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How to Make a Great CV

One of the most challenging aspects of filling a vacancy is dealing with what at times can be an overwhelming response. It can be difficult to decide who to interview if there are a number of equally good candidates. It can also often be tricky to give lengthy consideration to a CV if you have a stack of applications in your inbox.

In the case of employers, particularly if it is a small company where there is no specialist HR or recruitment function, the individual hiring for the role may have limited time to spend on the task. Conversely, recruitment consultants see a very high volume of CVs every day and are adept at making a judgement within seconds. They will often be looking for negatives to rule candidates out and make their decision easier.

How do you make a great CV that will grab attention in seconds and avoid a quick rejection? One of the best pieces of advice for any candidate writing a CV or cover letter is to put yourself into the shoes of the person who will be reading it and make it an easy choice for them to call you for interview.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Does my experience, qualifications, and skills match the requirements in the job specification?
  • Are there spelling mistakes or unexplained gaps that make it easy for them to rule me out?
  • Is my CV clear and easy to read?
  • Is the layout logical, starting with my most recent position?
  • Have I explained what I actually did in previous roles?
  • Have I highlighted my key skills and achievements?
  • Does my CV show the reader who I am or is it bland and generic?

Whether you are a school-leaver or a seasoned professional, a great CV is one that is clear, concise, sells your skills and achievements, and shows an employer what you have to offer.

Keep it simple and to the point and make sure to include the following:

  • Basic contact information
  • A profile
  • Education and qualifications
  • Work experience
  • Key skills

A CV is a marketing document and as such it needs to be confident and targeted. We are often our own worst critics and it can feel a little awkward promoting yourself. However, you can be certain that other candidates will be telling the employer how great they are, so make sure your CV sells you.

For further information or advice contact The CV Agency on or +353863906659



The Competency Interview

Examples. Examples. Examples.

Competency interviews can be a daunting prospect if you have never encountered them before. However, with a bit of preparation and lots of examples in mind they are very manageable.

Competency interviews can be entirely focused on a role’s competencies or employers may include them along with other more standard interview questions. Either way the focus will be on the key skills and abilities required for the position. Employers find them useful as it allows them to use your past performance to predict your likely future performance in the role they are hiring for. It also make it easier for them to directly compare various candidates. Rather than asking you specific questions, you may simply be asked to describe an example of an occasion where you displayed a particular competency. For example, an interviewer might say:

‘I am now going to move on to the competency component of the interview. The first competency I would like you to deal with is problem solving

In order to answer this type of question it is necessary to describe in detail an example of a time when you displayed the relevant competency. Preparation is really important for competency questions. If you prepare your competency examples in advance you will have a much better chance of dealing with them effectively on the day. Remember that employers are not looking to hear general statements such as ‘I am great at solving problems’. Instead, they want to hear a real example of a time you showed that skill and what you actually did.

Occasionally, interviewers will provide a list of competencies in advance. However, they can mostly be found within the candidate requirements of the job specification. Study this section carefully as it will help you understand what the employer is looking for.

The STAR technique

One of the most useful ways of preparing for a competency-based interview is to consider the STAR technique. STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

When using this method you need to describe the situation that occurred, what task you carried out, what action you took, and the result or outcome.

Here is a simple example for the competency problem solving:

The situation: ‘I had just taken on a new position as office manager when I noticed that staff were spending a lot of time dealing with slow and poorly performing computers.’

The task: ‘I set about pricing a range of new computers and worked out how much productivity would increase from the enhanced performance of new machines.’

The action: ‘I presented the information to the managing director and we purchased the new equipment.’

The result: ‘Staff were more productive as they were able to do their work more rapidly and there was less downtime due to IT problems.’

There are a wide range of competencies for any given position so prepare lots of examples and remember the STAR technique. It will help structure your examples and stay focused.

Some common competencies are:

    • Teamwork
    • Initiative
    • Organising & planning
    • Communication
    • Decision making
    • Motivation
    • Resilience
    • Conflict management
    • Problem solving
    • Customer-focus
    • Commercial awareness
    • Leadership
    • Adaptability
    • Analytical thinking
    • Listening
    • Influencing
    • Results/target orientation
    • Developing others
    • Relationship management

Practice your Performance: Interview Questions

Imagine giving a pitch to a business or a presentation to a class without preparing any material. Most of us would find ourselves struggling for ideas and find it difficult to give a structured presentation in a coherent and focused manner. The same principle applies to job interviews. Being prepared and knowing how you will answer a question is vitally important.

One of the best things you can do before an interview is to practice answering interview questions out loud. While it may seem strange at first, it will help you formulate your answers and think of examples. It will also help you feel more confident and relaxed going into your interview. While it is impossible to predict exactly what you will be asked, most interviewers commonly ask at least some of the following questions.

Sample interview questions:

    • What made you apply for this position?
    • Why are you interested in working with us?
    • What motivates you to work in this career?
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • How would a friend or former employer describe you?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • Tell me about a problem you encountered in a previous role, how you went about resolving it and whether or not you were successful?
    • Have you ever been involved in implementing a new system or procedure?
    • How would you deal with a difficult client/customer?
    • Do you have experience managing competing priorities?
    • Do you prefer to work in a team or alone?
    • Tell me about an occasion where there was a conflict in your team. How was it resolved?
    • Describe a time when you used your initiative.
    • How do you organise your working day?
    • This is a high-pressure job. How will you cope with that?
    • Tell me about a time you worked towards a tight deadline.
    • What is your greatest achievement?
    • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
    • Describe your dream job.
    • What qualities can you bring to this role?
    • What do you do in your spare time?
    • If I gave you a million euro, what would you do?
    • Sell me this pen.
    • If you could be any fruit, which one would you be?
    • Why should I choose you instead of another candidate?
    • You’re overqualified for this job, aren’t you?
    • What are the qualities of a good manager?