Create a high quality cover letter

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If you are wondering how to write a cover letter, then this article with helpful tips, templates and examples will guide you on your way.

A Cover Letter is a one page document that explains why you are applying for the job, why you feel you are the best person for the role, and why you would like to work in their company.

The cover letter should clearly show your passion for the role and the company and prove that you can do the role.                                       

Matching Cover Letters to Job Descriptions

Like CVs, cover letters should be tailored to each job you apply for to demonstrate your suitability with specific details and examples of how your profile matches that particular role. Writing a list of the top requirements that you match can help you write a clear and structured cover letter.

Do you have a Unique Selling Point (USP) for the role?

Think about your achievements and relevant personal qualities, experience or skills which will impress the employer and show your ability.

Here is a template of how to write a cover letter.

(My Address)

(Date)

(Company Address)

Dear (Hiring Manager’s First and Last Name),

PARAGRAPH 1 – Why you are writing:

I am writing in response to your recent advertisement in the (State the place where you saw the job advertisement) for the position of (Job title).

MIDDLE PARAGRAPHS – What do you have to offer? How does it match the role?

Make connections between your experience and skills and the advertisement. Try to support each statement you make with proof. When responding to the advertisement, refer specifically to the skills listed and show how your duties and/ or previous studies prove that you have these skills and qualities.

I am very interested in this position (name position) because (mention your passion for this type of work, why have you picked this position over any other? / what did you really enjoy about similar roles?). I have worked as a (Job title) with (Name of Company). During my time working as a (Job title) with (Name of Company), my main duties included (List relevant duties and relevant hard and soft skills developed and achievements where possible).

My academic background includes (state a relevant course that you have studied) with (state the college). While studying (Course Title) my subjects included (list some relevant subjects and thesis or projects). I also have skills in (add relevant skill) and (add relevant skill) which I could bring to the role as a (Job Title).

FINAL PARAGRAPH – Are you a good “person-fit”? Why this company above others?

(Name the company) (Give specific reasons why you want to work there based on research) and mention your personal qualities and fit to the company and role.

I look forward to discussing this position with you further.

Yours sincerely,

Signature

Here is a sample cover letter following the template.

CPL

8-34 Percy Place,

Dublin 4

Dear Mr. Stephen Smith,

I am writing to apply for the position of Recruiter which was advertised on the CPL website on 17th Feb 2021.

Paragraph 1:  (Relevant experience / examples and how I match the role).

My professional experience includes over 2 years’ working in recruitment in a fast-paced Tech Company. While working at Intertech as a Recruiter, I secured more than 50 new talented employees for our business clients including IT Support Engineers, Web Developers and Multilingual Customer Service Representatives. I achieved this by interviewing candidates as well as assessing the company needs at regular meetings.

Paragraph 2:  (Relevant education or training or skills/ examples and how I match the role).

I hold a Certificate in Customer Service from Dublin Business School. During my studies, I developed my skills in customer service and building relationships with business clients. I also completed modules in CRM software (Salesforce) and Microsoft Office. In addition, I am currently self-studying Employment Law and I have a particular interest in employment contracts and company policies in Ireland. I would bring this experience to the role and could also use my interest in Research and Development to research and recommend new company policies and practices to ensure the company’s attractiveness for new talent.

Paragraph 3:  (Relevant passion/personal qualities/competencies. What I know and admire about the company and examples and of how I match the role).

I have a strong interest in Tech, especially in big data and AI. I would welcome the opportunity to work as a Recruiter with TechSavvy, where I could use my Tech background to source candidates that best fit the company. I am a strong team player and I am passionate about helping people. Working in a socially responsible company like TechSavvy, which supports social inclusion projects such as the EPIC employment programme, also greatly appeals to me.

Should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on 087 1231234.

Yours sincerely,

_____________

Meng Zhao

Here is an example of a more tailored and detailed letter, which will be sure to impress.

 Hertz  
Swords Business Park
Co. Dublin      
Dear Ms Maloney:  
I am writing to apply for the position of Contact Centre Agent which was advertised on www.hertz.ie on 15th February 2021
I have over 5 years’ experience as a Customer Service and Sales Representative as part of a friendly and fast-paced team in Madrid Airport, Spain. While working at Balance Car Rental, I dealt politely with an average of 50 customer queries and complaints daily by phone and face-to-face in both English and Spanish. I also advised clients about our services and was awarded for consistently exceeding sales targets, increasing the number of car rentals and loyalty card sales by 10%.
 
