Talking yourself into a job

In these tough economic conditions, and with unprecedented levels of competition for jobs, it is essential for your application to stand out. Kaye Thumpston explains how to get the basics right and really impress at interview.

The key to an organised and successful job search is to view it as a project, appointing yourself as project manager. This will require effort, time and commitment.

Small, seemingly insignificant tasks such as creating a job search file to keep accurate records of the roles you have applied for, as well as relevant contacts and closing dates, allow you to organise your time more efficiently and to prioritise the most important applications. Targeted and tailored approaches take more time to complete, but will immediately jump to the top of a pile of applications, as they will be the most relevant to the organisation and more closely matched to the job specification than other more generic applications.

Using a reputable recruiting company can reduce some of your workload; not only providing you with a pathway to more job opportunities, but also a mine of useful information. Ensure you receive information on the prospective employer’s team, the culture of their organisation and the personalities of the interviewers, which will assist you in your preparation.

Getting the best out of the relationship means ensuring regular (bi-weekly) contact and developing an honest and frank dialogue. Good quality information from an experienced recruiting consultant can really give you the upper hand in an application process.

Getting your CV or application into shape

Our top 5 tips for preparing your CV or application form:

  1. Keep your CV succinct but do not sell yourself short – include at least four to five bullet points on each of your roles detailing your experience.
  2. Create a tailored application for each role, ensuring it is relevant to the role and covers the requirements of the job or person specification. “Ensure that you cater your application precisely towards the personal  specification, that's why we write them,” advises Sach Bhatia, Principal Solicitor at Homes for Islington. “Clearly state how you meet the specification and provide brief examples. This is the basis we score/shortlist on. Be prepared to expand on these examples in interview."
  3. Use reverse chronological ordering to ensure your most recent experience is brought to the reader’s attention first.
  4. Be honest: embellishments on your CV will come back to haunt you. Remember to keep your CV as concise as possible and to use the space wisely.
  5. Don’t apply for too many roles. This is a time-consuming and demanding process, so take care not to dilute your efforts.

Remember that your CV is a sales document – do not be shy about highlighting your achievements, and be sure to include details of pieces of work, cases or projects that you are particularly proud of.

As Dave McCullogh, Principal Solicitor at Sefton Borough Council, explains: “The most important thing on a CV to me is a clear and concise account of the skills and knowledge of a candidate, backed up with real time examples of cases and perhaps referees who can vouch for the success of the outcome". Not only will this bring your experience to life, but also it will provide a good talking point for the interview.

Impressing at interview

Our top 5 interview tips:

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  1. Research the organisation thoroughly. Interviewers will expect you to know as much as possible about them to demonstrate your genuine interest in the role. This will also enable you to ask intelligent, informed questions, therefore gaining more from the process. Eleanor Hoggart, Assistant Director of Legal Services at Legal Services Lincolnshire, looks for that something extra beyond legal knowledge: “What I am looking for from a candidate at interview is evidence that they are the right 'fit' for the organisation – not just in their legal expertise but their client awareness and their understanding of what councils want and need from a legal service”.
  2. Find out as much as you can about the interviewer and the team. Utilise your recruitment consultant, contacts in the marketplace, information on the organisation’s website and recent press coverage of the organisation.
  3. Know your CV inside out. This will allow you to anticipate their questions and to ensure you give a consistent account of yourself.
  4. Adjust your preparation dependent on the style of the interview. For example, competency-based interviews will require a different approach to a standard interview based on your CV, and you may be required to prepare for a written assessment in some cases.
  5. Study the job specification and keep focused on the attributes required.

Reliability is key for locums

Whilst most of this advice is also applicable to locum recruitment, there is a definite shift of focus on the part of the employer. Transferable skills are less important, giving way to the need for someone with the necessary skills to ‘hit the ground running’.

Stewart Consterdine, Practise Manager at Cumbria County Council, comments: "When recruiting a locum we normally look for CVs which demonstrate vast experience gained in the exact same working environments. The purpose of recruiting a locum is that they will be able to come in and pick up a caseload with minimal supervision so references from previous clients which comment on this are a big deciding factor.”

Demonstrating your reliability is paramount when being considered for a locum opportunity – ability alone is not sufficient.

Take the chance to widen your network

Networking can also be an immensely rewarding and productive use of your time when searching for a new job. As well as speaking with people you already know, get involved with groups such as your local branch of Solicitors in Local Government. Look out for specific speed-networking events, or special interest groups for your area of law. You may even pick up some CPD points along the way.

In summary, take your time with applications and give each role and application thorough consideration. Take pride in the CV or application forms you complete, as these will inform the employer’s first impression of you, and will ultimately determine whether you are invited to take part in the interview process.

Kaye Thumpston is a consultant with Hays Legal.

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