How To Cope With Stressful Interview Questions

Most people feel some degree of stress during an interview. This is hardly surprising, as you hold little power in an interview but are required to respond to the interviewer’s questioning, while under severe scrutiny. It is about as far from an equally balanced discussion as it’s possible to get.

Sometimes, an interview that already feels somewhat tense can take a particularly unpleasant turn when you find yourself put under even more pressure by an interviewer. What can be hard to handle is that the interviewer is doing this deliberately.

Why Do They Ask Stress Questions?

The interviewer is not doing this because they are sadistic, although you may have your suspicions. They are doing it as part of a strategy. They want to see how you are going to cope under pressure. This is usually because high pressure is involved in the position you’re being interviewed for.

The goal is also to upset your balance. The interviewer knows that you will have prepared for the interview, so they are trying to see the ‘real’ you when you have to formulate an answer on the spot.

Most of us are lucky enough not to undergo this brand of torture. But if you are applying for a position in a high pressure environment where financial decisions may need to be made, there is every chance that you’ll be subjected to this.

How Do They Put You Under Pressure?

If you can recognise the techniques that interviewers use to subject you to a high degree of stress, then you can avoid being manipulated.

Interviewers may ask you questions that sound critical of you or your work record, sounding critical of your lack of experience, a personal characteristic, or an earlier answer in the interviewer. This will be done in such a way that it feels like a personal attack.

An interviewer may ask you a series of questions very quickly, without giving you time to answer properly. They interrupt your reply by asking another question on a fresh subject or a string of follow up questions.

Sometimes the interviewer may be generally rude, not giving you any positive feedback or encouragement by smiling or nodding. They may leave long silences after you’ve replied to a question or just be argumentative.

A variation on this is the ‘good guy, bad guy’ two-hander interview, with two interviewers taking turns to reassure or unsettle you.

Another approach is to ask a ‘stress question’, which is often about a topic completely unrelated to the job. These questions can be abstract, to say the least. Examples include problem questions that verge on the bizarre: “If you could be a vehicle, what would you be?” or “which famous person would you most like to swap places with – and why?”

You can only be creative when answering these, as you can’t prepare for them.

Adopting the Right Mindset

With pressure questioning, the important thing is not the answer you give so much as your ability to come up with an answer, while coping with a stressful situation. The interviewer is more interested in your reactions, especially those that you can’t control.

You really do need to keep your composure and you can only do this by screening off some of the coercive techniques the interviewer is using. In recognising what the interviewer is doing, you are defusing the effect, as you can then retain some control.

Your reactions are important, so you must keep your emotions under control. Don’t get upset or feel personally criticised – defensiveness will be seen as weakness. Try to remain calm and collected.

Remember, this is all a performance (even if it isn’t, then you should still respond in the same way). You have to be professional at all times.

Responding to Stress Questioning

It’s most important that you don’t let them rush you. Breathing deeply and taking your time to answer is of utmost importance, as there is no other way you’re going to be able to stick to your train of thought.

If they interrupt you with another question, smiling and saying that you’d prefer to complete your answer before progressing to the next.

If they keep insisting, then you can say that you’ll leave your previous answer incomplete at their insistence. Don’t be rude – just calmly point out what is happening.

Remember what it is that you want to convey and stick to it. Your goal is to demonstrate and showcase your skills, achievements and experience.

Another option is to refuse to engage with machine-gunfire questioning that leaves you no chance to respond. This may be a good idea if the interviewer starts to go over the top – you may even earn points for standing your ground.

You can state that you recognise their desire to test your performance under stress, but that you prefer the realistic stress of responding to real challenges. Ask them to present you with a problem to solve and you’ll be delighted to work at this level.

Different people will feel comfortable with different types of responses, so think in advance which might suit you.

Handling Off-the-Wall Questions

The best approach to these questions is to enjoy them. While you never know when a question like this is going to come your way, you can prepare to a degree by reading examples on the internet and imagining what you might say in reply.

Get used to crafting an answer and finding ways to weave in the important information about your personal approach to work.

There is nothing wrong with smiling and taking a moment to think at this point. Your answer does not have to be particularly clever or funny. Try to be genuine and say something that feels right to you, rather than what you think the interviewer will approve of.

If you are completely unable to answer the question, you can ask to return to it later (but don’t be distracted for the rest of the interview).

The main thing is to remain professional and not to become flustered. As with every aspect of the stress interview, your goal is simply to remain relaxed, self-possessed and unstressed. The way you respond is more important than your answer!

Learn to Handle Your Nerves

If you become very nervous before and during interviews, stress or pressure questioning may seriously knock you sideways. It’s a good idea to address your levels of nervousness in any case, as these aren’t going to help your chances of gaining a job.

Breathing techniques, body positioning, self-hypnosis CDs – there are many approaches you can take, so try to find out what works for you. You can only benefit, in terms of your confidence and performance.


Interviews are stressful situations to start with. Most people have to deal with some level of anxiety or discomfort prior to and during the interview itself. However, the stress can reach new levels when the interviewer deliberately starts to put you under pressure.

Stress questioning is a strategic action designed to give the interviewer more information. They want to see how you react in a high pressure situation, usually because the job you’re applying for involves a high level of pressure and the need to make considered decisions in such scenarios.

The interviewer may also be trying to get past the prepared answers you are giving to get to the ‘real you’. There are different ways of doing this. If you can recognise the techniques, you can deal with them better.The interviewer may:

  • Sound critical of your previous answer or your work record.
  • Ask questions very quickly, so that you can’t finish one answer before another question is fired at you – these may be follow-up questions or unrelated questions.
  • Be generally rude, failing to give you positive feedback through smiles or nodding, instead leaving long silences after you finish speaking.
  • Do a ‘good guy, bad guy’ double act with another panel member.
  • ask a ‘stress question’ about a topic unrelated to the job, possibly on a bizarre subject (“If you were a car, which model would you be?”)

You have to remember that this is a performance and that it’s not personal. What you say when you answer isn’t as important as the way you respond – the interviewer is interested in how you cope rather than your reply. So keep your emotions in check and answer as professionally as possible.

Don’t be rushed, but breathe and take your time to answer. If interrupted, say you’d like to complete your previous answer first. If they insist, then state that you’re moving onto the next question at their request. However you answer, continue to focus on your skills, achievements and experience.

If the interviewer takes it too far, you can call their bluff and say that you understand their desire to see how you function under stress, but state that you prefer the genuine pressure of real situations.

Don’t get too worried by off-the-wall questions. Read up on them online, so that you’re familiar with this type of question. While you can’t anticipate the question, you can get used to thinking up answers to bizarre queries, while integrating positive information about your approach to work.

If you are usually a highly nervous interviewee, it’s worth taking steps to deal with your anxiety. This will give you a better of chance of surviving stressful interviews and improve your chances of gaining the type of job you desire.

