“Just send them your CV and they’ll contact you!” - the best and worst career advice I’ve ever heard. Why? Because it suggests that you should apply for anything carelessly. Sending in your CV while applying for a job can not only be exciting, but also disappointing if you haven’t considered and prepared your application carefully.
Recruiters have to go through hundreds of CVs for each role before a roll is filled, and they are the first decision-makers in the selection process. So, by paying attention when creating your CV, you can save time for not only the recruiters, but also for yourself, because with receiving quicker feedbacks from HR, you’ll have more time for applying for other roles if you’re rejected by a company.
We will give you some hints on how to make yourself stand out with your CV and how to show your best side to your future employers.
There are no strict rules for writing a CV!
Many recruiters and managers have a different idea of what a good CV looks like. So you must be asking: “Does it matter how I write it?” My answer is: “Yes, still, it matters.” Like dating, you can’t take anything for granted, but you can try to make the most of the situation. There are many differences in form and content standards of CVs in each country. Here we refer to our experiences on the Hungarian labor market.
Create a brief CV with a tabular-layout, listings and use an easy-to-read format and layout!
Long and textuary CVs are hard to read quickly not only for the recruiters but also for the hiring managers who decide if they would like to invite you in for an interview or not. Try to summarize your past experiences in a maximum of 2 pages. - If you have e.g. 20 years of work experience it seems impossible however you could highlight the most relevant experiences for the role you’ve applied for without leaving gaps in your CV.
It’s unpleasant if recruiters can’t read your CV due to your background, font, or color choices. Keep it simple! Making yourself stand out doesn’t mean throwing together a striking CV! Use some color, but only the light ones. Forget the fancy fonts (e.g. Brush Script/Blackadder)! If you want to demonstrate your excellent editorial skills, leave it for later! If the company wishes to test this, they will send you a MS Office test before hiring you.
Start with your most recent work experiences! - Less is more. But too little isn’t good either.
Do not start with your education and your contact information at the very top of the page! Exception: If you don’t have any job experiences yet (e.g. you’re a career starter), of course, you can start with your education.
Ask yourself the question: Which of my experiences are the most relevant for the position I’m currently applying for? Highlight the most relevant responsibilities under the position titles in your CV, in a form of keywords and listings. If you want, you can specify your most relevant projects you’ve worked on in your cover letter or in an attachment. Recruiters and hiring managers will ask about your projects in the interviews if they seem important for them. If your projects make a good impression on you, you can mention them later at the online/offline interview.
List your contact information on the right or left side and put a current, business-like photo in your CV!
When you apply for a role, most of the time you have to type in your contact details (e.g. phone number, e-mail address…etc.) which will be transferred automatically to the Application Tracking System the company uses. Although your contact details are a necessary part of your CV, don’t highlight them at the top of your CV. Let recruiters and hiring managers focus on your most relevant experiences!
Recent photo: It’s important to include a current, realistic photo because you can build trust with interviewers by adding an authentic picture similar to your most recent look in your resume. If you have the relevant knowledge for the role, based on your CV, recruiters do not care about your appearance, so don’t be afraid of being judged by your photo!
Business-like photo: You don’t have to go to a professional photographer to take a photo of you, it’s okay to take a selfie in a long-sleeved shirt/blazer with a neutral background and enough light. Please, don’t use holiday photos wearing swimsuits, tank tops or muscle T-Shirts. (Believe it or not, it happens.)
List your language and technical skills in 2 different, separate parts of your CV an be realistic with them!
Recruiter often don’t have enough time to read CVs from the beginning until the end, they tend to search for keywords, so highlighting technical and language skills in different columns could be a big help for them and yourself too. Most recruiters can speak multiple languages, so they’ll probably check your language skills and sooner or later they‘ll find out what level you’re on in the given foreign language.
If you tend to under- or overestimate yourself, take a language assessment online or at a language school or with a private teacher to estimate your language levels correctly.
If you are applying for a role for which you don’t have the relevant experience, write 2 sentences at the top of your CV explaining why you are applying for the position!
Recruiters encounter a lot of misapplications during their work. They may not understand why you are applying for the role without having the relevant job experiences in your CV, so it’s better to explain it. If you have the relevant experiences for the given role, don’t worry about this part!
For career starters: Write every work experience in your CV!
Even if you helped in a family business or worked in a fast-food restaurant for a longer or shorter term. Having work experiences as a student reflects well on you and it doesn’t matter if it’s relevant for the given role or not. It shows to employers that you can balance your studies and work at the same time, you can work in a team, and are willing to take responsibility for the work that you do.
Besides, learning how to balance your studies and work will be advantageous for you and your future employer later, when learning work-life balance.
Don’t leave gaps in your CV!
A gap in your CV could cause more difficulties than honestly admitting the truth, whether it’s unemployment, childcare, career break or illness.
You might prefer working for a company which values its employees and admits that everyone can have a difficult or joyful, but unemployed period during their life. We hope that all companies believe this, but we at ALDI certainly do. We value honesty more than judging people by their career breaks.
Having children or coping with an illness can teach us a lot which make us stronger which is a benefit in the labor market - as we think at ALDI. But of course, it’s still not compulsory to clarify the reason of a gap in your CV. However, I would strongly recommend avoiding lying.
Use spell checking in all languages you write your CV in!
Ask a friend to read your CV before sending it to avoid misspellings and grammatical errors you wouldn’t recognize by yourself. Accuracy is essential for most companies as it forms their first impressions of you based on your CV.
Nowadays, many companies organize online job interviews, but face-to-face interviews are also coming back after the dying down of the Covid pandemic.
We would like to give you some hints on how to prepare for online and face-to-face job interviews.
