friends or family for roles, sometimes with an incentive. It’s a great way for organisations to recruit good people through staff who already know the organisation.
Get expert advice
It's worth speaking to a careers adviser about your career options – they can offer useful advice on job searches and local work experience opportunities.
Look closer to home
If you’re considering a career move from another area into HR, think about the options available to you in your current organisation. You can often get involved in HR activities within an organisation, such as recruitment, or even move into HR at a place that already knows you. This can give you a great insight into whether the move is right for you. If it is, you may win an HR position that serves as a springboard for your career.
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CV writing skills
When applying for jobs, your CV is your ultimate selling tool. By following these tips and spending some time getting it right, you could soon reap the rewards.
Highlight titles and main headings in bold. Keep the order chronological. If you have little work experience, you can put your academics first. If you've been working, put your academics towards the end. Don’t try to reduce the font size to 8 points and reduce margins to fit it all in. Only include what's really necessary to get you the job.
No recruiter wants to read an 8-page CV, so make it short and sharp. Keep the number of pages to two or less.
Spelling and grammar
Always check your spelling and grammar. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a CV with lots of errors. Spell-check your CV and ask someone else to read it over.
Make your contact details clear so recruiters know how to contact you. Many recruiters have problems finding email addresses or phone numbers on CVs.
Adapt your CV
Don’t just send out the same CV to every employer. Think about the organisation you’re applying to and what they're looking for; then change your CV to match. For example, if they're looking for someone with experience of leading teams, include details of that in your CV.
If the job you’re applying for requires particular qualifications, highlight those on your CV. If the role doesn't require specific qualifications, don’t list every grade you received at school and university.
Write about more than the responsibilities you held in each work experience role. Provide details about what you achieved, including figures and statistics if you can. For example, saying you implemented a graduate programme that increased applications by 50% looks much better than a bullet point confirming the fact you managed graduate programmes.
Recruiters have differing views on personal statements. Some like them, others don't. If you want to include one, don’t just write a statement such as: 'I’m a results-driven professional with excellent communication skills.' Think about what the organisation wants and how you can highlight your skills for the role in a short paragraph. For example, 'I’m a reward specialist with two years' experience in a medium-sized organisation. I am experienced in linking reward strategy to business needs to engage and reward our people in line with their performance.'
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Interviewers will ask you many different questions. The key to answering them successfully is simple: be prepared. Look at the job description, advertisement and the organisation’s website. What are they looking for from their people? Then consider your relevant skills and experience and how you can demonstrate them in the interview. It's wise to think outside the box. A project or work experience role that didn't seem important at the time may be an excellent subject to discuss. Here are just some of the questions your interviewer may ask...
Why have you applied for this role?
Explain your motivation for the role, what you know about the company, and why you think you're suitable for the position.
What attracted you to this organisation?
Show you're interested in the organisation and that you've researched them. For example, do you know the market they operate in? And who their competitors are? Knowing details like this is important when applying for HR roles, as making a difference means you really need to understand the organisation.
Which recent news story has particularly stood out to you?
You need to show you have a wider interest in business and the news. Try to think of something topical that's interested you. If you’re stuck, ask for a minute to think about the question.
Tell me about a time you had to work under pressure
Your interviewer is encouraging you to talk about a project or piece of work that you found quite stressful. How did you deal with the pressure? Did you give up and walk away? Or did you find a solution and get the job done? They want to learn about your resilience when under stress and how you cope when things go wrong.
Tell me about a time you had to resolve a conflict in a team
The interviewer wants to know if you can deal with issues within a team. So, describe briefly the structure of the team and your role within it. If there was conflict, did you deal with it or ignore it? What was the outcome?
Can you give me an example of when you've had to give feedback to someone?
They're asking if you can show your coaching skills and ability to develop others. Do you shy away from giving feedback or are you good at tactfully giving positive and developmental responses? How did they take your comments and what was the result?
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You've impressed them with your CV and covering letter, and now you've got that all-important interview. But don't rest on your laurels, read this section for some handy tips on how to prepare for your interview.
Do your homework
Before the big day, visit the organisation's website, as most have information on careers. Read up on the skills they're looking for and whether you meet those requirements. Then think about any examples you can talk about that demonstrate those skills. Interviewers are likely to ask you for examples of times you've demonstrated a particular skill or behaviour. That's because they know previous behaviour can help predict your future performance. If the website doesn't have a lot of information, look at the job specification or advertisement, and note the key skills they want. Once again, think about how you can demonstrate these.
Plan your travel and expect the unexpected
Little is worse than getting lost or missing trains before an interview. Of course, things can happen that are out of your control and it’s important to inform your interviewer if you're going to be late. Leave early for your interview and you'll feel more prepared and composed on arrival.
