Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Tagged: CV

Make volunteering count on your CV

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📥  Advice, Applications, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

Volunteering work can be equally as useful as paid work experience when it comes to applying for jobs and many students forget to emphasize their volunteering experience on their CV or don’t include it at all. Here are some tips on how you can make your volunteering count on your CV.


·         Some organisations value voluntary experience more than others

If you hope to make a career in the third sector or within international development, you may not be selected for an interview unless you have some volunteering experience! If you have relevant volunteering experience this needs to be emphasized in your CV and show up on the first page, under “Relevant Experience” or “Work Experience”. Too many times I have seen relevant volunteering experience hidden in the achievements or interests section, where employers may not see it. Remember, an employer usually only skims through a CV during the first selection process for a job!

·         Volunteering gives you transferable skills

You may not have any volunteering experience that is relevant for the actual job you are applying to, but that does not mean that your experience wasn’t useful. If you worked successfully in a team, mention it on a CV. If you worked in budgeting, this can emphasize your numerical skills or if you worked in fundraising, this may have increased your skills in persuasion. Look into more details about what skills the job is asking for and have a think about how your volunteering experiences can give you examples of those skills, and remember to include any specific achievements.

·         Tailor your volunteering experiences to company values

Have a read through the values of the company and tailor your volunteering experiences accordingly. Perhaps the company you are interested in have sustainability high on their agenda? Then your volunteering experience in environmental conservation may be relevant. Or maybe the company likes to be engaged in the local community? What then about your volunteering experience in a local charity? Make sure to highlight the most relevant volunteering experiences.

·         Make international volunteering count

Apart from following the tips above, if you have volunteered in certain countries or areas of the world, this may be beneficial for an international company to know about. Your increased interpersonal skills and increased international awareness may be extra worth for companies that have projects or networks in those particular regions.

To summarize, my final piece of advice is to tailor, tailor, tailor your volunteering experiences to the job you are applying for. What would be important for the employer to know about you? How can your volunteering experience benefit the company / organisation? How can your volunteering experience show who you are?

Book a quick query with a careers adviser if you need any support in writing your CV, or attend one of our workshops or talks. Book an appointment or a place on a talk through MyFuture.

Additional resources:


Your CV has 8.8 seconds to impress!

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Finding a Job, Tips & Hints

Research has shown that recruiters spend an average of just 9 seconds scanning your CV before deciding whether you are a potential fit for their vacancy. You might think this is unfair but as my grandmother always said, "if you want to catch a fish, think like a fish"

Image result for think like a fish


Look at it from the employers pespective: you have an afternoon set aside to sift over 100 CV's whilst juggling your day-today work and a bulging inbox full of urgent emails. You simply won't have the time or inclination to read through every CV in detail; infact according to the Independent the process of reviewing CVs has become  ‘Tinderised’ with each CV given just a few seconds to stand out against the competition before being kept or cast aside.”

My colleague Aste Dahl wrote a fantastic post on five CV mistakes to avoid, which is really worth a read. What else can you do to ensure your CV grabs an employers attention?

  • Get the look right: choose the right font and make sure it is the right size! Use 14 font for your name and 11 font for the rest of your CV. Use Ariel or another clear font style (Times New Roman works) – most importantly, remember your CV needs to be accessible to the reader.
  • Use visual aids: bullet points, line breaks, bold formatting and tabs. These are all simple tools you use to make an impact.
  • Avoid ready made templates: CV's are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your personality and individuality to an employer. Where possible add a personal touch to your CV so you stand out from the competition. Please note, some employers specify specific templates, if this is the case then do as the employer asks!
  • Length matters: an employer potentially has another 99 CV's to look through. If your CV is too long, you'll loose the employer - the general rule is no more than two pages. However in some sectors such as Banking and Management Consulting, recruiters expect a 1-page CV.  Remember, a CV that is too short immediately suggests that you don't have enough experience, which could potentially put you out of the race.
  • Its all about consistency: make sure you are consistent in the use of bullet points, the font size and spacing on your CV. This projects professionalism and conveys strong attention to detail skills.
  • Get feedback: book a quick query with one of our careers advisers for constructive feedback.


Five typical CV errors....

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📥  Advice, Applications, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints

Five Typical CV Errors



I have completed quite a few quick queries with students these past six weeks and most of them are CV checks. I have read some amazing CVs and I am very impressed by the range of great experiences you have from previous work, volunteering, sport and/or society responsibilities! However, some CV errors do come up again and again.