From a pen of a recruiter…
1. Prepare! - Yes, it’s so simple.
- However, most candidates don’t devote time and effort for the interview preparation and believe me, recruiters and hiring managers notice it.
- Preparing for a job interview doesn’t require many days in most cases, you only need a couple of hours on the weekend.
- Unless you want to improve your foreign language or technical skills before the interview. This could take more days if you currently work in a full-time job.
2. Read the job description / job ad again before the interview!
- What skills are required for this role? Everything is in the job description.
- Ask yourself: What skills do I have compared to the position requirements in the job description?
- You can emphasise these soft/hard skills at the interview to stand out.
- What experiences of yours could be interesting for the interviewers? What questions could be asked by the interviewers to check up on these skills? Think about these possibilities in advance.
- Answer these questions while preparing or even write down your answers to be more self-confident. You will see this will decrease your stress level at the live interview.
3. Wear nice and comfortable clothes in the case of both online and face-to-face interviews!
- No, you don’t have to wear high heels or tie, let’s keep it simple, but neat and tidy.
- Most companies are fine with wearing jumpers or T-shirts at online interviews but note, that this may differ from company to company.
- You’d rather be overdressed than be adversely affected by your inappropriate clothing.
4. Tell the interviewers if you’re nervous!
- Most candidates are nervous at job interviews. Interviewers are used to anxious candidates. These feelings are natural and understandable.
- Although the interviewers can see that you’re excited, if you transparently put your emotions on the table, you can create an intimate and honest atmosphere, which can be to your advantage.
- On today’s job market companies must also sell their roles to candidates because of the lack of skilled workforce. Not only companies interview you, but you also interview them, you can also decide freely if you want to work for the given company or not. It’s a mutual decision between you and the company.
5. Ask your own questions!
- I would repeat my previous statement: job interviews are mutual conversations nowadays, therefore ask every information you need in order to be able to decide to take a job, or not.
- Don’t be afraid of asking stupid questions! It’s better to clarify misunderstandings during the selection process than later after you’re already hired.
6. Ask back if you’re not sure you’ve understood something correctly or answered the question the interviewer’s asked.
- Asking for clarification will be a valuable skill during your training period as you start to work for a new company and later too.
- Being able to ask the right questions is also a big plus.
7. Answer all questions, don’t fudge, don’t speak in a vague and inadequate way to avoid the direct answers!
- Interviewers have limited time for your interview, and they would like to have answers at the end and I’m sure you do too.
- Being able to answer the question shows that you’re a precise and attentive person who can focus on more complex questions (/problems) and details.
8. Show respect for everyone during the whole recruitment process!
- Regardless of the position, nationality, age, gender, appearance, and technical/language knowledge, you must show respect for everyone not only during the selection process (from the recruiter’s phone interview until the personal interview), but also at your future workplace. You'd think it's basic for everyone, but unfortunately, it's not.
9. Don’t panic if you can’t remember the position details at the interview!
- Take notes from the early stage of the recruitment process, even during the phone interview!
- If something is not clear for you, admit it honestly and ask about it again at the online/face-to-face interview! Recruiters know, you can’t remember everything especially if you’ve applied for more positions.
10. Tell the interviewers if something bothers you at the interview!
- We, at ALDI, hope that during our interviews you feel comfortable, and we can create a positive atmosphere for you. But it can happen that something is not the most comfortable for you during the interview. What should you do if this happens?
- I would recommend to tell the interviewers proactively, so they can contribute to your wellbeing at the interview and you can show them your honestly.
- Giving feedback is a really important skill in a business environment, we highly appreciate it at ALDI.
11. Check the most common interview questions on the internet before the interview!
- At ALDI we always try to conduct personalized interviews and assess the skills required for the given role.
- The typical interview questions (like What are your strengths/weaknesses? What are your career goals?...etc.) provide a good basis to think about yourself and to get to know each other.
- These questions won’t be boring if you answer them honestly, even if they might seem difficult to answer. But they help you start an honest conversation with your interviewers.
- Improving your self-awareness is crucial if you’re applying for positions and it starts with being able to answer these personality and motivation-related questions you can find on the internet. You could easily encounter some of them at your interview.
- In my experience some candidates can’t answer these typical HR questions because they’ve never thought about it and they might struggle with self-awareness.
- You can ask your current colleagues and leaders for feedback or even your friends, on how they see you as a person.
- There are many good online courses and books related to self-awareness but seeking the help of a psychologist or coach could also help you develop these skills.
12. Practise in the given foreign language and think about the most common interview questions in the given foreign language too, before the interview.
- If you are a super hard-working person, you can also collect the questions from the internet and work out your possible answers in every foreign language you speak. You only have to do it once in life, later you’ll just need to make minor modifications.
13. Check the video conference tool, your screen and audio before the online interview!
- Interviewers have limited time for your interview and so might you. It’s better to know if a device or network doesn’t work beforehand.
- However, technical problems can happen sometimes, which is normal, so don’t panic if they occur. Keep calm and apologize, ask the interviewers for patience, and try to fix it. In the worst case, they’ll reschedule your interview.
14. Check the exact location of the company you’ll have the interview with and check the traffic conditions before heading off to the face-to-face interview!
- Arrive 15 minutes earlier. Registration at the reception and the orientation between multiple office buildings could take some time.
15. Use social media for good reason!
- Check the professional background of your interviewers before the interview!
- If you are under stress, you might not remember the position of the interviewers who are asking questions from you.
- It can even be to your advantage of knowing about your interviewer’s professional background by asking the right questions from the right person. One last tip, you can even create an intimate atmosphere by calling interviewers by their names.