Prepare the questions you want to ask
You want to demonstrate that you've researched the organisation and you're interested in them, so prepare a question or two to ask. Perhaps you read something about the organisation that captured your interest. Or you might want to ask the interviewer what they most enjoy about working for the organisation.
It's natural to feel nervous before an interview. But don’t panic if things don’t go according to plan. If a question throws you off track, ask for a moment to think about it and compose yourself. If you're really stressed, let your interviewer know; this will help them understand your situation and make you feel at ease. They don't want to catch you out – they just want to see if you have the right skills and motivations for the role.
Give an accurate picture of yourself in the interview. Friends and family may have advised you about what to say, but it's best to be yourself. This way, you reveal your personality and make yourself appear much more relaxed.
Watch your body language
If, when under pressure, you tend to play with your hair, fiddle with a pen, bite your nails or anything else, try not to during the interview. Instead, look your interviewer in the eye, sit up straight and never slouch.
First impressions last
First impressions count, so make sure you’re wearing something appropriate for the interview that's not too uncomfortable. Your handshake is important, so look the interviewer in the eye, and shake firmly – although not with too much force!
Listen and answer the questions
You may have prepared answers for some questions. However, don't answer a question with a response that doesn’t relate to it. Listen carefully to the interviewer and make sure you answer appropriately. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to elaborate or repeat themselves.
Change your examples
If an interviewer wants you to demonstrate your communication skills, team-working talents and business ability, don’t use the same example for every question. Try to think of various ways to demonstrate your skills, perhaps by talking about things you do outside work or university.
Smile, nod and show you’re interested in what your interviewer is saying. If you look bored or don’t maintain eye contact, your interviewer may think you’re not interested in the job.
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Organisations are increasingly asking candidates to apply using their own application form, particularly for graduate positions. The questions on these forms help them assess your suitability, which may not be immediately obvious from traditional applications. Here are some tips to help you.
Meet the organisation's requirements
If the role requires certain grades or knowledge of particular computer programmes, make sure you have these before applying. Organisations reject most candidate applications because they don't meet their requirements. If you have extenuating circumstances, highlight them somewhere on the form. If you have any problems or questions, call the recruiters who can help you.
Do your research
Find out about the organisation, what it can offer and what it's looking for. The organisation will probably ask why you're applying. So find out who they are and what you want to gain from working for them. It's a good idea to read up on the skills required to work there and include your experience of those in your application.
Thinking about the language you use
Just because you're submitting an application online doesn’t mean you should be careless when completing it. Check your language and don’t use ‘text speak’ when you complete an application. It’s amazing how often this is done.
Think quality not quantity
A recruiter doesn’t want to read pages and pages of answers. So keep your writing concise and clear.
Check your qualifications are correct and complete
If you need certain academic grades for the role, take care and check your qualifications. Should the organisation ask for proof, you could be caught out if you said you received an A grade when you actually got a C.
Ensure there are no gaps on your application
If there are years missing from your application, such as the time between school and university, highlight these rather than leaving them blank. Recruiters want to see a full chronological history of your schooling through to university, if applicable, and work experience. If there are gaps, be prepared to discuss these in an interview.
Check the content and spelling
Always check your spelling and grammar. Computer programs on online websites often don't have a spell checker. So, write your answers in a word processing program (such as Microsoft Word), spell check and paste them into your application.
Answer the questions asked, not those you wish had been asked
Employers ask questions to discover if you meet their requirements. However, it’s surprising how many candidates don’t answer the questions they're asked. So, make sure you answer them fully. If the question has two or three parts to it, answer each in turn to demonstrate you've read and understood them.
Check the form before you hit the button - you get only one chance
Take one final look over your application before submitting it. You only get one chance to send your application, so ensure it’s as good as can be!
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Paper-based applications may have fallen out of fashion in recent years. However, they're still great for encouraging recruiters to read your CV and helping you stand out from the crowd.
If possible, find out the name of the recruiter and address your cover letter to them. This makes your letter more personal and shows you've used your initiative.
Spelling and grammar
Always check your spelling and grammar before sending your covering letter. If it's poorly written, a recruiter may throw your CV in the bin.
Keep it short
Don’t write an essay about your skills and how much you want the job. Keep it short and to the point.
What to include?
Highlight the job you're applying for at the top of the letter. Then outline your relevant skills and the reason you’re applying for the role.
Clarify your availability
If you’re going to be away or out of reach for some time, let the recruiter know. It's frustrating for busy recruiters when they can't get hold of candidates.
Make your contact details clear on the letter.
Say what you expect
End the letter by saying what you expect to happen next. Perhaps highlight that you will call them to follow up in a few days or ask them to contact you by email or phone – and remember to include your contact details.
Sending CVs online
If you're applying online with your CV, consider making your covering letter the first page of your CV, so it's all in one document. Personalise the letter to the company you're applying to and title it 'Covering letter for x company'.
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