  • Not listing most recent first

Some of the CVs I have seen do not have the most recent information about the student on top. All CVs should be in reverse chronological order, which means most recent first. Most employers only spend 8-15 seconds reading through your CV and reading your GCSE results first, on the top of the CV, may not give the best impression. If an employer have to search your CV for your degree information, you know that the CV is not in the correct order!

  • Spelling and grammar errors

Do you know that some employers throw away the CV if they find more than two spelling and grammar errors? It is important that you check your grammar and spelling before you send off your final draft. Can friends and family help? Writing Centre  at the University is also able to help and have drop-in sessions and writing tutorials.

  • Listing every achievement accomplished or activity completed in your whole life

The questions you should ask yourself is: What is relevant for the employer and the role you are applying for? Do you think an employer will be impressed by a Math Award from 2008 or that you won a pie-eating competition five years ago? What are your reasons for putting specific achievements down? My advice is to carefully look through the job description and person specification and make sure your achievements and activities are relevant and tailored to the job and company/organisation you are applying to.

  • Describing previous job role tasks and nothing else

Some of you have some excellent experiences, from work, volunteering, societies and more. However, when you just list your tasks or responsibilities, the employer won’t get the whole picture. What skills did you learn in the job? What did you achieve? What impact did you have in your role? Are you able to give more details about who, where, what, how to make it more interesting to the reader?

  • Not reading our leaflet


If you are relatively new to writing CVs or have not updated your CV in a while, reading through our leaflet can be very useful. It will give you some good examples to use when it comes to writing well and also give you a variety of CV templates. In many quick queries I have noticed students coming in relatively insecure about writing CVs, but after showing them the leaflet, they walk away with more confidence and return with excellent CVs. If you haven’t already, I really advise you to pick up a leaflet in our Careers Services or you can find it online:

The best of luck and I may see you in a Quick Query appointment soon.

How to book Quick Query appointments:

Recruiters' most hated CV phrases revealed...

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📥  Advice, Applications, Careers Resources

How long do you spend reading a potential candidates CV? New research from the New College of the Humanities has revealed that recruiters on average make their minds up in less than 60 seconds. The findings came after researchers interviewed over 860 recruiters, with 20 per cent said they discard a CV before getting to the end, while on average they spend an average of just three minutes and 14 seconds looking over an application.

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The research also looked at the biggest employer gripes with a CV, with the biggest being spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, followed by a too casual tone including using terms such as ‘you guys’ or signing off with ‘cheers’. Other turn off’s including using jargon and clichéd quotes, such as using ‘perfectionism as a weakness, and having a CV over two pages long.

These are the top 10 phrases on CV's that enrage employers.

  • "I'm a hard worker"
  • "I work well under pressure"
  • "I can work independently"
  • "I'm a team player"
  • "I am a problem solver"
  • "Good communicator"
  • "I'm proactive"
  • "I am a good listener"
  • "I'm enthusiastic"
  • "Excellent written communication skills"

If any of these phrases appear on your CV and you are not sure how to convey your skills; then book a drop-in with one of our careers advisers. In less than 15-minutes we can help you transform your CV.


New Semester - New Careers Events - New Jobs

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📥  Careers Resources, Event, Graduate Jobs, Internships, Tips & Hints, Work Experience

The staff in the Careers Service are delighted to see campus back in to full swing, especially now students are booking appointments and once more engaging with their careers research and investigation. We do like to be busy!

Here are three things you could be doing to make sure you stay ahead of the game at this time of year.

Check out our Programme of Events

Our new programme is now live and booking in MyFuture.  We have a range of employers coming on campus you can meet up with them to find out more about their opportunities. Some of them will be running skills events too. Our Careers Adviser will also be busy delivering a range of employability skills sessions on campus and virtually. We also have International Careers Week commencing February 29th. Some examples from our programme:

  • Finding Summer Work Experience
  • Interview Success
  • Writing UK Style Covering letters (for International students)
  • Finding a job other than a "graduate scheme"
  • Turning your placement into Graduate job
  • Careers Prep in a Day for Final year undergraduates  (Saturday)
  • Careers Prep in a Day for Master students
  • Webinar: Decisions, Decisions…How to begin your grad job search
  • Webinar: Considering a PhD or a Masters?
  • Assessment Centre Workshops including the chance to practise
  • Using LinkedIn and the Bath Connection to expand your network and build your career

Start Looking or Keep Looking for jobs (summer and graduate)

MyFuture has opportunities being added all the time, be they summer or placement work experience or graduate jobs. Make time to check in regularly and use the Advanced Opportunity Search  to create and save searches. Note that in the date option you can select for the search to show what has been added since you last logged in.