My educational background includes a Higher Certificate in Tourism Sales and I have strong communication skills in both Spanish and English. During my studies, I developed knowledge about providing top class customer service and effective communication with clients from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. My fluency in English and Spanish also helps me to better understand clients’ needs and to offer them the best products and services.  I would be delighted to work with a company like Hertz, as it is an award winning car rental service, and also because I am passionate about working in multicultural environments and helping customers. I am a detail-oriented team player with a strong customer focus and I admire that Hertz puts high value on both their customers and also on their employees, creating successful teams and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.  

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on 087 1234567.   I look forward to hearing from you soon.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Laura Dineen

This article is written by Breda Hegarty a career counsellor and Maeve Murphy a Pre-Employment Trainer with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé on 01 8743842 or epic@bitc.ie

I would love to help you find your next job!

Breda Hegarty- A qualified and compassionate career counsellor.

Breda Hegarty is a fully qualified career guidance counsellor based in Dublin. Breda has been providing expert career counselling and guidance for 15 years, supporting adults to choose the right career and identify their skills. Her expertise is in the area of successful CV and cover letter writing, career planning and interview preparation.

To book an appointment contact Breda at 0879229533 bredahegarty@hotmail.com or linkedin.com/in/bredahegarty.

Hobbies and Interests – to include on your CV or not to include?

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I often get asked whether it is a good idea to include your hobbies and interests in your CV or not. I was also interested in this area myself and chatted with many recruiters about it. I was surprised to hear that their answer was an overwhelming, ‘yes’. They explained that they like to see hobbies and interests on the CV as they show what you are passionate about, and what extra skills you have, for example If you play sports, it could show that you are competitive and a good team player. Hobbies also shows that you have a work-life balance, one HR manager that I spoke with stated that the roles in their company can be very stressful, and they like to see if the candidates have ways to unwind. They are also a great conversation starter, a good way to build rapport and can make you more memorable. They can also make you stand out, I spoke with one recruiter who actually saved screened CVs by hobbies and interests rather than names e.g. instead of Mary Murphy they would save the file under ‘Tuba Player’.

Therefore adding hobbies and interests can help employers get a better picture of who you are and connect with you in a more personal way. Try to make it as interesting as possible! Make the interviewer want to meet you.

Ambition and achievement

All space is valuable on the CV and hobbies should only be added if they add value or show skills, passion, ambition or achievement. If your hobbies don’t add value, you can omit this section. Hobbies shouldn’t be everyday activities i.e. ‘going to the cinema or meeting friends’. They should be achievement-based and descriptive.

It can be good to mention

  • Any medals won or any specific achievements within your hobbies.
  • Fundraising activities or charity events you have been involved in.
  • Volunteer work that you have taken part in or any club group or society that you are involved in.

Instead of just mentioning music, think of the type of music, the genre you like, an instrument that you play or a choir or band that you are a member of. Only mention 2 or 3 of the most impactful hobbies. Make sure to give detail instead of saying just music, film or reading, make your hobbies more detailed like the examples below.

Hobbies

Travelling – Travelled to over 21 countries worldwide including Tanzania, India, Colombia, France and Germany.

Painting – Participating in weekly art classes in the ‘Nature Dome Gallery’, Dublin.

Hiking – Member of a hill walking group and have completed the four peaks challenge twice raising funds for The Jack and Jill Foundation.

Running – Running 3 times per week and have completed the Dublin ‘VHI Mini-Marathon’ and the ‘Caracas Rock 10k´.

Breda Hegarty is a career counsellor with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé on 01 8743842 or epic@bitc.ie

Breda is also available for private one to one sessions, you can contact her on bredahegarty@hotmail.com.

What Employers want from the Education Section of your CV

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Employers want to be able to easily see your suitability for a role from your CV. Your education can tell them a lot about your your knowledge and skills. Therefore education can be one of the most valuable parts of your CV. Here are some tips on how to write about your education in your CV.

Positioning the Education section

Usually, if you have relevant and recent work history, that should come first in your CV and your education will follow. However if your work history is not relevant to the role or outdated, you could also start with your most recent and relevant education. If you are applying for roles in education or for financial or legal firms or are a recent graduate, they may like to see the education listed first.

