Advice if you're looking for IT work in the Midlands

Advice

This section gives advice and tips about:

  • CV writing
  • Interviews
  • Counter offers
  • Taking an IKM test

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Your CV is a sales tool with one purpose: to get you an interview. The format that you use is a matter of personal choice, but the following guidelines will help your CV to do its job.

Layout

  • Your CV must look good. If it's easy on the eye it is much more likely to get a fair reading.
  • Make the CV as long as is necessary to do your experience justice but cut down on detail of your early career if you need to reduce overall length. Two pages is usually enough for graduate roles, but experienced candidates will need more than this.
  • Use consistent formatting and don't overuse frames, tables and borders.
  • Choose a font that is easy to read - and stick with it.
  • Leave the margins where they are.
  • Bullet points are effective visual aids, but don't overuse them.
  • Make sure that your personal and contact details are prominent and up to date.
  • Avoid graphics and special effects unless you are applying for a job in graphic design. It is better to have a conventional-looking CV than one that stands out for the wrong reasons.

Text

  • The text needs to be clearly worded, concise but complete. Recruiters don't usually have time or experience enough to read between the lines. Assume that the reader of your CV is not an expert in your technical field and state the obvious if necessary.
  • A brief personal profile and list of key technical skills are useful for the reader.
  • Write the CV in the first person.
  • Don't leave any unexplained gaps. The reader of the CV will assume the worst.
  • Don't forget to include details of professional and educational qualifications, with details of relevant training courses.
  • Set out your employment history in reverse chronological order.
  • Avoid 'humorous' references unless you are applying for a job as a stand-up comic.
  • If you decide to list your interests outside work, avoid making reference to unusual activities that might prejudice the reader.
  • Check for spelling mistakes and bad grammar.

Relevance

  • Only apply for jobs for which you are potentially suitable. Your experience, earning expectations and personal circumstances must all be approximately right.
  • Make sure that your CV refers to the skills or experience that are required in the job description. If you lack the experience, the covering letter is the place to explain why you think you might still be a suitable candidate.
  • Make sure that all the information contained in your CV is true.
  • Recruiters use search tools to identify candidates on databases with specific skills. Make sure that your CV will be picked up by listing all the areas in which you have experience, using the most commonly-used spelling or wording.

Covering letter

  • A covering letter that is specifically tailored to the job in question and addressed to the hiring manager by name will indicate that you are serious about your application.
  • Make sure that you have all details correct or the effect will be undermined.
  • Include information about your salary / current rate, notice period, and whether or not you will relocate for the job. If there are any other relevant factors, mention them.

The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself. The following guidelines should help.

Before

  • Well in advance of the interview, read through the job description and consider where your experience is relevant or otherwise. If you lack some of the required skills, this is likely to be an area of focus during the interview. Be prepared to discuss how your other experience compensates, or to say how you intend to overcome any deficiencies. Do remember, though, that a job description is written before suitable candidates are found and it's often the case that the right candidate for the job will possess some of the required experience but not all.
  • Anticipate and prepare answers to some of the standard interview questions that often get asked. Some examples:
    • Why do you want to work for us?
    • Why do you want this job?
    • What do you know about our company?
    • Why did you choose your profession?
    • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
    • What do you like/dislike about your current job role?
    • Why are you looking for a new position?
    • What has been your greatest achievement to date?
    • How would you describe yourself?
    • How would your friends or colleagues describe you?
    • What are your future aspirations?
    • What can you offer to your new team/company?
  • Prepare some questions of your own.  See this blog for examples. 
  • Visit the company's website and find out as much as you can.
  • Make sure that you know how to get to the place where the interview will be held. Take a copy of the address and contact details in case of location confusion. Leave more time for the journey than you think you will need.
  • Allow plenty of time for the interview itself and remember that it might run on longer than you expect.
  • Don't be late - but if you are delayed en route then call ahead, explain your situation and give a realistic revised arrival time.
  • Switch off your mobile phone when you arrive.
  • Be nice to the receptionist - you might be working there soon!