Please leave a comment below and let us know your experiences of stressful interviews and how you cope with them.

Kind regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in Job Interview Tips by Paul Bradley. 3 Comments

How to Make a Dull Job Sound Interesting on Your CV

As you read the 100’s of CV writing articles on the internet – you may have some doubts.

It’s all very well talking up achievements and experiences, but how can you write a colourful and engaging CV if your work experience has been a little more mundane?

Not every job gives you chance to demonstrate how you made a difference through your unique contribution that led to outstanding results.

You may have worked in several jobs like this, or may have worked in one as a shorter term measure during the economic downturn. Either way, the difficulty is the same.

With 100’s of applications being received now for each job, you face a particular challenge in making yourself stand out as employers scan through the first pages of many CVs.

How can you make yourself stand out, so that employers really notice you?

Hit Home Fast With a Great Profile

If you can seize an employer’s attention in the first few lines of your CV, there is less pressure to make the rest of your CV a riveting read. In the profile, you can show an employer what you have to offer and convey a little about yourself as a person, before going into more details about your work experience.

It’s an often quoted truth that employers decide whether they’re interested in a candidate in the first 30 seconds of reading a CV, so you need to grab their attention quickly. You want them to be thinking, “I like the sound of this one!” If they think that, you’re halfway there already.

The trick is to secure their interest quickly, by bringing all the highlights of your experience and background to the top. A well-written profile shows what you can offer and matches this perfectly to what the employer has said they are looking for.

It gives you a chance to immediately highlight some of your strengths and get across some of your personality as an employee. You can mention the most important areas of your experience, but in just a couple of words.

Personal Qualities Mentioned in Your Profile

You may have worked in a routine job, which is much the same from one week to another, but that doesn’t make you a mundane person! It is perhaps better to think of your work as routine, regular and essential, providing a foundation that supports many other areas of economic, commercial, scientific, manufacturing (or whatever sector you work in) activity. These are roles upon which everyone else depends.

Think about the qualities you have that make you good at what you do. Leadership skills may be emphasised in much CV writing, but here we can consider qualities that keep such professional areas running – reliability, dependability, strong work ethics, ability to continue under pressure, commitment, motivation and dedication are good for starters.

Think about the qualities that really are a part of your make up. You can present these alongside your biggest skills and strengths.

Craft Some Achievements

If you have caught the employer’s attention with your Profile, you want to push home your advantage by engaging them with some of your professional successes. Typically, achievements are situations where you made a difference as a result of your personal or team efforts – the outcome is usually quantifiable and can be expressed numerically. In your job, it may not be possible to do this, simply because there is little variation in your daily or weekly activities.

This is where you can change the definition of ‘achievement’ and make it work for you. This means focusing on what the definition of success is in your profession. You can still include commendations, awards and testimonials from others who have praised your work and your contribution.

Likewise, a series of rapid promotions or successful completion of training courses can be viewed as achievements. If you have handled a growing workload within a shrinking team of colleagues, then that is an achievement. If you have successfully fulfilled your role despite adverse circumstances, or in a crisis, then that is an achievement.

Don’t think that all achievements have to relate to financial profit or percentage increases. Use achievements to highlight what happens when you apply the personal qualities mentioned in your profile to use.

Achievements can be highly memorable, simply because they are individual. Also, the act of preparing and writing up an achievement shows you have an awareness of what is important professionally, as well as the self-awareness required to assess your own contribution to an organisation. This in turn suggests that you might make an interesting interview subject.

Avoid Repetition When Describing Your Work

The fact that your work is or has been repetitive does not mean that your CV needs to be. This is particularly the case if you have had more than one job in the same kind of role. The good news is that you can make the jobs sound more varied by using a selection of different terms and phrases to describe what you’ve done.

For starters, you can change the order of the responsibilities around. You can also describe the same duties in different ways. Instead of starting a bullet point sentence with the words ‘Responsible for …’ try to start the sentences with verbs (action words). For example, ‘Provided efficient customer service by responding to enquiries …’ and ‘Swiftly responded to and processed customer enquiries …’ are slightly different ways of describing the same responsibility. It all helps to stop the employer switching off as they read.

If you’d like to see how we uses action words (often called ‘power words’) to add more impact to your descriptions then please see our CV Examples on our sister site

Another place to look is in the job advertisements and person descriptions for the jobs you’re applying for. See which words come up and mix them into your CV. Focus on the skills and personal qualities they ask for, so you can use these words. The other advantage to doing this is that you’re showing that you’re a good match for the vacancy. You can do the same thing by looking at employers’ websites.

Make Your CV Look Interesting

Some CVs look as if they are going to be boring, before you’ve read even a single word. This is because they are badly presented and the text is hard to look at, because it’s small and packed tight into dense paragraphs.

When the document is an effort to read, even before its content has been understood, the employer is not going to feel excited. This means they’re not going to be motivated to read more.

It’s easy to make your CV easier to read! Use plenty of bullet points, rather than chunks of solid text. Use a clear typeface – Arial, Helvetica and Verdana are all good examples.

White space also makes the document easier on the eye, so space each section out.

Be a “Personality Plus”

This does not mean be a loud-mouthed extrovert, but it does mean that you should leave the employer in no doubt as to your strengths. Commitment and motivation are still important, no matter how regular your duties at work.

The trick is to write with a sense of authority, making it clear through the use of correct language that you know your area. Only by giving a very clear sense of your personality can you hope to stand out from the crowd.

Take time to sit down with colleagues or trusted friends and ask them how you come across to them. Trust what people say – extreme modesty will not help you to gain a job. Try to express the qualities that people identify in professional language and weave them into your CV.

Once you have finished drafting your CV, ask your friends or colleagues to read your CV and ask them if it gives a good impression of what you are like – as well as hitting the right buttons for the

Action Plan

Your job may be a bit on the dull side, but your CV can still be interesting! Here are the first steps you can take in achieving this.

  • Do some preparation for your profile. What are your three main areas of experience? Three key skills at work? Three key personal qualities at work? Write all of these down, so that you can use them in your profile writing.
  • Have you thought about achievements before? Try to write down all the positive outcomes at work that you can remember or think of. Now link them to your personal qualities and strengths. Can you see how they might be rewritten as achievements, even if they don’t have outcomes that can be measured numerically?
  • Now take a look at your current CV. Are you repeating the same phrases or way of describing responsibilities, over and over? Underline these – you are going to need to change them.
  • If you need need help with wording your CV, why not copy the words and phrases we’ve used in our CV Examples.
  • Talk to a couple of friends or trusted colleagues. Ask them to tell you what makes you a strong employee in your job. It may be hard, especially if you are naturally modest, but accept what they see. Take notes and see if you can incorporate this into your CV.
  • Read the revised CV aloud. How does it sound? Your CV should read smoothly and the way it sounds when read aloud is how it will be to the employer reading the end result.

