Friday, 18 November 2011

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interviews

Thing 21 of cpd23 is about promoting yourself, your skills and abilities to potential employers.

Interests and skills

Maria's first point on the cpd23 post is that the skills you are good at and your strengths are intrinsically linked to your interests - if you enjoy something you tend to be good at it. We were therefore asked to think about our interests inside and outside of work and what skills we need to do them. From this we could hopefully work out our strengths as well as have a better understanding of how to combine our interests and our future career.

When I first started to think about this I wasn't convinced - there's lots of things I enjoy doing but am hopeless at, however once I began thinking about the things I do in work Maria's philosophy rang true. I enjoy enquiry work and get a real sense of satisfaction when I can provide information that I know will help win business or fill in the blanks of a report. I also enjoy the buzz of being busy and working under pressure. My weaknesses though aren't generally things I don't enjoy, instead they tend to stem from lack of practice or confidence. One thing I've realised in doing this exercise is that if you enjoy doing something and you are relatively good at it you will be able to talk with confidence and passion about it and that can never be a bad thing in an interview.

Applying for a job

I've been hopeless at keeping my CV up to date. If an interesting opportunity came along I'd have to search through various print outs of online applications and old versions of my CV and ultimately start a fresh. When you're first starting out and have relatively little experience I don't think this is too much of a problem, however once you've had a few relevant jobs in your chosen profession it becomes easy to forget what you have achieved.

I really like the idea of a "CV database" in which you record all the things you have achieved, along with your skills and strengths. This can then be used to update your CV with relevant information depending on the requirements of the job you are applying for and ensures you don't forget anything. I have already started doing this as I'm currently working on my CV to go in my Chartership portfolio and have found it a really useful way of pulling together various skills and experience in a succinct way.

There's lots written about what you should and shouldn't include in a CV and equally as much about how it should look. The one thing I'll add is that it's important to find a style and format that clearly conveys your skills and experience - don't try to shoehorn your information into a ready-made template, some bits will work for you, others won't. If you've had few relevant jobs a skills based CV may work better than one where you list your achievements under the jobs you have had. I'm only in my second library role and therefore a mixture of the two seems to be working for me.


The final part of thing 21 is interviews. I've had relatively little experience of being interviewed and don't feel the ones I have done have gone well (including the one for my current role). Whilst I've prepared for them (listed my strengths, read and analysed my skills against the job spec, researched the organisation and thought about the questions I might be asked), I've never really rehearsed my answers to the questions I knew I'd be asked. As a result I've ended up waffling and not giving the best examples to demonstrate my skills or awareness of the job in question. In his post What's the Key to a Good Interview, The Wikiman provides a great list of questions that I'll be using in the future to make sure I'm better prepared.

Another really handy tip is one provided by Maria in the cpd23 things post. When answering competency-based questions remember the acronym CAR which stands for Context - Action - Result. First describe the context (the situation you were in), followed by the action you took, then explain the result, including what you learnt and what you would do differently next time. I'll definitely use this in the future.

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