Job interview tips

How do you get that job?

So, how do you get that job? Of course through looking for job vacancies at several vacancy sites, websites of companies, in papers or at agencies. However, did you know that only 20% of all the available job vacancies is publicly advertised? This means that 80% is hidden! These do exists, but where to find them? You will discover these through networking, using social media and writing open application letters.

Once you have found a job vacancy make sure you write an excellent application letter and CV, these will make you stand out from the crowd. For this reason, your letter and CV should be targeted and tailor-made for the job you apply to. Having passed this first selection round successfully, then prepare yourself for the next round: the job interview.

When you are successful in your job search, you will find the job that you like and fits your qualifications. Before you actually land the job, you have to apply. Most of the time your application starts with you sending in your CV and application letter, In response to these documents you will be invited to a job interview. Depending the company and job, you might be asked to take part in a second interview and an assessment. It is important to excel in all these aspects, because you only have one chance to make a good first impression!

When it comes to applying for a job your CV should stand out from the crowd. The following tips should help you create a successful CV and secure your first job.

There is no right or wrong way to write a CV, but there are some common sections you need to cover. You must include your personal and contact information. Specify your education, qualification, work history and other experiences in an organized manner. Also, provide an overview of relevant skills, own interests, achievements or hobbies; and some references.

A successful CV is always carefully and clearly presented. The guideline for a well written CV is no more than two pages. However, for some industries like banking and consultancy, a one page CV is required. A good CV is concise and illustrates every section or detail with no room for ambiguity. A CV serves as a checklist for a potential employer.

Make sure you do not use a standardised CV. Use your CV to stand out from the crowd. You do this by providing the information the company is looking for. Have a close look at the requirements in the vacancy and try to meet these in your CV.

There are a few optional things to put in your CV (marital status, religion) and some you really should avoid mentioning (disability and health information and current and/or previous salary details). You are not expected to attach a picture to your CV in the UK and the US. In other Western countries (like the Netherlands), it is more common to add a picture, although it must be a professional picture. Information regarding date of birth, gender and nationality are also optional but recommended in the Netherlands. When applying in the US, you are not allowed to put it on your CV.

Every CV must be tailored to the job you are applying for, so create a CV specifically for that role. Make sure that you write a CV that matches the job requirements. It is not necessary to write a whole new CV for every job application, but highlight the details that are relevant for the job you are applying for.

A CV ought to demonstrate your skills. It is important that you show how valuable skills and experiences which you have gained from past work experience contribute to your fit for the future job. These could include: communication skills; computer skills; team working; problem solving etc.

You can create different subsections for work experience (including internships), extracurricular experience, study projects and volunteering experience. Describe the experience of a certain job or event by briefly outlining the activities that you were involved with as well as the results you accomplished. It is important that you show how valuable skills and experiences which you have gained from past work experience contribute to your fit for the future job.

In many cases including an accomplishment that was gained from outside the work history can support and reinforce your qualifications. For example, you may want to include your fluency in another language, a special community project, or technology skills. Make sure the information is related to the career.

You are not obliged to include references on your CV. However, it is a good idea to ask already your current employer if he/she would be willing to be a possible reference, in case you need it in the future. You only give the contact details when asked by a future employer. If you've never worked before, it is OK to use a teacher or tutor as a referee.

It is important to regularly update your CV with relevant accomplishments, new job duties, recently achieved certifications, and other similar achievements. There's nothing worst than scrambling to come up with an accurate and interesting resume when you have two days to make the submission deadline for a job opening.

Please have a look at the following CV examples, and remember to customize your resume to what works for you and applies to you. 

Have you adjusted your CV according to these guidelines and are you still in doubt? You can schedule an appointment with one of our Career Advisors to discuss your CV.

When you apply for a certain position, a recruiter will first take a look at your CV. If your CV fits the position, they will read your application letter. A well written application letter will trigger a recruiter or employer and improve your chance of being invited for an interview. Usually you are required to send in your CV (or resume) as well as your application letter.

  1. You must adjust every application letter (but also your CV) to the position or the company concerned. Before your write your application letter, you should definitely research the company (see also the section Career Research).
  2. Read at the job description. This shows you the core skills and qualifications that you need to be a good candidate for the job. Think about situations and experiences when you demonstrated these skills or qualifications.
  3. Also check your own network to see whether people have experience in this career field or with the company and ask them for tips and tricks. Any link in your own network can give you a head start!

  • Use a business format when you write an application and address it to a specific individual (often this person is mentioned in the vacancy). The basic business application letter starts with your name address, the name (of the company and contact person) and address of the company you are applying to, subject, the date, a correct salutation, the content section and a correct closure. We will briefly discuss the content section
  • Start the opening paragraph with a short explanation of where you found the vacancy and which position you are applying for and (if you did, which is recommended) refer to your phone call to the company and the person you spoke to. You must explain the reason for sending your CV and application letter. Be very clear about which position you are applying for: an internship, a traineeship, whether it is an unsolicited application or a regular job application.
  • In the mid section, you start with the two motivations (why you like this position and this company) and your sales pitch (in which you sell yourself).Make it clear to the recruiter or employer that you have the skills necessary to successfully execute the position.
  • In the final paragraph, you should communicate what you would like to happen after the recruiter or employer has read your CV and letter. Let them know that you would be very interested in a job interview. Refer to your CV (or resume) that you enclose with the application letter. Give them the opportunity to get further information about you.
  • Also, have a look at an example of the structure of an application letter.

