Mar 18th 2021

Key takeaways: How to show you are more than your CV

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Looking for a job is hard work, made even tougher by a job market that has been turned on its head in the recent pandemic. An ONS report shows that the number of job vacancies in January 2021 was 26% lower than a year ago. 

But with more than half of UK employers looking to hire in the next three months, why let your application end up in a pile with hundreds of others? Now is your time to shine and show employers that you are more than your CV. And at Tempo, we want to give you the tools for success to make sure that you land your dream job. 

Recently, our City Manager, Ash Sabzevar, hosted a webinar where we were joined by a panel of experts to get the inside scoop from those that know best: Maggie Lay, People Manager at WeGift, Daniel Illes, Head of People at Vinted, Chloe Samarasinghe, Talent Executive at Moneybox and Jerry Chen, Head of People at Flux. They shared with us top tips on how to show employers who you really are, drawing from their own experiences to offer real advice for candidates on the job hunt right now. 

Key takeaways from the event

Show passion and motivation 

To kick things off, we asked the panellists what their thoughts were around being more than your CV. 

Daniel agreed with this sentiment by explaining how passion, motivation, and excitement for the company are more important than just what you have on your CV. He says, “don’t give up if your CV doesn’t meet all the requirements, because these three things are half the win. Once you’ve shown you care about the job and are really excited about it, you create a human connection, and hiring managers will look over the slight gaps in your CV in favour of this.” 

Maggie echoes this point, especially when it comes to having little to no work experience. She highlights how WeGift is looking for people that are dedicated to what they want to do. 

“Don’t just do things for the sake of adding to your CV. Find out what experiences will help you to show a passion for the role and the industry it is in.” 

For example, Maggie told us how one job seeker was furloughed in the recent pandemic and volunteered for the NHS free meal service as she was looking to go into food tech. She ended up making a connection with someone who worked in the industry and was offered a job. 

Understand how to apply your story

Often when creating your CV, you end up just listing everything you have done in your entire life. But Jerry highlights how it’s important to take the time to understand your story and tailor your CV. Show what you have done that is relevant and what you have done that is different, highlighting your transferable skills. 

“You will be ten steps ahead if you find the real sweet spot where your experience and the job description intersects so you can say ‘I can give you what you’re looking for’.”

Chloe expands on this and applies it to graduates or people early on in their careers. She points out how you should be proud of experience such as working in retail or hospitality and not just gloss over it. “Balancing your studies whilst being committed to a job shows soft skills such as effective time-management and you should shout about these useful experiences you have gained along the way.”

But Jerry explains that the same applies to experiences that aren’t necessarily paid work. “Just because you haven’t got experience in a job doesn’t mean you don’t have work experience. Time spent as a treasurer at your university, running a society or volunteer work are all great ways to showcase your story to employers and what you can bring to the table.”

Research the company’s mission and values

How can you apply for a role if you don’t know anything about the company? You need to do your research so that you can show qualities that align with the company’s mission and values. Maggie explains how companies often create questions that draw from their values. She says, “we use our values to shape our interview process. For example, our value of ‘adapt and overcome’ means we are looking for candidates that are able to handle a dynamic, fast-moving pace at a startup like ourselves.” 

Chloe echoes this with how they use a platform called Udemy to support their value of ‘learning and development’. So by using platforms such as this or even YouTube, she highlights how you can upskill to give evidence that you align with their values.  

The same goes for a company’s mission. Jerry highlights how different companies need different qualities depending on their mission and business needs at that time. A small company is going to be hiring for different qualities than a larger company. 

“Do your research to show you understand their mission and how your qualities align with this and fit into that specific company.” 

Go the extra mile 

Putting in that extra effort can really separate you from the masses. Chloe says that at Moneybox they had a candidate that realised they used intercom as a service in their support team. He then upskilled in that service to show dedication to the company in his application, landing himself the role as it helped him to stand out from the crowd.

“It’s all about going that one step further. What puts a smile on my face is people that read our blog, or look into a new product feature or service we have launched to really go that extra mile.”

Maggie adds to this by saying that you can take extra steps to stand out by reaching out to the relevant people at the company on Linkedin. You can either do this to apply for a role or to ask for some advice. 

Daniel dives into how “you should network with people in the industry you want to go into, building up connections so you can ask for advice and what you can do to get there.” This is all especially important if you want to make a career change as you will need to put in extra effort to make up for a potential gap in skills and to rebrand yourself.

For Maggie, when it comes to a career change, she emphasises leaning into different experiences outside of your day job if you’re looking to get into something new. 

“Think to yourself: ‘What can I do to meet the right people to showcase my skills not just through my CV’.”

Be authentic and self-aware

Employers appreciate it when you are open with them. If you have a gap on your CV or you were made redundant, both Jerry and Maggie emphasise how important it is to be honest about this. Maggie relays how she was made redundant as the start-up she worked for made some mistakes along the way. She says, “I was actually hired for this reason as I had experiences that the company could learn from as a start-up themselves.” She goes on to explain that companies want to understand the steps you have taken and how want to you learn and improve in your new job.

“We want to see a sense of self-awareness and the ability to receive feedback by showing a genuine time you learnt something.”

Sharpen up your application 

The finer details of your CV layout, how long it is, and avoiding silly mistakes will go a lot further than you think. This is a point that Daniel touches on a few times. “Recruiters have to sift through hundreds of CVs so make sure yours has a clear and concise structure, ensuring the key selling points jump out.”

A top tip is to explain in a few words what each company you worked for does to give a better understanding of what your role entailed, placing them in reverse chronological order. He goes on to say how your cover letter should be no more than three, really punchy paragraphs. 

“Think outside the box to make your application quirky, interesting, and reflect your personality.”

Maggie even points out something as simple as answering all the questions on the application. She says you’d be surprised how many people will just leave gaps. Chloe points out that it’s errors such as these that can cost you the job. She highlights how attention to detail is really important. “If you find you keep getting rejected, then go back through to make sure you haven’t made any silly mistakes and have said the right things.” 

Final words 

To wrap it up, we asked each of the panellists for one top tip that they would give to people on the job hunt. 

Daniel:Focus on the four applications you want to nail, make sure you understand what the role is about, what the company does, and how what you have done in the past aligns with all of that.”

Maggie:Be deliberate with who you apply to and do your research. It will go a long way if you can really showcase your passion and your motivation for that company versus sending out your CV to a hundred companies.” 

Chloe: “Make sure you apply what you have learnt from different experiences in everything that you interview and apply for.”

Jerry: “Understanding yourself and what you can bring is a fantastic quality to have. If you add what you know to be your personal development areas in an application, that would really impress me.”

It’s never easy applying for jobs, but it’s all about approaching every application you do with the right attitude and dedication. By going that extra mile to show employers you are passionate and that you are more than your CV, you will land your dream job in no time.  

You can watch the webinar on-demand below.

Read here to find out more about how you can get a job with no work experience.