During

  • First impressions really do count. Make sure your appearance is appropriately professional. Don't wear 'comedy' ties or socks.
  • Give a handshake that is firm without crushing. Maintain frequent eye contact but don't stare. Smile. Be yourself.
  • Answer the questions that are asked, and check that you are on the right lines if you sense that you may be going off at a tangent.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid telling inappropriate or unfunny jokes.
  • Be aware of your body language; promote positive signals and limit negative ones.
  • Don't undersell yourself; talk about your positive points, without being arrogant.
  • Don't criticise your current or last employer too much.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. In technical interviews, say how you would go about finding out.
  • Ask any relevant questions that haven't been answered already.
  • Don't talk about salary / rate unless the interviewer raises the subject. Be honest and realistic about your earning expectations, and make sure that what you say is consistent with what you said when first applying for the job.
  • At the end of the interview, ask what the next stage will be. Ask the interviewer if he / she thinks that you are the sort of person they are looking to employ.

After

Call us after the interview with your feedback. We will then talk to the client to get their impressions and contact you back to discuss the next step.

Counter offers

When you have received an offer of employment that you are inclined to accept, you must consider very carefully whether it really solves your problem and offers you the opportunity you are seeking before you resign from your current employment.

If you choose to accept the offer and to resign from your current employment, you must be prepared to resist powerful, persuasive tactics which your employer can use to change your mind.

It is almost invariably a costly irritation for employers to recruit your replacement and often they will do everything they can to keep you. They may offer large sums of money or increased benefits, titles and promises for the future. They can also apply strong emotional and psychological pressure. It can be attractive and tempting to accept. However, once they know you are discontented, they might regard you as a ‘problem employee’. Nationally compiled statistics show that nine out of ten people who accept counter offers have either secured a new job or are still looking for one six months later, usually because the real reasons for wanting to change your job in the first place have not gone away.

Twelve Reasons for Not Accepting a Counter Offer

  1. You have now made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on your commitment will always be in question.
  2. When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who is loyal and who isn’t.
  3. When times get tough, your employer will consider beginning the cutbacks with you.
  4. When your employer replaces you after six months and ‘lets you go’, it’ll be harder to turn them around than it was for them to turn you around. Pretty much impossible, actually.
  5. Accepting a counter offer is an insult to your intelligence. The employer is implying that you didn’t know what was best for you.
  6. Accepting a counter offer is a blow to your personal pride, knowing you were ‘bought’.
  7. Accepting a counter offer rarely changes the factors that drove you to look for a new job in the first place.
  8. Where is the money for the counter offer coming from? Is it your next pay rise early?
  9. Statistics show that if you accept a counter offer, there is a ninety percent chance you will have left the job anyway within six months, or you're still planning on doing so.
  10. What type of a company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you’re worth?
  11. Why haven't they paid you that before? Either they didn't think you were worth it, or they were taking advantage of your loyalty and good nature, or they didn't actually have the money to do it.
  12. Why are they paying it to you now? It’s because it’s easier and cheaper for them to keep you for the time being, while they sort the problem out.

Of course, it's in our interests for you to accept the job offer from the new company, but these points still apply.

Accepting a counter offer and staying put might in very rare cases be a good option, but almost all the time the fundamental reasons for wanting a change have not been addressed, so think very carefully before you make your decision; in our experience accepting a counter offer is usually a mistake!

Tips for completing the IKM technical assessment

Many of our clients choose to use IKM assessments as part of their recruitment process. This is a multiple choice technical assessment that takes, on average, around 45 minutes to complete. You should expect to have to tackle between 30 and 50 questions; each of these questions takes time to read, and to answer.

Why have I been asked to complete a technical assessment?

  • It’s useful for our client to have insight into your technical skills ahead of interview. The IKM test gives them a detailed breakdown of how well you performed in each subject area, so they know where to focus their questioning.
  • If you are interviewing for a senior position, the role itself may not be technically hands on. But undoubtedly you will still have to work closely with technical people and have some familiarity with their technical environment. This is not a ‘pass/fail’ test but it does provide our client with insight into how well you can apply the knowledge you have gained throughout your career.
  • Our clients take the results of these tests seriously. Often they use them as a guide to further interview questioning, but they will also reject candidates who do badly.

How to tackle the multiple choice IKM test

  • Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. We recommend using a PC or laptop rather than a mobile phone.
  • Read the instructions carefully. This is very important as there are certain things that can result in the test being suspended, such as using the ‘back’ button on your browser, skipping too many questions, or taking too long over a question.
  • After you have started – read the question and all the options in full before considering the answer. They can be quite detailed, and you will need a pen and paper at times.
  • As a rule, there are most commonly 3 out of 5 answers that are correct. