Our Furloughed or Released Talent (FORT) peer support group for those released or furloughed from digital, marketing, creative, comms and PR roles continues to grow.

One way we support the online community is with “Ask Me Anything” Q&A sessions from external expert guests.

Proving that three isn’t always a crowd, we had the pleasure of welcoming leading creative industry recruiters Dean Connelly, Rob White and Rohan Shah to the FORT for our latest “Ask Me Anything” on topics relevant to those who are looking for a new role - how to make the perfect CV, and how to prepare for an interview. Dean is Founder & PR Recruitment Director at Latte, Rob is Senior Consultant at Media Contacts and Rohan Shah is Co-Founder and Managing Director at Reuben Sinclair.

They covered a lot of ground in our allotted hour, focusing on the job application process but also touched on screening software and much more.

Regardless of your professional sector, their advice is genuine 'gold dust'.

Let’s dive in...

What’s the ‘right’ length for a CV?

Rob: “I’ve found it is dependent on experience and what you are including on there - it can be a bit longer if you’ve done a fair amount of freelance work or are including extensive academics. Typically I would try and keep it to two pages and make it relevant to the specific role and company you’re applying for.”

Dean: “It’s more about what is relevant and putting the right information on the CV. If it was over five years ago it can just be listed as [job title, company name]. Go into detail on the more recent part of your career, and freelancers - don’t lump all your experience together!”

What are your views on skills-based vs. chronological CVs?

Rohan: “Reverse chronological order in most areas is ideal - it’s normally the most recent experience that’s the most relevant.”

Rob: “With the volume of applicants at the moment, internal teams might be taking less time to read through CVs...If you put it in reverse chronological order it will make it easier to digest. You can include a skills section for either each role or in your personal statement or bio.”

Is there anything I can do to ensure my CV makes it through algorithms or screening software?

Rob: “Look at your CV as a piece of SEO [Search Engine Optimisation] and ensure you include relevant sectors. E.g. rather than just saying Microsoft, you should include ‘technology’ / ‘software’. This is also applicable to your LinkedIn profile, so by optimising it in this manner you can ensure you’re more easily found.”

Rohan: “Keywords are...key! Use relevant keywords throughout your CV - skills, job titles, clients, specialisms, sectors, etc.”

Is it worth putting my CV through graphic design?

Dean: “Graphically designed CVs often get overlooked. We recently had a candidate send a CV that was pink, with sparkles surrounding some of the brands they had worked on. You had to really study it to get a grasp of what they had done - it can be a distraction that harms your chances. Simple, bullet point format is best. If sending to recruiters, make it a Word document so we can edit before sharing with a client if we need to.”

Rob: “Also, it may seem obvious but avoid including your picture and date of birth/age.”

Rohan: “Personally, I think a CV should be an image of you. If a company doesn't like it, then that’s probably not the right company for you anyway.”

Is it still worth including a personal statement in your CV?

Dean: “As a recruiter, if we feel it adds to the candidate’s application and fits with the client’s culture we leave it in. Overall, your experience and key achievements should do the talking.”

Rob: “Try and stay away from making bold proclamations like ‘Media Hound’! Keep it relatively factual and add the passion in terms of what you enjoy doing.”

Rohan: “To make the most of this section, you should try to address: 1) who are you?; 2) what can you offer the company?; 3) what are your career goals?”

How do you address career gaps (e.g. for starting a family or taking time out as a carer)?

Rob: “Include a brief description of what you did - leaving gaps will only create confusion.”

Dean: “In your covering letter or message, show you have self awareness and you realise that a certain role/experience was a while ago, but demonstrate how you’ve kept up your understanding of that area through proactive research.”

How can you demonstrate your desire to work somewhere if you don’t have any experience?

Dean: “It’s what you do away from your CV that matters most. Follow up on LinkedIn (or Guild), make insightful comments, show you’ve done your research, and be creative with your application. Remember, loads of people are applying for the job - how can you be different?”

What are your views on recorded interview platforms like HireVue?

Rohan: “I’m not sold entirely, unless a company has checked and audited how it would eliminate the inevitable layers of unconscious bias added by video screening. I always advise clients to step cautiously in this area.”

Rob: “They are becoming more prevalent. Keep it short and snappy and put your best foot forward - be engaging and precise.”

When and how should candidates bring up flexible working during the recruitment process?

Dean: “Bring it up at the start if it’s a deal breaker for you. It’s best to know up front rather than getting further into the process to find out it can’t work.”

I just passed 60 - is it going to be harder to find work?

Rohan: “Legally this cannot and should not go against you. If your skill set matches we would absolutely put you forward.”

Dean: “No you aren’t. All the companies I recruit for genuinely care about your relevant experience, how recent it is, and what your key achievements are.”

Should I be using the #opentowork banner on LinkedIn?

Rohan: “Do use the tools to indicate to recruiters that you’re looking. Recruiter products by LinkedIn allow us to search by this function. On the profile banner, I’m not personally a fan of it but I’ll speak to my colleague to find out more about it.”

Rob: “There is no issue with this, in my opinion. A lot of people are in the same boat and there’s a lot of goodwill out there. There’s no problem with doing a post explaining your situation either. I have seen these shared on LinkedIn and have really assisted in the job search. Use your network and look to expand it to increase your reach.”

Dean: “It’s a hard one. Personally, I don’t look for candidates with the green banner.”

What about Easy Apply?

Dean: “Absolutely. We look at each application via LinkedIn. If the candidate is a match they get a call.”

Rob: “It makes it very easy to send your details over, but also makes it very easy to send the wrong details over. Try and find the role on the company’s website prior to applying so you can submit the right tailored CV for the role.”

A final note on LinkedIn

Rohan: “Research conducted by Robert Walters found that 64% of employers will Check LinkedIn against your CV. This means that if you have something different on your social media profiles to your CV then you’ve already been inconsistent with your messaging. In this digital age, social media platforms are often the first point of call for people wanting to get to know who you are. Social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to recruitment, so keep it consistent.”

Thank you to Dean, Rob and Rohan for joining us for the AMA and giving our community so much great advice.

Other FORT AMAs:

Inside the FORT with journalist and writer Linda Aitchison: How jobseekers can stand out on LinkedIn

Inside the FORT with BoldMove founder Julia Fenwick - Prospects for the communications industry post-COVID

Inside the FORT with The PR Cavalry’s Nigel Sarbutts – Making the leap to freelancing

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