Matt Craven, Director of CV & Interview Advisors, has been running online webinars on Workingmums.co.uk on how to write effective CVs. We asked him what questions he most commonly got asked by people looking to go back into work after a career break. Here was what he said were the top four questions playing on people’s minds.
Q: What do I do if I have been out of work for three years after having children?
A: I would create a section on your CV that covers the dates from when you left work to present and lump anything you have done in this period together. Things like voluntary work or involvement in parents’ associations are good fare. If you have a professional background, seeking out small consultancy assignments (for next to no pay if necessary) can bridge the gap between ‘baby stuff’ and working. If you have had two years of not working and three months of consultancy work, you could legitimately write July 2010 to July 2012: Maternity / HR Consultant. The ratio between the two does not have to be divulged.
Q: What if I want to change career?
A: Firstly, it’s an incredibly tough market with more than 100 people applying for each role. If you are returning to work after a break, you will be up against people who have been continually employed; in many cases an employer will naturally prefer this group of people. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to make progress, it just means that your CV and interview technique needs to be absolutely spot on. Having a CV that merely lists your jobs with a few brief bullet points underneath each one is not going to convince an employer to interview you; it needs to be a business case that explains where you can add value. If you throw changing career into the mix, then things start to get tricky. If you are dead-set on this plan then the best option is a skills-based CV that highlights the key (job-based) skills that your future employers are looking for with evidence that you have those skills, written as short paragraphs.
Q: Should I put interests and hobbies on my CV?
A: No – unless you have done something remarkable such as climbing Everest or raising a load of money for charity. Think about the “so what factor” – socialising with friends and going to the cinema is hardly going to excite a potential employer. Employers may want to see interests, but they often use them to weed out those whose interests do not match their own. Preconceptions about you as a person a drawn from your interests and employers should judge people on their work ability, not outside work interests. What you do in your spare time is your business.
Q: What if I haven’t achieved anything?
A: Achievements are critical to a good CV and employers value them above all else. Employers want people who “make a difference” which is why many companies have “make a difference” awards. In seven years of writing CVs, we have never failed to find at least three achievements from each and every customer (that’s about 5,000 customers) so you need to rack your brains and think of things that you have done that are impressive, such as managing a project or introducing a new idea. If you genuinely haven’t, then I would recommend volunteering for some projects and contributing to ideas within your current role quick sharp!
For a free CV appraisal from CV & Interview Advisors please visit www.cvandinterviewadvisors.co.