December 28, 2020

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Q&A – Help my CV Melanie

So now, more than ever employability and questions regarding the best way to secure a new job role are important topics for a large proportion of the workforce. We’ve reached out to an HR & recruitment expert, Melanie Rutherford to help us get our heads around what employers look for, how to stand out, and the best way to increase your chances of securing the job. Let’s get started.

So, Melanie, we’re dying to get in the heads of recruiters and human resource managers who do the hiring in firms up and down the country – hope you don’t mind we have a few questions:

Question 1: Here at Legacy Networking we are all about the connections and one of the things people say, is that you can find your next role through the people in your network. In your experience have you ever witnessed a candidate that has been chosen due to a personal connection? Is this more of an unspoken rule?

A: It is a tricky one… as you could consider someone for a role who has a personal connection to someone on the interview panel. In situations where an applicant has been identified as holding the required skills and level of experience to be asked to attend an interview. The person who they know, would need to not be part of the interview. Or if this is not possible, the final decision should be given to another person. It is imperative to remain objective and cautious throughout the recruitment process.

In my experience, I have considered potential applicants on the advice of Senior Management who have highlighted a specific name to be given serious consideration. It was my responsibility to be mindful of subconscious bias occurring and continue to assess the quality of the content on the individual’s CV or application form to base my decision to offer an invitation or not.

Let’s say if the candidate was successful and others found out about the relationship or connection. This could be damaging for staff morale and affect the culture. It may encourage gossip leading to the belief the person was ‘only’ successful because of who they are connected to. Plus, the Hiring Manager needs to be mindful of how potential issues could be addressed with behavior, complaints, performance, and or productivity in the near future. It is a delicate situation, if the candidate has proven that they are the right person for the job, they should not be penalized for knowing someone who is in a position of authority.

Question 2: One of the biggest challenges people face when either networking or in a job interview is levels of confidence, have you got any top tips for candidates feeling insecure about their ability to interview well or sell themselves?

A: I feel it is important to remind candidates about to attend an interview to celebrate achieving this stage in the process. You have been selected and a handful of others to be given an opportunity to meet in person, your prospective new employer. The initial interest in the vacancy will have attracted hundreds of applicants. Then those will have been whittled down to a manageable amount to be further assessed to assign possibly 10 candidates to interview time slots available. And one of them is you! So, well done and be proud of successfully demonstrating a ‘fit’ for the role and holding the attention of the Recruiter enough to want to meet you in person.

My top tips are as follows;

  • Celebrate being asked to attend an interview – On paper, you are what they are looking for and now you have the chance to elaborate on specific areas and provide examples of your skills, knowledge and experience. Move the focus away from selling yourself, aim to provide clear examples demonstrating what they are asking of you.
  • Remember, an interview can be separated into two important parts for success. On one side, you have the interviewer who is the representative of the employer. Their responsibility is to create a positive impression of the business, to sell both the vacancy and employers mission statement including present and future opportunities available for successful applicants. The interviewee needs to provide evidence to support their application and decide whether they could see themselves working here and if meeting a potential Line Manager, deciding whether there is a potential for a strong working relationship to develop
  • Utilise LinkedIn prior to the interview to find out more about those who are part of the interview panel and their background story to joining the prospective employer. Plus, look for news articles online about the business to be able to mention when asked ‘What do you know about us?”. Plus, to confidently know whether your values are in line with the business. Allowing you to know whether this is the right ‘fit’ for you too.  
  • Use the Job Description and Person Specification documents to help with preparing responses and evidence to demonstrate knowledge, experience and or skill 
  • Choose an outfit that you feel confident and comfortable in. This will help with ensuring your posture and body language appears confident, even if you don’t feel it on the inside
  • During an interview, it is perfectly acceptable to admit feeling a little nervous and to ask if they could move onto the next question. This will allow you time at the end to think of an answer. It is important to remember, we are all human, no matter what side of the table we are on. Often you will be offered a drink of water, accept it. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it can be used as a tool throughout to give yourself a few seconds to think of your response.
  • If in front of an interview panel, the questions are usually separated between the interviewers and a note taker present. It is a good idea to turn your body slightly towards the person speaking whilst being able to comfortably glance at the others as you respond.

Question 3: Now, with so many applicants per job opening, the time spent looking at each application must be ever decreasing for HR professionals… one of my favorite movies is Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods submits her pink scented CV to stand out. What is the most elaborate job application/CV you’ve ever seen, and do you think Elle Woods had the right idea?

A: What is the most elaborate job application/CV you’ve ever seen?

I have received one with multi-colored font. With a little note written on the top saying that they ran out of black ink on their home printer. Another which still makes me laugh out loud was from a candidate who chose to add a photograph on the top left corner of her smiling with one of those overly large wine glasses in her hand. For a job application, someone once wrote in capitals on the Experience section, ‘Look at CV’ with a copy of it as an attachment even though it was stated in the advertisement, CV’s would not be accepted.

A: Do you think Elle Woods had the right idea?

Oh, I love that movie! I actually wanted to pursue a career in employment law from watching it. I do think she had the right idea and it certainly worked for her. However, I have not come across a scented CV. For those working in creative arts and marketing, should move away from the more formal, structured approach reserved for other industries. Those in marketing should demonstrate their skill in layout and play around with visual aids and find a balance between demonstrating skill and conforming to the guidelines of a standard CV. 