Highlight the most relevant education

If your education is very relevant to the position then it should include details, if it is less relevant then it should be given less space.

Pick three or four pieces of education that are most relevant to the position that you are applying for, the rest can be placed in the additional training section if necessary. Work backwards. State the dates of when you started and finished each course, your course title, college name, location and a brief outline of your qualifications and subjects if relevant.

Identify Accomplishments

It is really important to highlight the positives. Recruiters are always looking for the person who will fit the role and who will go the extra mile. Mention the following;

  • Your results if they were high, and ranking in your class after you finished your exams
  • Scholarships, competitions entered or awards won at university
  • Groups or societies you were involved with
  • Extra positions or roles you held e.g. class representative or student vice president
  • Exchange programmes or volunteering you were involved in
  • Your thesis title if it is relevant to the role
  • Projects undertaken if they are relevant to the role

Below is an example of how you could list your Education

Education                           

Sept 2010 – June 2014                    Bachelor´s Degree in Business, Trinity College, Dublin

  • Involved in a yearlong exchange at Heidelberg University of Applied Science, Germany (2011 – 2012)
  • Awarded a 1.1 in final year exams ranking 5th in the class

Subjects included

  • Business Administration and Statistics
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Sales and Promotion Techniques and Strategic Marketing Planning 
  • Strategic Management Fundamentals, Quality Control and Management

If your education is not related to the role or you have sufficient work experience in the area you can just include dates, course title and college name, you don’t need to include the subjects.

If you studied abroad

Check APPENDIX 1 of QQI for the definitions of qualifications in Ireland to find the best way to explain your foreign qualifications e.g.: equivalent to Bachelor’s Degree level 8

Additional Training

For training that you have completed that is not as relevant you can include it in the additional training section. This includes any short courses that you have taken that are not included in the educational details area.

You can list them as follows

Feb 2016 – Mar 2016            Certificate in manual handling, Red Cross, Dublin (10 hrs)

Sept 2015 – Jan 2016            Certificate in First Aid and CPR, The order of Malta, Dublin (60 hrs)

Breda Hegarty is a career counsellor with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé on 01 8743842 or epic@bitc.ie

Breda also provides private career counselling sessions, you can contact her through LinkedIn or bredahegarty@hotmail.com

A simple guide to writing about work experience in your CV.

woman in white and black striped long sleeve shirt sitting on white chair
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CVs are very valuable documents and they can be crucial in helping us secure our dream job. . Looking at your CV and trying to guess what to include can sometimes be scary and daunting. An attractive work experience section is an essential part of your CV it shows that you have the relevant skills and that you will be of benefit to your future company.

I’ve put together a few tips to make sure you’re maximising your experience in your CV in order to captivate recruiters and secure your next job.

Work History

Start with your most recent role and work backwards. Include all experience. All experience should be mentioned on the CV even if it is not relevant, every experience is beneficial and ensures that there are no gaps. Relevant roles should include 6-8 duties approximately, less relevant roles should be named but may have no duties included or 1 or 2 if relevant to the role you are applying for.

The more relevant the role, the more duties you include and vice versa. State the dates that you have been working in the company. State your job title first, then the company name and short location as well as a brief outline of what the company does if it is unclear.

Dec 2011 – Mar 2017             Publicity and Marketing Executive

Bestsite , Lisbon, Portugal (A Computer Accessories Sales Company)

Duties that are easy to read impact the reader

Always use bullet points

Stay away from long paragraphs. Each duty should start with a dynamic verb. You can use either the past (ending in ‘ed’) or the continuous form (ending in ‘ing’), whichever tense you use, keep it consistent using the same tense throughout.  A consistent pattern will help the reader scan through the information quickly and with ease.

Look closely at the advertisement

See what duties are involved in this role and try to match the duties that you have done before. Volunteer work / Freelance work / Internships and

Additional Experience

Work Placements, helping out in the family or a friends business, minding children, travelling can also be mentioned here if they are relevant to the position or if you do not have work experience / have not worked in a while / do not have Irish experience. You could also mention hobbies where you have a role of leadership / responsibility e.g. being a soccer coach.  Experience can involve personal projects too, for example; setting up social media campaigns / page / writing your own blog or forming a hobby / interest group.

