Tag Archives: CV Help and Advice

CV Advice For Ex Forces

CV Advice for Ex Forces

CV Advice for Ex Forces 

I was once told that all ex service personnel leaving the armed forces were given exactly the same information in how to structure a Resume.

Personally I don’t believe there is a one size fits all, cookie cutter solution for writing a CV.

Based on the wide variety of experiences you have, I think that’s especially the case when it comes to ex forces personnel.

Why would you want a CV to look like every other person that’s in the same position as you are?

No – you need to give yourself a competitive edge and show your unique skills.

Here are 8 changes I would make straight away to improve your chances of getting that interview.

1. Soft Skills – Forget them.

CVs are littered with phrases like

“Work well under pressure”

“Self-motivated and high level of integrity”

“Excellent communication skills”

“Results and quality-oriented working habits to aim towards company goals”

“Excellent man management skills”

Filling out a CV in bullet points with these “unique skills” just under the name and address section is in my opinion (and other Recruiters I know) a waste of time, and to be honest I generally skip right past it to go to the part I’m really interested in.

Far better to change them for something more technical like

  • Re-wired the Comms Systems on Apache Helicopters, or
  • Upgraded emergency Diesel generators on XYZ Aircraft Carrier, or
  • Diagnosed Faults down to sub system level on Tornado Aircraft

These are tangible things that give me a point of reference and help me to make the leap to see how you may able to do the job that I’m looking for people for

2. Qualifications – List them somewhere near the top.

Start with the highest and work backwards.

  • ONC or HNC in Subject 2
  • NVQ 3 in Subject 3
  • Modern Apprenticeship as etc

And so on

Then move on to the specialist courses again, the most valuable at the top, working down.

  • Slinging Course
  • Rigging course
  • First Aid Course
  • 100 metres Swimming Certificate

You get the idea?

While I’m covering qualifications, I would highly recommend that you ensure that you posses anything that is listed on your CV.

I can’t claim that you have a NVQ 3 in Engineering if I haven’t seen it, and often a company will need copies for their records.

As a footnote it can cost currently up to £44.00 to search for a replacement City & Guilds certificate. This can take 3 weeks or more and and the fee is non refundable even if they can’t find it.

3. Reverse Chronological Order – List the most recent job you did first.

This is the first part of CV I’m going to look at.

Give an overview of the positions you’ve held, and the jobs you’ve done, focussing on the technical details.

This is the area that normally gives me the most information so this is where

“Re-wired the Comms Systems for the Apache Helicopter,” or

“Upgraded emergency Diesel generators on XYZ Aircraft Carrier,” or

“Diagnosed Faults down to sub system level on Tornado Aircraft” needs to be.

This is the first place I will look to establish if you may be suitable for the role I have.

The second third and fourth places I’ll look will be the jobs previous to that.

Bullet any achievements, like

  • “supervised team of 12 fitters” or
  • “repaired and turned around Merlin EH101 Avionics within 24 hours”

and then move onto the next.

4. Show Me The Relevant Experience

Whatever job you’re applying for, your CV needs to show the relevant experience, using technical keywords.

So if you’re applying for an Electrical Fitting job, focus on that experience on your CV.

Facilities Maintenance? Talk about your experience in this area.

Ex forces personnel often do more than one job, so tailor your CV to show the work you’ve done that gives you the direct experience for the position you’re applying for.

5. Tell Me Where You’ve Been

A lot of the people I deal with are ex-services also.

If I could tell them where you served, the Rank you held etc we both know they’ve probably got a lot of the information to help them make a decision on your suitability.

6. Tell Me More

Here is a typical extract from a CV

Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer) – 2007 – November 2013

A varied role, adapting to the needs of the Forces. Not only working on ships, also land based. In this time, experience has been gained in fields such as driving, management and administration.

6 Years’ experience of probably the most varied work on earth and it’s summed up in a couple of sentences.

Now I KNOW there is more this person can add.

I can only begin to guess the type of work done, the tools used, and the achievements gained and the reality is, I DO HAVE TO GUESS.

I now have a choice to either pick up the phone and have the conversation, or move on to the next one.

It’s also on my mind that when it comes to the interview and this person is asked “tell me about your last job” that this is an example of the answer that they’ll give.

7. Know What You Want To Do 

For me this is probably one of the most important points.

Coming from the services you are likely to have a wide and varied range of practical skills.

Knowing the kind of role you want and then focussing on, and promoting those skills in detail is for me the best thing you can do.

Let’s say you’re looking for a Hands on Electrical Fitting or a Maintenance Role.

There’s less point talking about your management skills, your Health and Safety skills, your Quality Auditing skills, or anything else that’s not related to the job you’re aiming for.