Be aware of how some types of jobs will not be advertised in MyFuture and so find out how you can search for jobs speculatively. Read our two guides Finding a Graduate Job and Finding Work Experience for advice on more comprehensive approaches to job hunting.

Keep your CV and covering letters fresh

I am not talking about keeping them in the fridge but keeping them alive. There is a tendency to fall into complacency once you feel you have nailed your CV and covering letter. Make sure you keep it up to date with new activities and always review your CV in the light of what the employer is looking for. If you have not had success yet then do take the chance to review them with an Adviser and seek help from alumni and employer contacts in your chosen field.

Have a great semester and keep in touch with the Careers Service.




Applying for research jobs in industry

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📥  Applications, For PhDs

I was speaking to a recruiter to research roles in industry recently, and she shared some useful feedback on what does and doesn’t work in applications for industry:

Do: - Research the company thoroughly. In cover letters and personal statements it’s very important to not just talk about your current and past experience and achievements; you need to demonstrate how what you have to offer would add value to the organisation you are applying to. You also need to have clear reasons why you are applying to that company, which takes careful research via the company website, newsletters, social media and professional contacts. Check out these articles on researching companies and explaining why you want to work for a particular company. Keep your reasons positive; you may be thinking that you want to leave academia because of the lack of security or high levels of competition, but prospective industrial employers will want to hear about your pull factors, not your push factors. What do you know about how working in industry is different and why does this appeal to you? Who have you talked to or collaborated with from industry? It's probably best not mention personal circumstances; the recruiter doesn't need to know that you have relocated with your family.

Do: - keep your CV to two pages for outside of academia. Take a look at the researcher CV examples on the Vitae website, and also Sarah Blackford’s advice on CVs for industry and academia.

Do: - expand on examples and provide clear and specific evidence that you have the skills and experience the employer is looking for. Use the STAR technique (Situation, task, action, result) to structure your examples, and talk about measurable outcomes and impact of your efforts and projects.

Do: - be aware of the broad range of skills, both technical and transferable, that you have gained as part of the PhD, and be prepared to explain these clearly and confidently to the employer. I've read a lovely article this week from Cheeky Scientist about the transferable skills that recruiters in industry are looking for; if you don't think you have all these skills, YOU DO; come and have a chat with a careers adviser and we'll help you identify them.

Do: - be positive and confident about your experience in both applications and interviews. Steer clear of apologetic and negative phrases (‘While I don’t have any industrial experience…’) and, don’t undersell or underestimate the value of both your technical research and broader skills. Just because you have never had ‘programmer’ in your job title doesn’t mean you don’t have the high level programming skills that are exactly what the company is looking for.

Do: - break cover letters and CVs down into separate paragraphs. Lack chunks of text will seem intimidating to a busy recruiter. The same principle applies to CVs.

Do: - proof-read all application materials carefully. Typos look unprofessional and hint at laziness.

Don’t: - repeat information. Busy recruiters don’t have time to read the same information twice. If you’ve written in earlier sections of an application form that you have a relevant undergraduate or Masters degree it isn’t necessary to repeat this in a personal statement.

Don’t: - include long lists of publications/conferences/posters. At most you could include one or two examples of particular interest to the company you are applying to; it can be better to briefly refer to having a strong publication record as evidence of communication skills or scientific impact, and include a link to your LinkedIn or Research Gate profile that the employer can look at if they choose.

Don’t: - include a photo with your CV for UK recruiters.

Don’t: - make the employer dig for the information they really need – use clear formatting, relevant subheading (e.g. research experience, research techniques, project management), and appropriate (though not excessive) use of bold to draw attention to your key skills and achievements, which should be tailored to the skills the employer is looking for.


Selling your part-time work experience to employers

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📥  Applications, Work Experience

I've seen a few students recently who have asked 'but are employers really interested in my job in a bar/shop/restaurant?' While some sectors will require relevant work experience, UK graduate employers value any experience that gives you insight into the world of work and helps you to develop the skills and competencies they are looking for in a context outside of your degree. Whilst it is important not to lie or exaggerate what you have done and achieved, it's also important not to undersell your part-time work experience. Part-time and vacation work can help you to develop a wide range of skills including:

Team-working. Did you work as part of a team in that bar or restaurant? What specific roles did you have within the team? How did you support and encourage team members? How did you build effective relationships with colleagues and clients?