Show Achievements

Employers are always looking for the candidate who will be the best value for money and the best investment. When mentioning duties it is important to mention the specific achievements that you had within the work place i.e.:

  • Projects undertaken
  • Awards received
  • Publications and presentations made
  • Deadlines reached / Targets exceeded e.g. resulting in an increase in sales of 10%
  • New strategies or ideas that you implemented
  • Improvements that you made to the working of the company or department
  • Promotions received / Extra responsibilities that you took on
  • A work placement or internship that you completed
  • Relevant seminars attended
  • Training in new staff

 Give Proof

Facts, figures and statistics are a clear way of proving that you did the job well. Instead of saying, “exceeded targets”, say what the targets were e.g. “Exceeded the €2000 daily sales target by 15% by using up selling techniques”. Instead of saying “met deadlines”, give proof;

  • Calculated payroll for over 60 staff on a monthly basis using SAP software.
  • Responded to approximately 30 calls daily, solving customer’s queries regarding their tourism packages i.e. accommodation, flights, prices and availability.
  • Provided customers with support and solutions related to mobile phone charges in under 3 minutes
  • Sourced, negotiated and secured an average of 3 welding or fabricating projects monthly with an average contract value of €25,000.
  • Assisted the team leader with evaluating and supervising a team of 35 people, helping with shift rotation and replacing people on sick leave.
  • Initiated an audit and review of all suppliers, based on performance history and geographical location and reduced suppliers, cutting costs by 30%.

 

Top Tip: Turn all of your duties into achievements. Think about the results and purpose of your work. Use numbers and specific details personal to your experience and only mention the duties which are important for the role you are applying for or that demonstrate achievement.

Breda Hegarty is a career counsellor with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé  on 01 8743842 / 086 8391313 or epic@bitc.ie

You can contact Breda Hegarty directly on bhegarty@bitc.ie.

Making your CV Work with Action Verbs.

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So, it’s time to update your CV and you are wondering how to make it more dynamic? One way to do this is to use vibrant action verbs which will demand attention when outlining your previous duties. The language we use in our CVs is very important and help to clearly communicate your skills and experience. Starting each bullet point with a strong action verb will help the reader scan through the information quickly and will paint a clear picture of your previous tasks.

Every duty should try to sell your abilities, highlight your accomplishments and leave a lasting impression. The list of verbs below will help you to do just that.

 ACTION VERBS TO DESCRIBE PREVIOUS DUTIES

A

Accompanied

Achieved

Acquired

Acted

Adhered to

Advised

Aided

Alerted

Analysed

Answered

Anticipated

Approved

Arranged

Assembled

Assessed

Assigned

Assisted

B

Boosted

C

Calculated

Called

Carried out

Changed

Checked

Clarified

Cleaned

Coached

Collaborated

Collated

Collected

Communicated

Compared

Compiled

Complied with

Completed

Conducted

Consulted

Contacted

Contributed

Controlled

Convinced

Cooperated

Coordinated

Corrected

Counted

Created

Customised

D

Dealt with

Decorated

Defined

Delegated

Delivered

Demonstrated

Described

Designed

Detected

Determined

Developed

Devised

Diagnosed

Directed

Disposed of

Distributed

E

Edited

Eliminated

Employed

Enabled

Encouraged

Enhanced

Ensured

Established

Estimated

Evaluated

Exceeded

Explained

F

Facilitated

Followed up

G

Gained

Generated

Greeted

Guided

H

Handled

Helped

Hired

I

Identified

Implemented

Improved

Increased

Informed

Inspected

Installed

Instructed

Interviewed

Introduced

Investigated

Issued

L

Labelled

Launched

Lectured

Led

Liaised

Lifted

Listened

Loaded

Located

Lodged

M

Maintained

Managed

Marketed

Maximised

Measured

Mediated

Merchandised

Merged

Minimised

Modified

Monitored

Motivated

Moved

N

Negotiated

O

Observed

Obtained

Offered

Operated

Ordered

Organised

Oversaw

P

Participated

Performed

Persuaded

Planned

Prepared

Presented

Prevented

Printed

Prioritised

Processed

Projected

Promoted

Proposed

Provided

Publicised

Published

Purchased

R

Received

Recommended

Recorded

Recruited

Rectified

Reduced

Referred

Registered

Removed

Repaired

Replaced

Replenished

Reported

Represented

Requested

Researched

Resolved

Responded to

Responsible for

Reviewed

Revised

Rotated

S

Satisfied

Scanned

Scheduled

Screened

Searched

Secured

Selected

Sent

Served

Shared

Showed

Simplified

Signed

Solved

Sorted

Stocked

Submitted

Suggested

Summarised

Supervised

Supplied

Supported

T

Tailored

Taught

Tested

Tidied

Tracked

Trained

Transcribed

Translated

Troubleshot

Tutored

Typed

U

Updated

Upgraded

V

Verified

Visited

Volunteered

W

Washed

Welcomed

Breda Hegarty is a career counsellor with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé  on 01 8743842 / 086 8391313 or epic@bitc.ie

You can contact Breda Hegarty directly on bhegarty@bitc.ie.