Please let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.

If you need help with your CV / resume please check out our CV writing service.

Kind regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in CV Writing Tips by Paul Bradley. 4 Comments

Strength and Weaknesses Interview Questions: How Do You Handle Them?

Everyone knows the questions and everyone knows they are likely to be asked. Everyone prepares for them. Yet how good are most people’s answers to the interview questions:

  • “What are your greatest strengths?”
  • “what is your biggest weakness?”

Many people believe that they know exactly how to answer. When asked about their strengths, they extol their outstanding abilities at work. When asked about their weaknesses, they reply that either they don’t have any, or that it is something innocuous (and, gasp, positive!) such as being a perfectionist.

They also believe that the interviewer hasn’t heard cop-out replies before and never even consider the fact that the interviewer might press on for a more revealing answer!

How should you answer these questions, to satisfy the interviewer while doing nothing to jeopardise and everything to strengthen your chances of being offered the job?

The ‘Strengths’ Interview Question

The interviewer looks at you, with one eyebrow raised. “Can you tell us what your greatest strengths are?” they ask. If you worked hard at evaluating yourself before preparing your CV, you’ll have little trouble identifying a number that are already listed in your CV.

There is an art to answering this question, so that you don’t sound simply big-headed. If you are naturally modest, the opposite is true: you have to find a point at which you identify your strengths but without underselling yourself.

What counts as a strength?

In an interview, the strengths that you need to identify are those that are relevant to the job. That is, to this job and this job only. You may have picked some ‘one size fits all’ strengths for your CV, but your reply to this question must be tailored to this job alone.

A strength may be a professional skill or ability that you regularly use. It may also be a personal quality that is utilised to positive effect in the workplace. If a manager were to write a glowing reference for you, this strength would be mentioned. It may also be a transferable skill, which you have used outside the workplace as well as at work.

It is usually a quality or ability that you can feel proud of, as it has been remarked on or praised by others. However, do not let your pride in it come ahead of its relevance – your self image must come secondary to the candidate perceived by the interviewer. Many abilities will relate to specific roles and industries.

Demonstrate their relevance

Once you have identified your strengths, you need to give them greater meaning for the interviewer. This is where you are going to sell yourself by tailoring your answers. To do this, you need to identify evidence of your having used this strength at work, preferably to create a positive outcome. Ideally, this will rank as an achievement, but a clear example of your strengths in action will also be right.

You should offer this example immediately, after stating what your strength is. Bear in mind that the interviewer may pick up on this and ask further questions about it. Make sure it is something you can talk about.

How many strengths?

It is a good idea to have three prepared, as you may find that you have used up one answer when responding to an earlier question. Also, the interviewer may try to catch you out by asking you to identify a further strength after you have mentioned one. This is their attempt to weed out the phoney answers, the idea being that the second you give will not be as rehearsed.

The ‘Weakness’ Interview Question

This is a question that can demolish the unprepared candidate, as they either find themselves speechless or blurt out a weakness that is all too genuine and which the interviewer really shouldn’t know about.

What is the point of this question?

The interviewer isn’t out to get you, but they do want to know more about you. While candidates are usually prepared to show their good sides, this is not always a rounded picture. The interviewer wants to know how self-aware you are, whether you are realistic about your own shortcomings, whether you are interested in developing yourself and how well you can talk about yourself.

What you should not say

You should never say that you don’t have any weaknesses. They have all heard the standardised answer “I don’t have any weaknesses that will affect my ability to do the job” before. This is not true of anybody and is an evasive answer – the interviewer will give up on you or press harder for an answer.

Avoid dragging up workplace incidents that led to something going wrong. You’ll spend the next few minutes discussing a major problem that you caused. Don’t try to crack a joke, as it’s unprofessional and is being disrespectful by failing to answer the question.

Above all, do not reply that you have a weakness and that is (a) chocolate, (b) being a perfectionist, or (c) work longer hours than you are paid to complete work.

Answers such as these are trite and you risk irritating the interviewer. It is more than likely that they will brush it aside and ask you to identify a real weakness – and you will have nothing prepared.

Preparing for a ‘weaknesses’ interview question

As with the strengths interview question, it is best to prepare two or three responses. Hopefully you will not have to use them all, but there is always the chance that the interviewer will either urge you to name more than one, or that the interview question will come in more than one guise. You should also prepare some detail to illustrate your answer.

Finding the middle road

Be a little bit honest and you can find a weakness that is real but not very serious, so will not damage your chances of gaining the job. Your honesty will give you an air of trustworthiness, so will work in your favour. Self-awareness is a good attribute, as it means you can develop and improve yourself. By answering with integrity, you further a bond with the interviewer – it is called ‘developing rapport’.

Rather than using the word weakness, you can use an alternative phrase: ‘area that I am working on improving’. You’re thereby conferring a positive upon a negative.

A low damage response

Once again, you should use your understanding of the vacancy and the employer’s requirements to select a weakness that will do little or nothing to negate your chances of a job offer. So, select a weakness that will have no bearing on the job whatsoever, even though it may have been manifest in a previous job.

For example, getting bored very easily will not be a problem in a fast-paced, high energy, stressful position. Finding it difficult to present to large groups of people may not matter in the job you are applying for – but remember that the interviewer may ask for another weakness too.

You are working on it

If the weakness is in an area that’s relevant to this job, then your efforts to improve on the weakness can be a positive. For instance, stating that as a supervisor, you have realised that you need to work harder on delegating more work and that you are improving the way in which you do it, is actually positive.

It is especially so if you can say that your output is already increasing as a result. This may be something that is on the job’s person requirement, so you are effectively covering up for a gap in your application.

Improving a technical skill

It’s always possible to mention a weakness that is small, easy to address and of no great significance to the vacancy in question. This might be a computing skills or particular technology. If you are already addressing the learning gap, so much the better. However, bear in mind that the interviewer may push for a meatier answer.

The disguised interview question

Because so many lists of interview questions are now available online, interviewers are disguising the question or coming at it from another direction. Look out for any question that asks you about a mistake at work, a project that didn’t turn out well, set-backs of any kind, areas for improvement arising from appraisals, etc. If you have prepared well for your weaknesses question, then you should have no problem with these!

Always Prepare Your Interview Answers

Researching and preparing your answers for both these questions will help you enormously. There is nothing worse than being caught off-guard at an interview, particularly by an interviewer who thinks they are rather clever!


The two questions that are possibly listed on every single list of interview questions on the internet are: ‘what are you greatest strengths?’ and ‘what are your weaknesses?’ While these function as bear-traps for the unprepared candidate, the candidate who bothers to prepare their answers can turn them to their advantage without losing points.