  • Sell yourself to the organisation by describing past experiences that are relevant for the position
  • Research the organisation and communicate in your letter what you find interesting about the organisation
  • Write down facts that will make a recruiter or employer curious about you as an individual (with your experience and education).
  • Check your grammar and spelling!
  • Make a phone call to the company for extra information
  • Make it clear which position you are applying for by mentioning it in your subject line
  • Adjust your letter to the job you are applying for and the organisation you want to work for. 

  • Don’t exclude an Ms or Mr, by not mentioning them in your salutation. Avoid the salutation: to whom it may concern, that’s not personal! Try to make the application letter as personal as possible.
  • Don’t introduce yourself in the letter. Avoid the sentence: but first let me introduce myself, my name is……, I’m 22 years old and currently a student at Erasmus University Rotterdam….
  • Don’t come off as a desperate job seeker (‘I send out so many CVs’), but also not overly confident (‘You will miss a great asset to your team if you don’t hire me’).
  • Never make it longer than one page.

The purpose of a job interview is for recruiters or employers to decide whether you fit the organisation culture, whether you could handle the job tasks and whether you can represent the company well to clients and others. The job interview has a purpose for the recruiter or employer, but it is also a perfect way for you to find out whether the company and job match your wishes, ambitions and expectations.

  • Read your CV and application letter again to make sure you know what you wrote and what you highlighted.
  • Read the job description, so that you know what you should definitely focus on during the interview.
  • Research the company and work field.
  • It is important to make a good first impression on the interviewers. Decide upfront what to wear. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Also check how you can get to the interview location and make sure you are there at least 15 minutes in advance.
  • Prepare questions that you can ask the interviewer. This shows that you are really interested and have done your homework.

  • Biographical questions: These questions are designed to put you at your ease and to tell something about yourself. For example: can you tell me something about yourself? If I asked your best friend/a colleague/fellow student who you are, what would he/she tell me about you?
  • Motivation questions: These questions are designed to measure your motivation for a certain job/career. For example: Why did you apply for this specific job? What is it about this job that attracts you? What are your career goals? Which aspirations or ambitions do you have? What do you like about our company? Why do you want to work for our company? Why did you choose our company?
  • Strengths-based questions: These questions are designed to measure your inner strengths/qualifications/skills and see how much understanding you have of yourself. For example: What are you good at? What do you do well? When do you feel you are most like yourself? When are you at your best? What drives you? What gives you energy? What stimulates you? What are your skills? Do your skills fit the job? What are your strengths – weaknesses? Why should we hire you? Why you rather than someone else?
  • Hypothetical/case questions: What would you do if…..? These, often complex, cases are designed to test your ability to think quickly and anticipate unexpected questions/situations. For example: What would you do if you had to make a big decision that would have major consequences for the company? What would you do if you had an argument with a colleague? How many balloons fit in this room? Remember that there is no right or wrong answer to these questions! The interviewer is mainly interested in how you handle such a case, what your approach is to solving the case. You have to show your analytical skills, your creativity, your flexibility in thinking if the interviewer suddenly comes up with new information etc.
  • Competency-based questions: These questions are designed to measure certain core competencies that will be important in executing the job successfully. The focus will lie on how you used these skills in the past. For example: Tell us about a situation where your communications skills were crucial? Describe a situation in which you really demonstrated good listening or writing skills? These questions refer to the STAR interview.

  • Answer carefully. If the interviewer asks you a question and you do not know the answer right away, repeat the question out loud (in your own words) so you can briefly think about your answer. Alternatively, decide at that moment to take a sip from your coffee or tea. That also gives you some thinking time!
  • Use examples from previous work experience, extra curricular activities or study related activities (STAR method).
  • Stay professional in your answers. Don’t answer and greet an interviewer in an informal manner.
  • Silences during questions or while answering a question aren't necessary a bad thing. Be precise in your answers. Don’t talk just to keep the conversation going.
  • If you do not understand a question or you need more clarification, just ask the interviewer. It’s better to ask for more explanation about a certain question.
  • Remember that the interviewer does not know you. They only know you on paper. So don’t think that they will assume or infer certain things from your CV or application letter, because they are so obvious to you.
  • You have to be positive throughout the interview. Never speak negatively about previous colleagues, employers, recruiters or others. You have to show the interviewer how you would make the most of the same situation in the future.
  • Most of all, stay relaxed during your interview. The best way to achieve this is to prepare well and go in with an open mind. If they are interested in you: great! If they reject you: on to the next! There are plenty of fish in the sea!

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