The space you free up by taking out the irrelevant stuff can be filled up with the technical stuff we talked about earlier ☺.

8. Know Where You Want To Do It

Once I’ve got your CV and I believe you may be suitable, I’m going to ask

  • Where do you want to work? How far would you want to commute on a daily basis, would you relocate or work away from home?
  • What jobs do you want to do?
  • How much do you need to be paid?
  • When are you available to start work or how much notice do you need to give?
  • Are you interested in Permanent Jobs, Contract Jobs, or Temp to Perm Jobs or all 3?

I’ll need to know this as a bare minimum.

Questions, Comments or Thoughts? Leave a Reply in the box below.

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Why I Asked You About Your Last Job

Why Did You Leave?

Why I asked you about your last job

When we talk for the first time, I’m keen to make sure I really understand how I can help you.

Some of the questions I ask may not make sense at first, but bear with me and I’ll tell you why I ask them.

“What is your current job and what does it involve?”

For most people the CV is supposed to answer this question.

In fact sometimes when I ask a candidate “tell me about the job you’re doing at the moment” the reaction can be “well haven’t you read my CV?”

To a large degree I understand that response.

Most of the time I have read the CV, but I haven’t studied it.

I’ve seen enough to know that you’re worth talking to and now…I want to talk to you.

Maybe not everything is covered.

You’ll probably tell me more than is contained in your CV.

I’ll ask you questions and you’ll give me more information. And then I’ll ask you more questions and, well you get the idea…..

You’ll tell me what you like and what you don’t like.

If I’m going to find the right role for you, I need to know why you want to leave this one.

In my experience people don’t often leave a job because they “fancy a change” or even just for the money.

There is generally an underlying reason.

If it wasn’t your idea to leave I’m naturally curious about the circumstances surrounding that.

Were you made redundant as a result of cutbacks? Did you kidnap the MDs wife and set fire to the building? You may laugh, but I’m expected to know if you’re an axe wielding homicidal maniac hell bent on finding your next victim, (or a highly mobile professional ready for your next challenge).

You may in your explanation give me so much more information, often making you suitable for other roles I’ve had, and companies I’ve dealt with.

You’ll tell me about the company.

I probably know a bit about them, but not as much as you do.

What you tell me will also help me know if the environment you’re in, is one you enjoy.

If I ever work with that company, and consider placing someone else there, it will help me work out if that’s the right environment for them.

So when you’re asked about your current role, I know it can be frustrating, especially if it’s not the first time of answering it, but for my part – I want to make sure I use this opportunity to find the best company for you.

As a bonus I’ll also get an idea, how you’ll answer that question if/when I get you to interview stage.

I’ll give you a real life example of how this helped me.

I spoke to an Electrical Engineer that was ex-military (ex RAF from memory).

He’d recently started a job as a Field Service Engineer, for a Generator company.

When I asked him about the job he was doing he went into detail about it.

We talked in depth about the High Voltage testing he did, the Voltages he tested up to, the Test equipment he used.

Everything he said and the qualifications he had talked about passing, made me confident he knew about his subject.

When I asked him about the downsides of his current role, while he was relatively happy with the work content, he was unhappy with the lack of structure and career prospects, and that the company wouldn’t invest in training for him when there was a commercial benefit to them doing so.

He said that his manager wasn’t consistent, and that he had no reason to believe there was a career path available to him.

He was frustrated that the company didn’t seem to have a vision or a plan going forward, every day was reacting and fire fighting, and there was no reason he could see this would change.

I asked him if he’d spoken to his manager about this, he said he had and this was where the inconsistency came in.

His manager had talked about resolving these issues, but not only did he not resolve them, but often made decisions that made things worse.

The role I had in mind for him was a high voltage testing role, so the conversation about his test experience that wasn’t covered in his CV, gave me extra information that not only helped me believe he had the right technical experience, but I could also hear that he enjoyed that part of the job.

The company I was recruiting for was a bigger organisation. They had structure, processes, and procedures in spades. They invested in their staff to improve their skills to the benefit of the business. They also had a career path that went right to the top. I was confident that this would be the place for him, and this was an opinion I passed onto the hiring manager.

Long story short he was interviewed, offered, and he started, and is still there now.

Last time I heard from him he said the job was going well and he was happy there.

Thoughts or comments about this?

Add a reply below.

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Keywords are vital for your CV

Without keywords your CV simply wouldn’t be found.

CV Keywords Image

CV writing tips

Most searches of CVs use Keywords.

Let me explain…….

Recruitment Agents will generally have a database in which to store your CV in.

Over the years an Agency will potentially accumulate thousands of CVs.