You should identify three of your work-related strengths, whether these are abilities, technical skills, personal and professional attributes, or areas of knowledge. These should always be relevant to the vacancy you’re being interviewed for, whether they are on your CV or not.

The strength’s relevance needs to be demonstrated, so for each one, you need to be able to describe an instance when your strength came into play at work. If this led to a positive outcome, then so much the better.

This need for relevance means that you may be identifying different strengths for different interview situations. Having more than one confers protection in case you ‘use up’ one strength when answering another question, or if the interviewer presses you for a second answer, believing the first to have been over-rehearsed.

The weakness question is not as bad as it first seems. Avoid welching out with a denial that you have a weakness or offering a weakness that is not really a weakness (such as perfectionism). Jokes are a bad idea, as are workplace disasters that you caused, inadvertently or otherwise. Trite answers that dodge the issue are likely to irritate the interviewer.

The best idea is to prepare three responses that are based in honesty, but which do not jeopardise your chances. You will gain points for integrity and self-awareness. You can focus on an area that has no relevance to this vacancy and does not relate to the person requirements.

Or, you can focus on areas that you are improving on, thereby reassuring the interviewer that you are becoming even more skilled in a particular area. Providing evidence of improved production or results arising from your efforts also helps. Weaknesses with technical skills are easily addressed through training and are hard to criticise.

Preparation is always the answer and having more than one example will buffer you against persistent questioning.

Please let us know about your own experiences of answering interview questions about your strengths and weaknesses by leaving a comment below.

Kind regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in Job Interview Tips by Paul Bradley. 10 Comments

Which CV Writing Rules Can You Break?

The evolution of digital technologies has led to a similar evolution in printed documents, including CVs. Most advice on CV writing today differs from that offered ten years ago, before electronic CVs became the norm. Yet looking at the advice offered on the internet, you’ll see that much of it is broadly similar.

There are certain practices in CV composition and editing that seem to be recommended by all and it is easy to perceive these as being ‘the rules’ of CV writing. There is also the perceived wisdom that we all seem to possess, which dictates that you can and can’t do certain things when putting your CV together. To what extent is this true? Are there many fixed rules in a period when so much is changing?

So let’s take a look at some of the conventions of CV writing, in an attempt to understand exactly where it is acceptable to bend the rules. In doing so, we may even see that some of these rules are not rules at all, but are merely myths that persist from days when CV writing was a very different practice to today.

Rule: You Should Include Only 10 Years’ of Employment

A few years back, everybody would include their entire employment history on their CVs. This meant that they’d include every job that they’d held since leaving school, college or university, even if only lasted for a few months.

This thinking has now changed and it is usually recommended that you include only employment from the last 10 years. This is because technology is changing so rapidly these days that experience gained before that time is most likely going to be out of date anyway. The employer only considers the most recent positions, or so the advice goes.

For many candidates, this rule holds firm. Yet for some candidates, it isn’t helpful and sticking to it may actually reduce their chances of gaining an interview. People who’ve had a very varied career, with jobs that don’t always sit within a clear career trajectory, may suffer.

Such candidates may need to resort to a higher level of targeting, with their previous jobs grouped according to type and the most relevant group presented highest. In such cases, the jobs may be drawn from beyond ten years previously, so that enough targeted jobs are included in the target category.

Another instance is for an executive or senior management candidate, who has over ten years of highly meaningful experience. In this case, earlier positions can be included, but without as much detail as more recent ones.

Rule: CVs Should Be Two Pages Long or One Page if You’ve Just Started Out

An old convention used to be that a CV should be one page long, this was particularly the case in the US. These days, it’s usually recommended that candidates submit a CV of two pages in length. To attempt to squeeze everything onto one page would be a mistake, as it would probably end up cramped, cluttered and unreadable.

Meanwhile, most people who are school or college leavers, or who have only had one job, will find that their experience will only fill a single page.

Naturally, there are some candidates who do not fit the rule. Senior executives with several management positions behind them may need to extend their CV to three pages.

Another exception arises with emailed CVs, which tend to be much shorter versions, although now the rise of keyword searching has led to longer, ‘keyword-rich’ CVs.

On the other hand, a candidate who isn’t long out of education may have a wealth of positive, work and non-work experience.

Rule: You Should Explain Gaps in Employment

This is a frequently quoted rule. Unexplained gaps in your career history, the reasoning goes, will raise questions and very possibly doubts in the employer’s mind – they will wonder what you are hiding.

In many instances, gaps of less than 12 months may be entirely ‘innocent’: for example maternity leave. Even if they arise because you felt you absolutely had to leave a job before you had found another, this is not necessarily a problem if you spent less than 12 months unemployed.

If the breaks are longer than a year and/or you are not currently in employment, a line of explanation will help to oil the wheels.

Rule: You Should Only Use a Standard CV Format

A number of formats are usually recommended for CV writing, including the chronological, functional and targeted formats. As already mentioned, some candidates simply don’t fit into the conventional career trajectory and may experience problems trying to squeeze their experience into the conventional formats.

In such cases, it is perfectly OK to be flexible with formats, providing this shows you in the best light. However, it’s advisable to only divert from generally recognised formats when necessary – while you want to show your uniqueness in a CV, do not try to be individual simply for the sake of it.

Rule: You Should No Longer Include Hobbies and Interests

It is no longer expected that you should include a hobbies or interests section in your CV. However, for people at an early stage in their career, your non-work activities can provide a rich source of information that helps to define you as an individual.

Transferable skills are present in sports, group work, charity effort and interest group experience and, as the name implies, can be carried across to the professional environment.

Generally speaking, though, solitary and more intellectual interests provide a less rich source of information.

Rule: Massaging the Truth on Your CV is OK

There are ways of writing your CV that make a certain aspect of your experience or background less obvious. While this is allowing the truth to be slightly obscured, it is not actually telling an untruth.

But being overly creative in your CV writing is fraught with risk. If you give yourself better exam results, create qualifications that you never took, give yourself promotions or create any form of fiction in your CV, it could backfire.

Many employers do checks at some point and this is certainly getting easier. Even your Facebook page can give them information you might wish they didn’t see! Once you are found out, it is very unlikely that an employer will wish to keep you on the payroll and this could jeopardise your career prospects for years.

We would therefore recommend that you never lie on your CV.


Conventions are usually established by ‘what works best’. These conventions are often then perceived as rules. The truth is that they are what works in most instances, rather than in all instances. This means that there are times when the so-called rules can be broken.

Jobs included can be extended beyond the past 10 years if you’re a management candidate with lots of rich experience, or if your experience is varied and you need to include targeted information for an application.

