Well Prepared for Your Application Part II
Recruiters' Tips from UK, India, the U.S. and Germany
In the first part of this series, Sartorius recruiters from Japan and France provided tips for successful applications. From what to include in a CV to no-nos in job interviews, here is what their colleagues from UK, India, the U.S. and Germany recommend what to do and what to avoid.
This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.
Adrienn Prezenszki, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Royston, UK
"It can be a good idea when considering specific roles to tailor your CV to the given position, so you may have two or three different versions of your CV."
Adrienn, a well written CV is really important. What is the best way to structure and which information must be included?
The best way to structure a CV is to break it down into sections. It can be difficult to think about what to include in your CV and it is important to strike a balance in providing the key information while fitting it into two or three pages at most. It can be a good idea when considering specific roles to tailor your CV to the given position, so you may have two or three different versions of your CV, however the information still needs to be accurate about the skills you have to offer when you apply.
Start with the introduction:
This can be two or three sentences describing who you are as a person, what position you are looking for next, and a summary of your experience. Perhaps a sentence about transferable skills if you are looking for a career change.
This section can include results you have achieved over the years in a particular role and highlight the difference you have made within the organization and your role. Aim to be as specific as possible when it comes to examples.
Career History/Work Experience:
This must include each role you held at different organizations, with clear dates. Highlight sufficient information about the responsibilities and duties of your position and point out particularly these that might be beneficial for the advertised position. Here, you can underline specific skills you used in each role to show your capabilities.
Include any qualifications, trainings, and certificates you have received that are relevant for the position you are applying for. It is also important to consider the type of industry you work in when considering what other information can be useful to show on your CV that could be considered a benefit for the role you are applying to. You may need to include industry-specific information. For example, if you are a graduate with a scientific degree, you may want to include your research projects and laboratory techniques you are skilled in. If you are a software developer, include all the programming languages you have experience with.
What about career gaps?
I believe there’s no harm including a sentence on the reasons for taking a career break or more so what you have been doing during this time (i.e.: traveling, discovering a new path, home renovation etc.). It is very likely that the question would be asked in an interview scenario to understand the bigger picture. If the break was for personal reasons, you may want to share this in an interview scenario rather than on CV.
What questions should candidates prepare for in the job interview?
You will generally be asked about your work and educational experience and what motivates you for this opportunity. Example questions: What achievements are you proud of in your most recent position? What did you most enjoy most about your studies? What led you to apply for this position at this company?
Ideally, you should also prepare for competency-based and behavioral questions. These questions allow you to elaborate on your experience and demonstrate your skills. Aim to think of specific examples from your career for these questions. The STAR method can be helpful in answering these questions, by giving structure to your answers. STAR stands for – Situation, Time, Action, and Result. Example questions: Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation and how you communicated this. How do you handle conflict? How do you prioritize your work?
You will be asked specific job-related questions to demonstrate that you meet the expectations of the position. Questions about your strengths and weaknesses that require you to think about how to answer.
What are the absolute no-nos in a job interview?
There’s a quick answer to this: Canceling the interview at the last minute or not turning up for the interview. Not being prepared, such as not having done your research on the company or its products. And finally, speaking negatively about your previous employer.
Venkatesh Subramaniyan, Recruitment Specialist, Bangalore, India
"In a CV, it is much more important to highlight the best and most relevant skills - rather than listing numerous tasks and responsibilities."
What does a typical application process in India look like?
In general, the recruitment process consists of three important steps. Starting with a shortlisting of applications, then the first level assessment and finally the interview. Based on level of experience, the recruitment process may also include a written test to evaluate a larger pool of applications.
What do you look for in an application? What is the most important document for the application in India?
The most vital document is the resume. The recruiting team screens hundreds of resumes in a day. Candidates should take this into account: It is very important to highlight the best and most relevant skills - rather than listing numerous tasks and responsibilities. We sometimes receive resumes that are ten to twelve pages, which could easily be streamlined to two pages. One should also always carefully proofread for any grammatical errors. Sometimes candidates have difficulty deciding on the order in which they should list their academics and experience. It is always advisable to write in a chronological order by keeping most the recent education and experience at the top.
After receiving an invitation to an interview - what questions should I definitely have a prepared answer for?