Imagine all these CVs in a big digital pot (or even an actual pot if you prefer, yes, imagine 10,000 CVs in a big pot and yours is in it)

The keywords are the hook in which your CV will be retrieved, to build the shortlist of potential candidates for the role the agent is searching on.

This is a system called Boolean Searching that will depend on the words YOU’VE used on YOUR CV.

How CVs Are Searched (Sometimes) 

If searching for say, a Design Engineer, that had used a CAD system called Solid Edge to Design Rolling Stock, the search string would be “Design Engineer” AND “Solid Edge” AND Rail OR “Rolling Stock”.

This would give a list of Design Engineers that had THOSE WORDS on their CV.

If you were a Design Engineer working in this sector, and your CV DIDN’T have these words on, YOU WOULD NOT BE RETURNED IN THOSE SEARCH RESULTS.

This is the importance of keywords. If you’d chosen to describe your self as the Chief Designer, or Head of Technical Drawing, or Mechanical Designer, using “the latest 3D CAD” to design a new Train YOU WOULD NOT BE RETURNED IN THOSE SEARCH RESULTS.

I’ve seen good candidates lose out on great opportunities because they didn’t understand this (this doesn’t affect us as much at Clemtech and I’ll tell you why in another Blog post).

This applies across the board regardless of the job you do.

To improve your chances of being found you should use common terms related to your area of expertise or chosen profession.

My Advice

So my advice is to use a variety of phrases to describe the same thing.

In the example above use variations of Mechanical Designer, Design Engineer, Mechanical Design Engineer, and if you’ve used CAD systems, list them all.

More keywords = more chances of getting found.

Thoughts, comments, further advice?……welcomed by completing the form below.

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Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

CV Advice

How To Get More Interest In Your CV

After years of picking through countless shortlists of candidates, I’ve been forced to develop ever efficient ways of recruiting.

So when dealing with ad response, or merely searching through CV after CV to find the exact skills i’m looking for – I tend to go immediately to the most recent entry and start looking for proof that you can do the job that I’ve been asked to find someone for.

This is just how I recruit.

Everyone’s different. I’m a logical person with (some may allege a slight autistic streak) so I look for facts.

The other reason I do this is because I’ve had countless experiences of Hiring Managers and HR people doing exactly the same thing.

I KNOW If you’ve done a certain type of job you have transferrable skills. (I’ll deal with “if you gave me a little bit of training I’d be up to speed in no time” in another blog post).

But if I send a CV to a client, and they can’t see you’ve done the job they want you to do, there is potential for said client to feel I may not have found them the right person.

I’m afraid the spray and pray brigade have ruined it for all of us.

When you’re applying for a job, look at the must haves, work out where you’ve done it, and then add it to your CV.

The simple fact that you wrote it will mean that it will support what I’m saying, and give the client some comfort.

As an added bonus you’re including more keywords on your CV making it easier to write.

If you have a question about this post, please leave a comment 🙂

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Writing A CV Is Hard!

The last time I wrote a CV I found it REALLY hard.

I was asked to start a business with a former work colleague, and I had to put something together to go along with a business plan.

Because I was working with an organisation that specialised in Recruitment funding, I believed that I wouldn’t have to go into great detail, they were in the business, just giving my job title and some basic information would probably be enough (or so I thought).

This turned out not to be the case, and so I was disappointed, maybe even a little offended when I was asked for more information.

So I started to work on my CV.

CV Writing

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As an experienced Manager of a Recruitment Agency, I’d seen plenty of CVs in my time, but for some reason……………..Nothing.

Writers Block?

I’d managed to stretch it out to about 3 lines when I realised that it wasn’t showing my backers anything close to my potential or any of my achievements.

Then I remembered something a writer had once said on a podcast.

How I Solved The Problem

He said “if you want to learn to write, then you need to write and write and write and write and write and write and write”.

Basically what he was saying is that you need to just dive in.

Don’t worry about the content or the quality at this stage (see I’m doing it now :), just start the process of writing, and then refine what you’ve written.

And then leave it.

And then refine it.

And then leave it.

So I started to make a list of everything I’d ever done in my current role.

I listed every detail, no matter how small, every achievement no matter how big 😉 and just kept adding to the list.

I closed my eyes and recalled everything I’d done during a typical working day, the tools I’d used to do it, and who I contacted to get it done.

By the time I finished I had too much information, so started trimming back the not so important stuff (to be honest there was quite a lot). But the point was that not only had I pushed past my writers block, but also had given a more comprehensive account of the role I’d held.

If you’re having trouble putting together your CV try it – you may be surprised.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Incredulity?

Leave a comment.

I won’t mind…….