CV length can be longer than two pages if you’re a management candidate with a wealth of experience behind you, or longer than one page if you’ve recently left education but have lots of experience to draw on for your CV.

Give careful thought to gaps in employment, but don’t get paranoid about them to the extent that you feel that you have to explain every single gap in excruciating detail.
Standard CV formats can be adjusted to suit your experience, providing it shows you in the best possible light.

You no longer have to include hobbies and interests, but these can be a rich source of information, providing you focus on transferable skills that can be applied at work too.

When writing your CV, it’s certainly possible to draw attention away from unfavourable facts in your career history, but never tell a deliberate lie – as you may be found out, meaning you aren’t offered the job or are sacked if you are in a job.

Please let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.

If you need help with your CV / resume please check out our professional CV writing service.

Kind regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in CV Writing Tips by Paul Bradley. 7 Comments

Behavioural Interview Questions

Have you ever heard of behavioural questions?


If you’ve had any job interviews in the past, you’ve probably answered a few of them without realising that they are behavioural questions.

This article will spell out:

  • What a behavioural interview question is.
  • Why do interviewers frequently ask behavioural interview questions at an interview.
  • Why it’s vital that you know how to answer a behavioural interview question.
  • How you can anticipate behavioural interview questions.
  • Typical behavioural interview questions.

What is a Behavioural Interview Question?

A behavioural question is an open-ended question that invites you to describe an experience or event that you were involved with in a current or previous job. These are also known as situational questions, as they are aimed at drawing out information about a situation you were in at work.

When answering, you would normally describe your role in a particular situation, saying what actions you took, or how you responded and why, or even how you felt about something. This is why they are called behavioural questions – they are concerned with your behaviour as an individual employee.

How Can You Spot a Behavioural Question?

You can easily recognise a behavioural question, because it usually starts in one of the following ways:

  • Tell me about a time when …
  • Describe a time when …
  • Give an example of …
  • Please discuss …

There are numerous variations, with some questions not sounding like a behavioural question to start with, until the interviewer asks you to go into further detail or asks for a specific example. Follow up questions may be along the lines of:

  • Tell me exactly what steps you took …
  • What was the thinking behind your decision to …
  • Describe the steps you took to achieve …

Why do Interviewers Frequently ask Behavioural Questions at an Interview?

The interviewer’s concern is always to ascertain how your past performance will translate into performance in the position they are trying to fill. They have a set of requirements for the role, so are interested in finding out if your past experience and responses match those of the kind of person they are looking for.

The specific examples that you provide give them a lot more information about the kind of employee you are and how you are likely to behave within this role.

Once you have provided examples, the interviewer will frequently delve into the evidence and ask further questions, to make you focus on the details that interest them most. Not only does this reassure them about an aspect of your behaviour, character or experience, but it is also an opportunity to test your integrity.

If a candidate has made up an event or story, it is going to be very hard to sustain it under close questioning.

How can you Anticipate Behavioural Questions?

There are a huge variety of questions that can be asked at interview, which means that it is impossible to anticipate them all. Indeed, you may feel that it is not even worth trying. However, working out some of the question in advance is easier than you think.

The key rests in the job description and the person specification issued in the application details. By reading these, you can easily see the skills and experience the employer is looking these. When writing out your CV and application, you should have selected achievements that meet these criteria as closely as possible.

In using relevant achievements, you are already presenting the interviewer with evidence of your behaviour in certain situations – obviously, these are instances where you contributed to a positive outcome.

The other thing to do is research the employer. Again, you should already have done this before submitting your application. Any understanding you have of that organisation and its priorities will help you to identify the kind of examples that may interest and impress the interviewer.

It is a fairly simple deduction that the interviewer may focus on one or two of these. In fact, you are helping them by presenting them with some rich territory to mine! It is best not to rely just on the achievements in your CV, but to select at least one for every requirement listed in the job description.

Remember that it doesn’t mean you have to have a huge list of significant achievements where there was a clear numerical outcome (profit, increased membership, higher percentages of something, etc).

You can just as easily discuss a challenging situation where you prevented something getting worse – that is also a positive outcome.

Preparing for the Interview

Once you have identified some achievements, spend some time writing down everything you can remember about them and how they occurred. You need to be prepared for a follow-up question from the interviewer – or maybe even two.

If they are excited by your story or particularly interested in it, then you may pay for it by having to talk for longer.

You have to tell a story that makes the situation sound interesting, but that does not mean that you have to talk at great length. You need to word your response so that the story is told in just a few sentences, encapsulating the most interesting aspects.

If the interviewer is curious, they will ask for more details. Do not risk boring them!

A good way to approach this is to follow this structure when putting your description together:

  • Set the scene by outlining the situation or problem.
  • Say how you become involved – and why.
  • Explain what did you do to help resolve this situation, or bring about improvements.
  • Conclude by saying what the outcome was. If it was measurable in numerical terms, give these figures. Otherwise, describe the benefits that resulted.

Some Typical Behavioural Questions

Although it seems that there is a never ending variety of questions that an interviewer might ask, there are also some ‘classics’ that come up over and over. Not all interviewers are highly imaginative!

Indeed, if you prepare answers for these, you will find that there is much information you can volunteer, even if you are not asked a related behavioural question. You can never be too prepared for interview questions.

Questions relating to people and communication skills

  • Describe a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or colleague.
  • Describe a time in which you had to use your communication skills in order to get an important point across.
  • Describe a time when you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Give an example of a time when you’ve had to deal with conflict. What is your approach?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to present complex information.

Questions relating to achievements

  • Tell us about a time when you succeeded. Give a specific example.
  • Describe an accomplishment from the past year that you are proud of.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Describe an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.

Questions relating to prioritisation

  • Give an example of a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritise your tasks.
  • Tell us about a situation when you had a lot of deadlines at the same time and the steps you took to complete the tasks on time.
  • Describe a time when you were particularly effective in completing a project on schedule.
  • Please describe a time when your work load was heavy and you had to take special steps to get the work done.

Questions relating to problem solving

  • Describe a time when you were creative in solving a problem.
  • Give an example of a specific problem you solved for your employer.
  • Tell me about a specific time when you used good judgement and logic in solving a problem.

There are many more questions that might be asked, including those relating to leadership skills, team membership, dealing with criticism or management, etc.

Doing a search for example behavioural questions will give you a good selection. If you have done your research, you should be able to identify the ones that are likely to come up in a specific interview.

Please let us know your experiences of handling behavioural Interview Questions by leaving a comment below.

If you need help with interviews please see our interview services.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in Job Interview Tips by Paul Bradley. 12 Comments

Are You Using the Right Tone of Voice in Your CV?

How can writing have a tone of voice? Unless you’ve been involved in marketing at some point, you may never have given much thought to this question. You may not even have realised that such a consideration existed, far less that it might be vitally important when you come to write your CV.