 

Creating a First Class Personal Profile

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Many recruiters, while making the initial cut of CVs, spend just seconds looking at them. For that reason, it is important to include our main selling points at the top.

 Treat your profile as your sales pitch

Use this space as your advertisement of yourself. If you were a product, what would be the key selling points for your audience?

 Prove that you have what it takes to do this role

Think about what the key qualities, hard skills, soft skills, experience and education that you have that match this role and use this to prove to the employer that you can ably fill this role.

 Tailor your profile to this particular role

Search through the advertisement to see key points that the employer is looking for. This is a wish list and your profile should be a direct response to this. Include key words from the advertisement in your profile.

 Creating a Personal Profile:

Step 1 – Underline or highlight the most important items in the advertisement.

Step 2 – Outline the experience, education, hard and soft skills / qualities you have that match the role requirements. Look through your CV and pick out the most relevant experience, education, hard and soft skills that match this role.

Step 3 – Use all this information to write your profile.

Adapting your skills and experiences to different roles:

Limited Work Experience in the area

If you don’t have work experience yet, focus your profile on your education, qualities and interests that match the position. Discuss any volunteering or training courses you have completed and the skills you have gained.  Add other relevant skills too i.e.  communication skills, interpersonal / presentation skills and IT and language skills.

‘Jack of all Trades’

Having diverse experience is a positive, although all profiles should focus on only what is relevant to avoid confusion about the role you are looking for and show you are focussed. Show common links or threads from your CV, e.g. working with people/ technology or in creative / hands-on work environments and highlight your transferable skills.

If you are looking for a role within a specific company, emphasise that in the profile too eg..… is looking for a role as a customer service representative in Accenture.

Personal Profile Examples

Here are some samples of personal profiles

Events Manager

A professional event manager with a certificate in event management and 2 years’ experience in organising a wide variety of events i.e. art exhibitions, fashion shows and job fairs. A creative individual with expertise in securing venues, managing logistics and marketing these events is looking for an events management role.

Customer Service with Languages

A fluent English and Spanish speaker with 4 years’ experience in a fast-paced customer service role and experience providing IT support over the phone, via e-mail and face-to-face, is looking for a Customer Service role with Spanish.’

 HR

A recent HR Management Graduate with a BSc in Economics and an MSc in Strategic People Management, and 5 years’ experience in HR dealing with various processes i.e. talent acquisition, training and development, induction training, performance evaluations, compensation and benefits, managing payroll and administration is looking for a role in HR / Recruitment

Administration

A qualified Administrative officer with 4 years’ experience, a degree in Business Administration and experience in dealing with customers and clients via phone, e-mail and face to face. A proficient Windows, Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint user, is looking for a role in administration support.

Pharmacy Sales Assistant.

A qualified Pharmacy Sales Assistant (QQI level 4) with over 8 months’ experience as an OTC Pharmacy Sales Assistant and over 12 years’ experience as a beautician is looking for a role as a Pharmacy Sales Assistant.

Graphic Design.

A Qualified Graphic Designer with 3 years’ experience in Graphic Design, Branding, Web Design, with good working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite( Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop) and print production process. A creative  team player with the ability to learn quickly is looking for a role in Graphic Design.

Part qualified accountant

A part qualified accountant with a degree in accounting and over 3 years’ experience in companies including KPMG, Grant Thornton and BDO; carrying out reconciliations of bank statements, processing and analysing accounts and creating cash flow reports, currently pursuing an ACCA qualification is looking for a position in accounting.

Architect

An Architect with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Urban Planning with 5 years’ experience tailoring client briefs and skilled in creating detailed plans using AutoCad 2D, Sketchup, Revit, Photoshop and Autodesk 3ds Max is looking for a role as an architect.