Something that surprises me at times during interviews is a lack of self-awareness. Candidates need to work on and consider this beforehand because it is not a trait that is developed overnight. Some candidates are really ambitious and strive to become the head of a department, but when asked to provide a roadmap or plan on how they would achieve this they are not prepared. We look for ambition, but also candidates who are serious about their work and realistic.
What are the absolute no-nos in a job interview?
Candidates should avoid boasting at all costs. Most of the time, this attribute will end up in giving loads of information which is not relevant to the topic. Be mindful about what you say and make relevant statements - rather than talking without really saying anything.
Jean Montgomery, Manager of Talent Acquisition, Bohemia, USA
"The cover letter should contain a brief overview of skills and background and a statement about how you can be an asset to the company."
Jean, is a cover letter still necessary and if so, what’s the most essential thing about it?
For me, a cover letter is definitely a must and candidates should consider it a chance to tell me more about them. It should contain a brief overview of skills and background aligned with the job advertisement and a statement about how you can be an asset to the company. Additionally, you can show that you’ve spent time getting to know the company by outlining what is compelling about working there. For example, “I’ve been following Sartorius for some time now and I see that in addition to expanding the product portfolio the company is undergoing significant growth and I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the Sartorius team during this exciting time."
What do you look for in a job application or interview?
In a job application we are looking for candidates who relate relevant information in a concise, compelling, accurate manner. Career highlights and job achievements should illustrate your successes. And at the end, of course, attention to detail and accuracy are essential too.
In an interview we are looking for candidates who exhibit and communicate a passion for their work and who are engaging and authentic in their responses to the questions posed. The candidate should have the ability to effectively communicate ideas and information relevant to the position.
Are there any no-nos in a job interview?
Of course, there are. For example, someone who is negative and arrogant in their responses or bashes their former boss or company. Another no-go is to not be engaged in the interview conversation at all, as well as talking excessively and providing extraneous information that is not relevant.
Dennis Nautze, Manager Talent Acquisition Group, Göttingen, Germany
"It is better to create a trust-based interview environment than trying to hide yourself.”
Dennis, is a cover letter still necessary and if so, what does it need to include?
Definitely, yes, a cover letter is an important document for every application. The challenge of the cover letter is to highlight why we should have a first conversation. The document should have a clear structure: For the introduction, I like to understand the motivation of the candidate. How did you come across our opportunity? What is your current situation? Why would you like to change it? In the main part, it is important to focus on the position you are applying for, providing examples of what qualifies you to fulfill the requirements of the position. Furthermore, explain why you would like to work for Sartorius in this position and what you could contribute to our success.
For whatever reason, it is very common to just repeat the content of the CV in an essay format. I cannot recommend this. Ask yourself how the cover letter adds value to the information - compared to the other documents you are provide.
What is the best way to prepare for the interview?
Always prepare with the position and the company in mind. For example: Would you be responsible for a specific product line? Inform yourself about those products – e.g. on our website or YouTube channel. Think of your experiences and how those could contribute to be successful in the job and add value to the company’s goals. Ideally, you have specific examples ready: Tell me about projects or tasks where you have shown your capabilities in the past.
What’s also important: Be yourself during the interview. For us at Sartorius, it is important to create an open atmosphere that reflects our company values. It is always a conversation on equal footing. After all, you are applying for a job at our company, but we are also applying for you. Are you nervous about gaps in the CV, changing fields or unfinished degrees and may not want to share that? Of course, you know best, what you would like to share with us, but I always recommend being yourself. I am sure there are explanations if you have taken detours in your career – and I’d love to understand these and get to know you. It is better to create a trust-based interview environment than trying to hide yourself.
What questions should candidates prepare for in the job interview?
Every interview is different and of course it depends on what kind of role you are applying for. If I had to sum it up:
- Your current situation: What is your motivation to change? What do you expect from the new role and from us as an organization?
- The position itself: What is your understanding of the role?
- Self-reflection: What was feedback you received, or a situation you experienced, that you were able to learn from? How do you reflect on yourself in order to develop further personally?
- Future vision: Do you envision a development path and how does this position fit into that? Keep in mind: It is also okay to make small steps, everybody is different, and I encourage you to be transparent here when you did not think of long-term career goals yet.
- Conditions and start: Be prepared to answer the question about your salary expectation and your availability.
- Your questions: Prepare questions you want to clarify. We will be able to clarify some questions during our conversation, but there might be open points you will be able to ask about at the end. It shows that you are interested and prepared.