Leadership. Did you come up with ideas for doing things more efficiently and get others on board with your ideas? Did you train/supervise/manage/inspire other staff members?

Attention to detail

Time management. Did you have to prioritise activities within the role, or balance your part-time job with your studies and other commitments?

Communication. Did you talk that angry customer down? Resolve a conflict between two colleagues? Persuade a customer of the value of a product? Explain a tricky Maths concept to a child on a summer camp? Present your ideas in a meeting or group setting? Field enquiries confidently and calmly over the phone?

To make examples work for you, make sure you include enough information and context about what you did and what you achieved:

- With whom did you work?
- What were your main duties/activities?
- How did your job fit into the organisation?
- What goals were you trying to accomplish?

Wherever you can, talk about the impact and result of your efforts. Did you complete tasks to deadline and budget? Increase sales or attendance figures? Get good feedback from a colleague or customer?

Try and keep away from phrases such as 'I was responsible for', or 'the job required me to', which tend to sound passive and weaken the impact of your skills and achievements. Instead, use as many verbs as possible to talk about your experience; for example, 'I interacted with team-members', 'liaised with suppliers', 're-organised the stock control system'. Kent University Careers Service have a lovely list of action words to include in your CV.

Finally, compare the effectiveness of these two ways to talk about work experience a café; which student would you employ?:

Duties included serving customers, clearing tables, handling cash at the till.

I have developed my ability to work under pressure in my role at a busy city centre café. With around 70 orders per hour at peak time I have to work quickly and accurately so I have enough time to also tidy the dining area and make coffee. I have developed my communication skills through dealing tactfully with customer complaints.

Remember you can book a Quick Query appointment to get some feedback from a careers adviser.


Get your career organised!

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints

I read a fabulous blog post the other day, from the Thesis Whisperer. For any of you engaged in writing dissertations or theses, this excellent blog is pretty much a must-read. But the post I read resonated so much with me I thought I would share some of the themes.

The essence of the post was about the author having to collect every piece of evidence of her academic activity that she could, in order to apply for a promotion. Starting to see the parallels?

organised files

It was rather hard. Actually it was very hard. Even for someone with an organised system for keeping records, there were some things she had not considered. Things like testimonials or great feedback on her talks. Dates she had given talks.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking 'What has this got to do with me?' and 'What on earth does this have to do with careers?


So, what does this have to do with careers? And specifically, *your* career?

Well, it has probably not escaped you that this is the season of CV writing and job applications. If any of you have started writing your CV and thought 'When was it I did that bit of volunteering?' or struggled to find the dates you were working three summers ago, or to accurately convey what you did and how you contributed when you were on a summer internship last year, then this post is your call to arms.

With anything like this, it is so much easier if you start with a well-organised system for keeping records. So if you are a first year, or a second year new to the world of placements, then our advice is to get organised.


Be systematic

Every society you join, make a note of it, what it does, how you contribute. And the same for each volunteering activity. Because it is so much easier to craft a CV beautifully tailored to a job when you have a record of all your evidence that you could do the things the employer is looking for.

The same goes for your part-time jobs. Where did you work? What did you do? How did you know you did a good job? How did you make the employer's life better?


You might be thinking - but where do I put all this information?

We have the answer. It's called MyFuture. Specifically, the 'My Experiences' part of it. Time spent recording your positions of responsibility, achievements, scholarships, projects, sports teams, volunteering etc will be rewarded when you come to answer those competency-based questions that require you to talk about a time when you demonstrated such-and-such a quality.

Obviously other systems are available - just pick one that works for you. The key is to get your experiences organised. That's particularly important at this time of year, with deadlines for jobs starting to appear.

The other bonus of doing this is that it will show you where any gaps are - while you still have time to take action to fill them.


Is this worth the effort put in?

It's so worth doing - even, or especially, if you don't know what you want to do. It can really show you the sort  of things you often choose to do - maybe you will see a common theme of helping people, or working in a fast-paced environment, or coming up with original ways of doing things, that will help you narrow down the wide range of possible career destinations.

Not to mention that it will make putting together a tailored CV for each job a lot easier, if you can easily piece together the most relevant parts of your experiences to put prominently on it.