Question 4: How do human resource professionals judge CVs that have the exact same qualifications in terms of the role but could have other differences… what is the next natural area of evaluation? Is there a real benefit to adding extra-curricular activities?

A: What is the next natural area of evaluation?

When a CV is received, studies have proven that it takes an HR representative up to 10 seconds to make a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision on whether or not to offer an invitation to an interview and assessment. An HR representative will be made aware of the essential and desirable criteria for the role and will scan read each CV looking for specific phrases and or words to confirm they meet the requirements of the role.

To ensure a variety of people within the business are innovative, able to offer fresh ideas and ways of working. HR will seek out those who fit the requirements of the role but also those who may offer a unique perspective due to perhaps not following a traditional or common route into the industry they represent and or transferable skills and experiences that may benefit the role in the present and future direction of the business.

A: Is there a real benefit to adding extra-curricular activities?

To include details of hobbies and interests, it’s more beneficial to those seeking employment after leaving education, specifically those who do not have a lot of experience to offer. It can demonstrate key employability skills valuable to any role they wish to apply for. For example, participating in sports requiring teamwork and communication, such as being part of a local rowing team.

In the past, Jobseekers were encouraged to include hobbies and interests at the bottom of their CV. It was believed to help in giving a potential employer an insight into their personality and life outside of work. But, in reality, the majority of interviewers used the information to assist in calming the nerves of a candidate by asking questions relating to it at the start of the interview.

However, due to the cost and resources used in recruitment drives, it has meant that employers prefer to ask generic closed questions. Or some interviewers choose to take the first few minutes to introduce themselves, the company and the importance of the role and who they are looking for in a successful candidate. To allow the candidate to become accustomed to their environment to feel calm and relaxed. 

Question 5: It goes without saying, LinkedIn is the best tool to showcase your skills across a social network but it doesn’t seem to work as well for everyone, what are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen candidates make with their LinkedIn profile?

A: LinkedIn is considered to be a recruiting and networking tool with Employers using its database of professionals to find prospective candidates and reach out to them quickly to determine any interest in a vacancy opportunity matching their level of experience and unique skill set. Here are a few mistakes that I have come across;

  • You should ensure the content in the Headline field is full of popular searchable words. By default, LinkedIn inputs an individual’s most recent Job title. This field is the most searched for by Recruiters and HR professionals. It is often the quickest and most effective way to improve visibility of an individual’s profile by taking the time to highlight their most valuable skill and any industries or specialism they can offer a potential employer. 
  • Not including a photo or using a photograph with other people within it. Research has shown that employers are seven times more likely to contact someone with a friendly, approachable image. Whilst it’s not the biggest mistake, those odds in my opinion, are too much of an easy opportunity to miss out on. I would advise to use a photograph that shows only you as this tool is not the same as other social media providers.
  • Copying and pasting the job description for each role undertaken. An employer wants to see your explanation of what you did and not what was expected of you. This is your opportunity to highlight what skills, experience and knowledge you gained. Each description should be carefully constructed to be concise and detail significant achievements.
  • Not including voluntary work for fear of being overlooked or not connected to the role applied for. There is a big misconception that employer’s frown upon those who have volunteered when actually it shows that they have contributed to a worthy cause affecting either the local community or further afield. This is to be admired and shows a strength in character and gives an insight into their personality.

Question 6: Having a personal brand isn’t just necessary for businesses or entrepreneurs, with the increasing number of social media profiles we have, how likely are employers to look at a candidate’s representation on their personal platforms? Do you recommend cleaning up the profiles or setting them to private?

A: How likely are employers to look at a candidate’s representation on their personal platforms?

As social media is incredibly popular with all age groups and sexes. It has given employers an opportunity to view a potential applicant’s profile to gain insight into what they look like, there likes and dislikes and their views on a variety of areas. I do think the temptation is there to have a ‘nose around’ on an applicant’s profile. I have witnessed a Director, after sifting through CV’s to search for the applicants on Google. With the aim of whittling down the number of applicants, identified as a ‘yes’ to invite them to attend an interview.

Whilst the initial decision to invite for an interview was based on the information on the applicants CV. It would be hard to continue to be objective after viewing an applicant’s personal profile. It is certainly not something that is considered to be best practice to take the opportunity to view an applicant on line to use it to make a decision to pursue their application further or not.   

A: Do you recommend cleaning up the profiles or setting them to private?

I wouldn’t recommend cleaning up everyone’s profiles for the purposes of employment. As our social media content should not be part of consideration for gaining a job or not. We are all aware how content shared online can be misinterpreted and or cause offence. Therefore, it is safe to presume that if a potential employer was going to view your profile, there would be nothing visible to use against you. However, to remove the opportunity from potential employers to view your profiles. I would advise to set them to private.


Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, its been really insightful to get an HR point of view on this topic. For more information or if you’d like to work with Help My CV Mel, follow the link below!

Speaking of employment, check out our FREE, Networking for a New Job Toolkit - including : 

  • 3 Main tools to Create a Powerful, Position to secure employment
  • How to leverage your Social Media: Essential Advice, Hints, etc.
  • Investing & growing your professional network online 
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Sarah Labree

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