All writing has a tone and a personality. Whenever we read some text, we hear the words spoken aloud in our heads. Sometimes we hear it in our own voice, but often we hear it in another voice. This is what we pick up from the way the words are put together.

For example, when you read a letter from the bank about going overdrawn, you no doubt ‘hear’ the writing in a stern, authoritative tone of voice. When you read a letter from a company trying to sell you insurance, you probably hear it as a friendly tone of voice, but quite confident and well-informed.

When you write your CV, you will be giving it a tone of voice without even thinking about it. Do you have any idea what tone you are using? It might be quiet, shy and even submissive, or it might be braggish and over-confident. Have you thought that your tone might come across as uptight, or lazy, or obsessive, or boring?

None of these would help you much when it comes to gaining an interview, as all are likely to be a bit off-putting. There are certainly jobs for which one kind of personality might be more useful than another, but there is usually a fine line where it can come across as too extreme.

You want to be sure that if your personality comes across in the tone of voice of your writing, that it is one the right side of this line. The tone itself comes down to the words and phrases you use, as well as how you structure your sentences.

You need to use a tone that makes the reader feel like meeting you, rather than putting them off. Here, we look at the factors that contribute to achieving the correct tone for CV writing.

Sticking to the Positives

To start at the beginning with the most fundamental aspect of any CV’s tone of voice: it needs to be positive. In general, this means never mentioning anything that is negative and never apologising or making excuses for something that you do not have or did not do.

For example, the following sentence draws attention to qualifications the candidate does not have, which negates the effect of the statement about his experience.

  • I am not a mechanical or software engineer, but I am experienced in managing both mechanical and software engineers.

As a manager, he does not need to hold the same qualifications as every member of his team. So rather than apologising, he could instead write it as follows. Introducing an adverb before the verb ‘managed’ also helps to make it more positive.

  • Effectively managed multi-function teams that included both mechanical and software engineers.

Negatives that you should also avoid include criticism of former employers. You should always sound professional and confident, which means writing in an emphatic but not arrogant tone, as in the above rewrite.

Make Good Use of Pronouns

Sounding more confident and professional can be achieved by abandoning the use of the pronoun ‘I’ in your CV. Neither should you write in the ‘third person’ (‘he’ / ‘she’), as if you were writing about someone else.

The best approach is to simply state the facts that you wish to communicate, without using a pronoun at all. Start the sentence with a verb (action word) instead.

Here is an example of how use of the ‘I’ pronoun does not work – here it is combined with a negative statement in the CV Profile. (There is no point in stating what you are not looking for – simply do not apply for those positions!)

  • I am not seeking a network administrator position, I am a good choice for a small company that requires someone to manage product development and to administer the network.

This would be better rewritten in the following way in the Profile:

  • Excels at managing product development and network administration for small businesses.

It is straightforward and direct, sticking to the point and not waffling on.

Communicate Your Commitment

Every employer wants to see motivation, no matter what the position. They do not wish to see over-excitement or uncontrollable enthusiasm. Communicating passion for your work needs to be done carefully, or you will risk sounding enthusiastic but naïve.

For example, the following statement (taken from the person’s Profile) is dull and does nothing to communicate commitment. In fact, the candidate sounds dull and plodding, despite stating that they beat deadlines.

  • I understand how to get the best out of engineers and programmers, and bring in projects on time and under budget.

This would be better rewritten as follows, with the writing conveying more energy and life.

  • Motivates engineer and programmer teams to produce excellent results, completing projects ahead of deadlines and within budgets.

Don’t be Self-Important

Conveying responsibility is important. However, when taken too far, this can sound self-important and even pompous. This is particularly important when describing leadership skills, as it’s very easy to claim a bit too much when trying to sell yourself via a CV.

Avoid superlatives, such as ‘best’ or ‘greatest’, unless they are a direct quote from an official staff review. It is better to make simple statements and back them up with achievements that say even more.

In this example, the candidate is answering questions before they are asked.

  • Half of my job is developing interactive marketing strategies, i.e. how to help my clients achieve their business goals online. Strategy, as I define it, is about making the right choices and setting priorities among a sea of options.

This not only comes across as opinionated and self-important, but it presumes that the employer needs to be informed, as if they do not know what a strategy is. It is likely to irritate an employer!

The revised version below says the same thing, but without the pontification.

  • Supported and guided clients in achieving their business goals through interactive marketing strategies that reflected their enterprise priorities.

Let Your Words Show Quiet Confidence

Under-confidence is as off putting to an employer as over-confidence, as it suggests weak areas in experience. However, over-confidence is equally off-putting, as the employer envisages someone who talks but does not listen or accept management.

You need to write with a sense of authority, making it clear through the correct use of language that you know your area. Highlight all your strengths without going over the top, but make sure you don’t undersell yourself.

The example below shows how understatement can work against the candidate – the voice is so quiet as to be almost silent and no message is communicated.

  • Capable of imparting the required education to children by making interesting paradigms and models.

The candidate can make this sound far more positive by being a little more emphatic, without undermining the integrity of their own voice and character.

  • Inspires children to learn curriculum subjects through interesting, imaginatively conceived paradigms and models.

The candidate may be a quiet and thoughtful person, but writing with words such as ‘inspiring’, ‘interesting’ and ‘imaginatively’ shows how the application of those personal qualities can yield desirable results.

Action Plan

Taking the first steps to review your CV is easy.

  • Ask a friend or relative to read your CV. Ask that person, to tell you what kind of person they think you are based on what is written in your CV.

  • The results may be eye-opening! This is a positive step, so do not take it as personal criticism – this is only about your writing. If you feel brave, ask some other people to read it too.

  • Now start to review your CV with the person you asked to read it. Highlight all the words and phrases that you think may contribute to this impression. Can you see why they may be misinterpreting you?

  • Once you’ve identified what you need to change, you can start to rewrite your CV accordingly.

  • Remove all use of the pronoun ‘I’ from your CV.

  • Are there any negative statements in your CV? These need to go. Can you see a way to turn around statements so that they are positive instead?

Please let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.

If you need help with your CV / resume please check out our professional CV / resume writing service.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in CV Writing Tips by Paul Bradley. 17 Comments

Handling a Bad Interviewer Part 2

Last time, we looked at how to handle a bad interviewer, including intimidating, talkative or quiet interviewers.

This time we are going to look at how to handle the stumbling interviewer, the shallow interviewer and the rude interviewer.

The Stumbling Interviewer

The interviewer who does not seem to know where they are going with the interview is unprepared, insecure or both.

There appears to be no order or structure to their questioning and they are failing to bring out the depth of your experience.

The interview is a stop-start affair and you are concerned that they will know little about you by the close.

How to handle it

Remain calm and professional. You need to draw the conversation back to your skills and experience whenever possible.