And remember - we are here to help you navigate your way through the careers landscape, so come and talk to us if you'd like a few signposts and pointers!




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📥  Applications


I have to admit it, my heart sinks a little when someone says to me that they have brought in their 'general CV'. I'm always happy to look at CVs - every one is different, and I learn so many interesting things about people and the world in general.

The trouble is that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't deliver effective results. If you try on a piece of clothing, odds are that it will almost fit. Sometimes it will fit better than others, but hardly ever perfectly. And *that* is why the 'general' CV doesn't work. There will always be a gap somewhere wherre the fit is not perfect.

Imagine that you were fortunate enough to be able to have bespoke, made-to-measure clothing. The feeling when you try that on, and realise it fits, everywhere, is great. *That* is what you should be aiming for with your CV, and is why it is worth taking the trouble to produce tailored CVs. (Yes, the analogy is an apt one!)

Of course, you can formulate a CV that holds all your experiences and skills and that you use as a repository to draw on each time you submit an application. But it is so much easier to do that if you already know the sort of job you are applying for. That way, you'll be able to refer to the skills required, or put in the 'right' words. And if you have a specific employer in mind, it is going to be an even closer match as you will have the company buzzwords to give you a feel for the tone of your CV.

Have a look at our Applications, CV and cover letter guide for some advice on how to make an employer have that 'bespoke CV moment' - and if you would like some feedback on whether your tailoring skills are up to scratch, book a Quick Query appointment with one of our advisers.

Personal Profiles on CVs - Yes or a No, No?

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📥  Advice, Applications, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints

This week, we are running our #GetAhead webinars; I am just finishing writing the CV's and Applications talk and found myself in a debate with colleagues over personal profiles on CV's.

Career profiles, personal profiles, career objective, personal statement - are all variations on the same theme, if you google CV tips you'll comer across as many CV's with as you will without personal profiles. The million dollar question is "do you need one?" A quick poll in the office split the vote: some of the team swear by them and others don't (I sit in this category). No wonder students are confused with all this contradictory information.

So, how do you decide whether you should have one?

Firstly, the purpose of a CV, is to grab the attention of the reader and get them interested in knowing more about you. The CV by itself won’t lead to a job offer or a place on a postgraduate course, but it may well be the deciding factor in whether you are shortlisted for an interview. Think about a film trailer. The whole point is to grab your attention enough to make you buy a ticket and watch the whole film. There are good and bad film trailers; some pretty much leave you feeling like you've seen the movie already. Therefore, you need to take the same approach with designing your CV. What can you tell the reader that'll grab their interest and make them want to read the rest of your CV. You don't want to give it all away either...! It is a fine balancing act.

Career profiles, personal profiles, career objective, personal statement... will be the first thing and employer reads about you. They'll form a judgement or two, so if you are going to include one; make sure it is having the right impact. There is also a distinction between a personal profile and a career objective. A personal profile highlights your current situation, skills and unique selling points (USP). A career objective describes the type of job you’re looking for, and where. University of Warwick careers provide useful examples:

Career objective

Computer science graduate seeking challenging position in software development company to fully utilise my Java programming skills and confidence with concurrency and multi-threading.

Personal profile

A highly motivated computer science graduate with a first class degree, experience in Java and award winning undergraduate dissertation.

In practice, often the two often merge to create a hybrid statement, along the lines of:

Highly motivated and enthusiastic  graduate, with an excellent academic credentials including first class degree. Looking for a graduate position, where my Java programming knowledge and strong problem solving skills can be fully utilised.

I will let you judge whether the above make an impactful first impression or not. BUT, If you are going to add a profile, do consider these tips:

  • Avoid a bland statement awash with a collection of vague adjectives and buzzwords.
  • Tailor your profile for each employer and role, highlighting those areas of experience most relevant to the specific job and ensuring your career aspirations exactly match the role on offer
  • Do a blind test - would your personal statement apply to 10 other people? If yes, then re-write it. Think what makes you unique.
  • Read your statement aloud and apply the ‘so what’ test? If your intended audience could respond with a ‘so what’, the chances are they will.

Now to answer the question, personal profiles on CVs - Yes or a No, No?

My personal view is; that it is very difficult for a student or recent  graduate to offer the range of experience and knowledge that transforms a bland, generic statement into an impressive, eye catching profile. I usually advice against unless you are changing careers or have significant experience in the field you are considering. I would be interested to hear the views of our readers, so do please comment.