Software Test Engineer

A Software Test Engineer with a degree in Electronic Engineering, having over one year of experience in Test Automation using Selenium and testNG. An accurate and flexible individual with experience of working closely with development teams to define test strategies, document detailed test cases, scripts and scenarios, implement test plans and create, design and execute test cases using SDLCs to ensure quality coverage is seeking a role as a Software Test Engineer

Breda Hegarty is a career counsellor with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé  on 01 8743842 or epic@bitc.ie

You can contact Breda Hegarty directly on bhegarty@bitc.ie.

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How to write about skills in your job applications.

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Job seeking can be challenging whether you’re trying to create an excellent CV, craft a cover letter, or prepare for an interview. That’s why I have created an online resource with tips to help. The link below will show the soft and hard skills that you can include in your applications.

Skills

Skills describe what we are able to do and are usually defined in two categories: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills

Hard skills are also known as professional or technical skills. These skills are specific abilities that we have learned and developed through education or in the workplace.

 Examples of hard skills:

Languages, driving, building techniques, repair techniques, D.I.Y., sewing / dressmaking, operating machinery e.g. a hoist / a forklift, cooking, playing an instrument, gardening and sport.

Computer skills i.e. typing, Graphic Design, Data Management (collecting / organising and interpreting), Analytics, Word Processing and Technical Writing / Social Media skills, programming languages and coding.

 Soft skills

Soft skills are also known as transferable, non-technical or personal skills. These are skills that have come more naturally and deal with how we relate to the people and the environment around us. They transfer readily from one job to another.

 Soft skills usually fall into three categories:

  • Interactions with people
  • Professionalism and/or Work Ethic
  • Critical Thinking or Problem Solving

Interactions with People:

Networking

Communication

Teamwork

Collaboration

Demonstrating Empathy

Listening

Motivational

Presentation

Observational

Mentoring

Negotiation

Delegation

Conflict Management

Leadership

Management

Professionalism and Work Ethic:

Time Management

Willingness to learn

Willingness to take on new challenges

Goal setting

Organisational

Prioritisation

Scheduling

Adaptability

Planning

Attention to detail

Critical Thinking or Problem Solving:

Quick thinking

Problem solving

Decision making

Innovation

Evaluation

Analytical

Visualisation

Thinking outside the box

Ability to cope under pressure

Resourcefulness

When writing a CV or cover letter it is always a good idea to highlight the skills mentioned in the job specification and match these as much as possible to show that you are the right fit for the role. You can create a separate skills section in your CV and include some of these keywords in your profile too. Even if you have not been in the same role that you are applying for, you can still show that you have the capabilities to carry out the tasks through your soft and hard skills. Best of luck!

Breda Hegarty is a career counsellor with the EPIC Programme run by Business in the Community Ireland. EPIC is a free programme supporting people from migrant backgrounds to gain employment. If you are interested in participating in one of the free programmes contact Livia Bartolomé on 086 8391313 epic@bitc.ie.

You can contact Breda Hegarty on bhegarty@bitc.ie with any comments or questions that you may have.

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Preparing for Competency Based Interview Questions

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During the interview you may be asked competency based questions. These questions are designed to help the interviewer understand your personal qualities and how you deal with different situations and behave in a work environment. Look at job advertisements to see which competencies have been highlighted for your role. Then, prepare possible questions based on these competencies and think about specific examples from your work. If you don’t have professional experience, use examples from volunteering or education and training courses.

Sample competency questions include:

“Tell me about a time when you kept calm under pressure”

“Give an example of a time you had a deadline but could not reach it. What happened?”

“Tell me about a time when you worked in a team”

“How do you deal with conflict situations?”

 Common competencies:

 The STAR method

When answering competency based questions, the STAR method is a really useful technique to us.

Advantages

Using a structured technique to describe an example clearly for the interviewer of when you demonstrated different competencies will ensure that your answers are easy and quick to understand. ‘Storytelling’ in this way will also keep your interviewers engaged and interested. It will ensure your answers are clear and concise, while also descriptive.

The STAR method will also not only give proof of your abilities and competencies, but will show the interviewers your strengths and suitability for the job, based on your answer and actions that you took – even if you do not specifically refer to your own strengths.

 Using the STAR Method

 Think of one specific example from your past experiences to answer each question.

S Situation

This sets the scene. Describe a situation that relates to the interviewer´s question. When did it happen and where?

