Tips about CVs and how to apply for jobs in the UK


Today on Facebook, a fellow Spaniard Javier published a few very useful tips about his observations of how people look for work and hand in CVs. I thought I’d share it with those of you who aren’t familiar with these processes yet. Here is the translation of the original text:

Hello. At work, I see quite a few CVs, and more than once I would have liked to send someone an email telling them a couple of things they should change in their CV, so I’m going to do it here in a general way. Like everything else, it is just a guideline – each manager has his or her own neuroses and aversions.

1.- Avoid adding a photo, your date of birth, nationality, gender, etc. Here there is a non-discriminatory policy, so to avoid discrimination you should not include details that indicate age, gender, etc.. Limit your contact details to name, phone number, email and address. The phone number MUST be English. If it isn’t, forget about it. I repeat, do not add a picture unless it is for a porn casting.

2.- Sell yourself. In EU, CVs are bare, with only a few lines describing what you did. This is because in EU people don’t want to read much and you should say things in a clear, concise and direct way. Here, you should write a paragraph explaining what you did in your previous job, and don’t forget the little details. In Spain, we usually assume that when you say “waiting tables”, everything is understood. Here they are used to giving longer explanations. If you say that you waited tables, they understand that you literally took the drink from the bar to the table and back. Say that you provided customer service, that you were friendly, and that this was reflected in the way that they were happy with the service, that you knew how to make every type of coffee/drink… You must elaborate, saying that you are cheerful, that you know how to prepare things (and specify which things), etc.

3.- Demonstrate what you say. Almost everyone does this in a “copy-paste” way, saying that they’re trustworthy, hard-working, punctual… Then many of these people are incredibly lazy, they don’t show up, etc. When you describe yourself, if you say that you are hard-working and trusthworthy, explain how that was reflected at work (e.g. it made the manager give you more responsabilities, which in turn allowed you to develop other skills, etc.).

4.- English: the language that matters. Frankly, based on my personal experience (I repeat, MY experience, as it may be different in other places), the managers couldn’t care less if you speak forty languages. What matters is that you speak English. I work in a hotel, and I have never seen my manager hire any receptionist for the languages they speak (in fact, nobody speaks anything other than English, which has caused some problems, but they don’t care). I am saying it because I see in some CVs that you say you speak Catalan, Galician, etc. It doesn’t matter, even if you speak Mandarin Chinese. Justify your English level and make it clear that you are fluent. Say that you are fluent and used your speaking, reading, listening skills, etc. constantly in your previous jobs, and prove it (see point 3) if required.

5.- Look for the manager. Sometimes I’ve seen someone come where I work and simply ask if they can leave their CV. Depending on the staff it could either end up in the rubbish or on the manager’s desk. Ask if you can see the manager. Try to see him or her, because even if it’s just to hand in the piece of paper, at least there is some eye contact and you will no longer be an “anonumous piece of paper”. That makes a big difference. If they can’t see you (90% of the time they’re busy), come back another day.

6.- If there is no ad, don’t bother. When companies look for staff, they put up a poster on their windows or an ad on Gumtree, so if there isn’t anything like that, they probably don’t need anyone. You can still leave your CV just in case, but well…. If they say no, don’t push it, because more often than not, the CV will end up in the rubbish as soon as you turn around. I myself have seen my manager talking nicely about someone’s CV, and immediately after tear it into pieces because no one is needed.

7.- Finally, I think that the key is to be in the right place at the right time. I also believe that many people look for work around the same areas. For most EU, Blackboy Hill is the end of Bristol and anything beyond the Downs is unknown territory. Honestly, if you have a bike and really need to work, go far – really far, where no migrant has ever gone. I got my first job through pure luck, asking for the manager and leaving my phone number on a napkin. It was far from the centre, and coincidentally the Kitchen Porter was leaving that same day, so they called me the next day.

8.-Perhaps the most daunting part of all this is that if there are (Spanish) migrant people working somewhere, it is likely that a position is available, their friends get the job. Honestly, I myself have two or three friends looking for a job, so if I found out there was something available, they would be the first ones to hear about it. Again, remember to look for work far from “known” areas.

9.- If you’ve read up to here is because you really care about this. Unfortunately I have no more advice to give. If everything else fails… Get drunk. It won’t land you a job, but you’ll have fun. And if you get a job… Get drunk too. Take advantage while you’re still young, because hangovers only last hours or at most a day.

Thanks, Javier!

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