You can do this by asking your own questions at appropriate moments, then describing how you: meet the criteria described, can help with achieving the goals described, will fit into the culture, etc.

If the interviewer reaches the end of their questions, offer to provide more information that you feel is highly important. It may feel clumsy, but you have no choice.

Shallow Interviewer

This interviewer has a list of questions that they ask, no matter what. This is often the case with panel interviewers where they are allotted a certain number of questions each.

There are no follow-up questions and no flow to the proceedings.

How to handle it

Again, you need to ask your own questions about the company / organisation and the job.

You also need to ensure your most relevant skills, experience and qualities are taken into account by putting them forward, even if not questioned directly about them.

Ensure that you are to the point, with solid eye contact as you talk. Do not ramble but be clear and confident.

The Rude Interviewer

There are many ways in which the interviewer can act rudely, without actually insulting you.

Top of the list is taking a phone call, reading a text message, sending an email, talking to somebody else or even smoking.

How to handle it:

Try to recognise whether they are checking your reactions in adverse conditions, or whether they are genuinely rude.

Either way, do not become impatient.

If interruptions are constant, ask if it might be worth rescheduling the interview.

Do consider whether this interviewer is organised enough to be a good employer. You deserve to be treated with respect at an interview.

Things to Think About (Summing Up Part 1 and Part 2)

Was the interviewer genuinely being rude or was their behaviour a deliberate ‘stress’ ploy?

Were you witnessing disorganisation or just the office on a bad day?

It’s important to keep the events of the interview in proportion. It may not have been ideal, but was it that bad?

Is the bad interviewer the person you will be working with, if successful? If not, then it may not be of such great consequence.

If they are, then there might be more cause for you to be concerned, After all, it is up to them to sell the job to you as much as you have to sell yourself to them.

Whatever the interviewer is like, it is best that you are calm, positive and confident throughout. This way, you can always maximise your chances of securing employment.

Please let us know your experiences of handling bad interviewers by leaving your comments below.

If you need help with interviews please see our interview services.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in Job Interview Tips by Paul Bradley. 11 Comments

What Information Can You Safely Leave Off Your CV?

In just a few minutes’ time, you’ll know exactly what doesn’t need to be included in your CV as well as why not. This will save lots of time as you can make some quick and simple edits! What’s more, with some additional and unnecessary information out of the way, the information that you do include will stand out even more.

For instance: Should personal information be included? What about that witty email address and will a photograph really impress an employer? All these questions and more will be answered below!

Too Much Personal Information

CV-writing and employer expectations have changed. Your parents may have told future employers that they were married with two boys and a girl as a consequence, but there is no longer any need for you to do the same.

So, don’t include details of your marital status or sexuality, as it is none of the employer’s business. Nor do you need to mention your race and nationality – leaving this information out can help you to avoid overt or hidden discrimination. Under equal opportunities legislation, it’s illegal for employers to select candidates on the basis of their race, age, sex, marital status, or sexuality – so, you don’t need to include any of this information on your CV.

Politics can definitely stay out of your CV too, unless this is directly relevant to the position you are applying for. If you were applying for a job working for a politician, then your politics would be highly relevant, but if you were applying for a job as a mechanic at a local garage then it wouldn’t be relevant and should be left off.

The only personal information that you really need to include on your CV, is your name and contact details.

Your Witty Email Address

Avoid including the email address that seemed funny when you set it up at school or college. It is unprofessional and will do nothing to impress an employer, who will think you are frivolous (and unfunny). It will only work against you.

So if your email address is or, just keep this for your own personal use and set up another email address – it can often be a good idea to set up a separate email address that you use solely for job applications.

Your Photograph

It may be tempting to include a photograph. But, in most instances, it is inappropriate to include it on your CV, unless you are specifically asked for a photograph. Your image may say more than you expect to a prospective employer, who may have a negative response for no real reason other than that they can. It is different in an interview, when your appearance is part of your overall package!

If you do need to include a photograph, then make sure that the photograph is a good likeness of you and shows you in the right light. That photo you put up on Facebook to make your friends laugh might not be appropriate. If you can afford it, a professionally taken photo will make your application stand out.

Courses That You Didn’t Finish

If you started an educational course or a professional certificate, but failed to complete it, then don’t include it on your CV. It’s tempting to do so, leaving it looking as if you simply forgot to include the completion date, but there’s a chance you’ll get caught out. You won’t look good when an employer notices.

Your Hobbies

Consider leaving out your hobbies once you have been working for a number of years, they take up space and don’t usually add much to your CV. If your interests say something really positive about you, in that they highlight your transferable skills (e.g. teamwork, determination to win, support for others, fundraising, administration, etc), then you may want to include them.

While it’s true that your interests can be interesting conversation starters at interview, many don’t help you to look good or sell you to employers. Likewise, it is often best to leave out information about political parties or Masonic Lodge membership, either of which could lead to rejection.

If you do include some of your interests, be selective and only pick things that show you in a positive light.

Your Social Media Pages

There’s already a high chance that if short-listed, an employer will seek out your Facebook or other social media pages, so make sure that there’s nothing that will work against you if they do come across your pages.

You should avoid drawing an employer’s attention to your pages. Pictures of you drunk as a student may cost you an interview! So, don’t list any social media pages on your CV.


When writing your CV, it can be as helpful to know what to leave out as what to include. Having a clear idea of this can save you lots of time and indecision.

– Personal information should be kept to a minimum.

– Don’t include an unprofessional email address.

– Photographs generally don’t improve CVs, so don’t include one unless asked.

– Leave out educational or professional courses that you failed to complete.

– Hobbies and interests can generally be safely left out of your CV.

– Social media pages should be left off your CV.

Please let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.

If you need help with your CV / resume please check out our professional CV / resume writing service.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in CV Writing Tips by Paul Bradley. 29 Comments

Handling a Bad Interviewer

You feel that your job search may be coming to a conclusion. You have worked hard on preparing your job application and have been rewarded with an interview.

Ready to meet the challenge ahead, you attend the interview only to find, to your horror, that you are faced with a bad interviewer!

Does this mean all your preparation will have been in vain?

In many instances, your degree of preparation and a determination to provide full answers, no matter what the standards offered by the interviewer, will see you through.

However, there are times when you will need to engage some focused people skills in order to avoid a disastrous interview experience or, at the very least, an interview that will not help you to secure a job.

The Intimidating Interviewer

Hopefully, you will not be faced with an intimidating interviewer very often. Usually, this is a deliberate ploy to see how candidates will act under pressure, when being interviewed for a high stress job.

The interviewer believes that this approach will reveal the ‘real’ person behind the polished, rehearsed candidate in front of them.

Knowing that this is a ploy may not help you to deal with it, unless you have prepared yourself beforehand, in which case you can handle it with grace and confidence.

