You are sitting in beachy New Zealand having a mild panic attack about your move to London. Actually scratch that, make that a major OH-GOD-WHAT-IF-I-DON’T-GET-A-JOB-AND-HAVE-TO-TURN-TO-PROSTITUTION panic attack. I mean, if at this point you are not curled up in the corner with two empty bottles of gin you get a gold star. Part of feeling so ‘walking on marbles’ panicky is because you feel like you can’t do anything about it, you are just waiting for the crest of the wave to hit. Well never fear my darlings, I sat down to have a chat with legendary entrepreneur Matthew Sanders to calm your nerves and help you take the one action you can right now… getting your CV London ready.
Why Matthew I hear you ask? He is the creator of Zoek*, a bad-ass job search app that might just find you the job of your OE dreams. And also because he wasn’t scared off by my sheep question….
Anyway, here are the answers to all your London CV questions!
Should you put your visa status on your CV, if so how much do you have to say about it?
Yes, it’s always best to be upfront with interviewers before you get further down the process so as not to be in danger of wasting each other’s time. Include it in the personal details of the CV. On your application make sure that you show that being from New Zealand is a strength – many companies will appreciate an outside perspective and encourage diversity within their organisation.
Does it matter if your work experience is with brands that only Kiwis know? What if it was just you and 100 sheep?
Working with 100 sheep is perfect if you are in the agricultural industry, we know NZ lamb is top drawer! Employers want to see what you are capable of and your transferrable skills regardless of which brands you have worked for. If you can show your track record, references and the results you have received – this will be exactly what the hirer/recruiter is looking for. Putting links on your CV to the brands you have worked for will help employers research companies they may not be familiar with and always make sure your references are clearly visible. Emphasise any strengths you have gained having worked in different environments and use LinkedIn (or even a personal website) to grow your personal brand and highlight yourself professionally online. We are in the amazing age of the internet, so irrespective of physical distance, you can tell your story.
What is the attention span of a UK recruiter like… should your CV be one page? Two pages? Novel length?
The attention span of a UK recruiter is the same as anyone else living in the days of six second Vine videos and Facebook news feeds. The recruitment industry is fast-paced and time sensitive. You need to make the reader want to keep reading, so a powerful personal statement about why you do what you do, rather than a token list of what you think the perfect employee looks like, can help you stand out. Imagine how many of those generic descriptions of the perfect employee an employer reads in a week. A one page, double-sided CV which gives a nice snapshot of your work history and qualifications is a standard rule of thumb and will give you plenty of opportunities to expand upon in an interview.
What are the two most important sections of your CV for UK recruiters? Do they really care that you like going to the movies and hanging out with friends?
1. A strong personal statement that shows your ambition and a sense of purpose and direction related to the job you’re applying for. Don’t just show the numbers of why you would be good at what you do, show why you really want to be there and how you would be an engaged employee. Showing a clear understanding of yourself, why you do what you do and how this links to the role and the company is powerful. Not just for the sake of your career, but for the sake of the company and it’s objectives and direction.
2. Experience, again tailored to the role you are applying for. The biggest predictor of future behaviour is previous behaviour so show what you have done in the past, to show what you can do for them in the future.
There is nothing wrong with showing some personality. If you have a point of difference that could be a strength, be consistent and show it.
Do I need to wait till I land in London before I start sending out my CV?
No. Depending on the nature and industry of the roles you are applying for, there might be some leeway time from application to deadline. Most interview processes will include first contact, first interview, second interview, offer of employment and then start date – think weeks rather than days in most cases . So start applying weeks or even months (depending on the time of year and role) before and prioritise and plan the applications based on the date the applications close. To make sure the employers take you seriously, include a UK address as soon as you have it organised.
Back in NZ we don’t use a lot of recruitment companies, how do you make your CV generic enough to appeal to a wide range of companies?
Many recruitment companies will ask you to fill out forms and templates which recycle the same information into their format, which you can’t predict. If you are applying for different sectors or roles then have a CV tailored for each and be prepared to present it or fill out forms for different recruitment agencies.
What if I went travelling before I came over to London, how should I explain the gap in my CV without mentioning that drunken night in Hopfgarten?
If it’s a point of difference, make it a strength. Keep those snapchats to yourself, but emphasise the education and life perspective that travelling has given you. Travel has probably taught you social skills to communicate with many different people, a sense of self-awareness as well as planning, ambition and organisation. These things can be a big advantage over someone who has only ever worked in the same city. If you can present it as being a deliberate decision and part of a longer term personal plan, then it can only be a good thing. Bonus points for any volunteer work or free work experience you can show too.
What is the one thing I should leave out of my CV?
Anything irrelevant. Make it concise and deliberate for a more meaningful, consistent impact. The dog walking job you had when you were in high school every other weekend for your mum’s neighbour’s friend, will not be of interest to an employer. We know there is a lot of responsibility in looking after a dog but honestly, if it isn’t relevant to the current job and was more than a few years ago, it’s best to leave it out. Your CV should be relevant to the role and should pivot around this objective. So shape it and build it around what you bring to the role you are applying for.
What is your best bit of magical CV advice for fresh off the boat Kiwis?
Aeroplane is also a great way to travel nowadays, faster too! No – on a serious note, show what you do best with actions not words. Employers have read thousands of CVs that describe this fictional ‘best employee ever’ character who has good time management, is self-directed, works well in a team as well as independently etc. If you are applying for a marketing role and saying with words you are creative and funny, does your CV show it? If you are claiming attention to detail, how is the structure, layout and symmetry of your CV? Live the words on the page. It’s not just an introduction document but the first example of your work to a potential employer. If you are claiming anything on your CV – can you back it up with evidence?
I can’t thank Matthew and Zoek enough for collaborating on this post with me!