T – Task

Discuss what your role/responsibilities were or what the task was.

 A – Action

Outline what you did and the action you took.  Use the word ‘I’, not ‘we’ to show accountability for your actions. Give a real example of one incident in the past rather than multiple. Give step by step details of what you did and how you did it.

This section will be the longest part of your answer.

 R – Result

Tell the interviewer about the positive result of your actions. Talk about the benefits of what you did. Did you learn from it? / Implement positive changes as a result?

Tip: Focussing on one specific example can be challenging. Keep it simple and check if you are using adverbs of frequency like “always”, “every day” or “often” or using plurals. If you are, try to instead focus on one specific moment, a ‘snapshot’ of the past – using the past tense where possible instead.

 Examples using the STAR technique:

Example 1:

 SITUATION
I was the Promotions Officer for the International Volunteering Society in Dublin City University, during my studies.
 
TASK
For the international volunteering trips, the society needed to recruit 30 volunteers each year. To promote this and recruit volunteers, we decided to host a multi-cultural day. I was responsible for finding guest speakers and activity leaders for the multi-cultural day event.
 
ACTION
I started with members of our own society. I also approached other societies such as language, dance and sports societies, where I knew there were many people involved from diverse cultural backgrounds. I also asked to speak at different society meetings to encourage people to get involved and created a plan of events and a timetable for the day.
RESULT
I managed to get speakers and activity leaders representing 10 different countries and during the event, we held 10 workshops including a Zumba dance session, an African drumming workshop and cookery demonstrations. Over 1,000 students attended the event, and 67 also signed up as potentials for the international volunteering programme.

 

Example 2

SITUATION / TASK
I worked as a Volunteer Sales Assistant in the Enable Ireland Charity Shop, where I was responsible for organising stock, operating the till and dealing with customers.
 
ACTION
I started off in the backroom removing clothes from bags and separating the items that could be sold, to items that needed to be recycled. After a few weeks, I became responsible for training new volunteers in the layout and organisation of the stockroom. I also came up with a new layout for the shop, which involved putting similar clothing and styles together, making it easier for customers to locate items and it also made the store look more like a high street shop. I created very visual and themed window displays and I started working on the till, calculating the takings at the end of the day, bringing them to the bank and training in new volunteers in this area.
RESULT
I gained a lot of skills like organisational and time management skills and I became more efficient. I also learned that I am creative and enjoy coming up with new ideas to solve problems and improve sales and customer experience.

Crucial Personal Qualities Sought by Employers.

 

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Demonstrating your work experience and education on a CV are essential to make you stand out, however it can also be beneficial to highlight your personality. These traits will give the employer an insight into how you would perform in a team and allow them to visualise you in the role and the workplace. Ideally the personal qualities should match those outlined in the job specification.

You can choose some personal qualities from the list below:

A

  • Active
  • Ambitious
  • Analytical
  • Approachable
  • Accurate
  • Adaptable

C

  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Caring
  • Client focused
  • Committed
  • Compassionate
  • Competent
  • Competitive
  • Confident
  • Conscientious
  • Considerate
  • Consistent
  • Cooperative
  • Creative
  • Customer Focused

D

  • Decisive
  • Dedicated
  • Dependable
  • Detail Oriented
  • Determined
  • Diligent
  • Diplomatic
  • Discreet
  • Dynamic

E

  • Effective
  • Efficient
  • Empathetic
  • Encouraging
  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic

F

  • Flexible
  • Focused
  • Friendly

G

  • Good Sense Of Humour

H

  • Helpful
  • High Achiever
  • Honest

I

  • Imaginative
  • Innovative

L

  • Level-Headed
  • Logical
  • Loyal

M

  • Methodical
  • Meticulous
  • Motivated

N

  • Non-Judgemental

O

  • Observant
  • Open-Minded
  • Optimistic
  • Organised
  • Outgoing

P

  • Passionate
  • Patient
  • Persevering
  • Persistent
  • Persuasive
  • Polite
  • Positive
  • Practical
  • Precise
  • Proactive
  • Productive
  • Punctual

R

  • Rational
  • Reliable
  • Respectful
  • Responsible
  • Results Oriented

S

  • Supportive
  • Sympathetic

T

  • Tactful
  • Thorough
  • Thoughtful
  • Tolerant
  • Trustworthy
  • Truthful

V

  • Versatile