How to handle it

Do not get flustered. Have your answers thoroughly prepared beforehand and do not deviate.

Take deep breaths, repeat questions to gain extra time, then answer politely.

Remain open, honest and direct. Remember not to take this personally, as it’s not meant that way.

The Talkative Interviewer

Some interviewers lack focus and will talk to much. They provide too much description when you have already understood the question in the first five seconds. They are using up valuable interview time by talking when they should be listening as well.

This is a sign of their own insecurity – they are feeling nervous due to inexperience – and sometimes it is simply their personality.

It is frustrating for you having spent many hours preparing your material and they are learning nothing about you while they are talking. In the worst case scenario, the interview is dragging on, getting longer and longer.

How to handle it

Do not show any impatience or interrupt. Instead, show every sign of listening carefully, even if you are bored rigid.

Lean forward and look ready to speak, so that you can interject when there is a pause.

You must immediately focus on your prepared answers as to how you will help the employer.

Always bring the conversation back to your skills and qualifications.

The Quiet Interviewer

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the interviewer who fails to say enough. You answer their questions as fully as possible, but get very little feedback.

It is hard to find a connection with them, as they are so unforthcoming. When you ask questions about the job, you glean very little information from their answers.

How to handle it

You cannot force this person to become more talkative. Ask as many questions as you can and try not to become visibly frustrated.

Your only option is to do your own research and ask other people about the company.

During the interview, you might ask if you can be given a tour of the company. It is their job to inform you as much as you inform them during the interview.

If you cannot find out the details you need, you are not in a position to make a decision about accepting the job.

Next Time …

We’ll look at the stumbling interviewer, the shallow interviewer and the rude interviewer, plus give you some tips on how to handle these types of interviewer.

Please let us know your experiences of handling bad interviewers by leaving your comments below.

If you need help with interviews please see our interview services.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in Job Interview Tips by Paul Bradley. 7 Comments

Injecting Personality Into Your CV

When you write your CV / resume, your primary concern is always going to be convincing the employer that you have plenty to offer in terms of relevant skills and experience.

At all times you are going to be endeavouring to sound courteous and professional. In doing this, you are addressing the uppermost of the employers’ major concerns: your ability to do the job and your willingness to do the job.

However, you also need to address their other concerns: will you fit into the organisation and the team? If they are going to be managing you themselves, they will want to know this and also whether they like you.

In this article, we look at some of the ways in which you can convey your personality in your CV / resume, encouraging them to believe that they will like you before they have met you.

What the Employer Fears

There is always a degree of risk involved in appointing a new member of staff. While the employer may feel that you offer the relevant skills, they can have little notion of whether you are willing to work hard and apply those skills.

Whether you will do so or not comes down to your personality and individual attributes as an employee. Are you motivated and dedicated to your work?

Next, they will wonder what you are like as a team member. Will you accept instruction well, or will you react negatively to constructive criticism?

No employer wants to work with someone who is argumentative or who doesn’t listen. Most people would prefer to work with someone who can do their job and yet is good to have around as well.

Personal Attributes Reflect Your Personality

One of the problems with CVs / resumes is that people list what they consider to be their personal attributes, but make them sound meaningless and superficial. The result is that no personality comes across at all.

This is usually because they make a bold statement that is both vague and unsupported by any evidence. For instance, a candidate may say that they have good communication skills, yet be so unclear as to how they make use of them, that the employer concludes they can’t really communicate at all. There is nothing for the employer to get hold of when they read each sentence.

Your personality is going to be evident through your personal attributes at work. If you are unable to communicate details of your attributes, then your personality is not going to be conveyed through your CV / resume.

Achievements Make You Individual

The same holds true for achievements. Whether these are based on team or individual actions, they do much to mark you out as an individual. Whatever else is included, the achievements will attract the employer’s interest most.

Anybody can list duties and responsibilities, yet achievements talk about your contribution as an individual.

It is therefore important that you include personal attributes in your Achievements. The employer is more likely to be convinced about your personality if the connections between your attributes and results are clearly made in your CV / resume.

What you are doing is communicating your value as an individual candidate – achievements are what make your CV / resume stand out and mark you as an individual amongst other candidates with similar skills.

Communicate Your Values

All employers look for personal integrity in a candidate, because they wish to work with someone they can trust. While it is true that someone who is dishonest is unlikely to say so in their CV / resume, there are different ways in which you can convey your integrity.

The most obvious route is not to stretch the truth. If the employer thinks you are exaggerating at this stage, they will wonder about your general honesty. It is certainly true that you need to ‘blow your own trumpet’, as nobody else will be doing this for you, meaning there is no place for modesty. Yet you can express your strengths in a professional, matter-of-fact way, always backing up your claims with results.

One way to convey honesty is to include challenges that you overcame in your CV / resume. By acknowledging that not everything is always perfect in a job, you are showing that your strength is in being honest. Make sure you describe how you dealt with the challenge, however.

If applying for an Executive role, then you can state in your CV / resume what your management style is. Are you hands-on? Do you lead from the front? If you mention the fact, somewhere in your CV / resume, that you believe in listening to and learning from your staff, you are always going to score points in the integrity stakes.

Anticipate Their Questions

Anything in your CV / resume that raises a query in the employer’s mind runs the risk of inducing a negative answer, before they have even met you. If they have enough doubts, then you will never have a chance to meet them to set the record straight.

This is another reason for avoiding ambiguous or vague statements, or – worse – leaving gaps in your CV / resume. You do not have to go to great lengths in your CV / resume, but a word or two of explanation can take you a long way.

Avoid Clichés

If it isn’t already clear, we will state categorically that using clichés in your CV / resume will reduce the presence of your personality in your CV / resume. The more your CV / resume sounds as if you copied the bulk of its content from the Internet, the less individual it is going to be sounding to an employer.

Use Warmth in Your Language

You may wonder how it is possible to express yourself with warmth in a CV / resume. This does not mean that you should be chatty or too friendly. Generally speaking, flowing sentences make an easier read, and consequently feel ‘warmer’ than short, clipped sentences.

If you are not naturally a good writer, find somebody who is and ask them to iron out the wrinkles in your language.

Create a Picture of Yourself

What makes a good picture of a person? A rounded portrait creates a general impression, but has the greater effect if it includes significant details. There is usually something that captures your interest, too, as well as something that makes that person unique.

The more you can strive for this effect in the composition of your CV / resume, the more chance you have of landing an interview. If the employer can visualise you, they are more likely to picture you in the job.

Please let us know how you’ve injected your personality into your own CV / resume by leaving your comments below.

If you need further help with your CV / resume please check out our professional CV / resume service.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

Posted in CV Writing Tips by Paul Bradley. 39 Comments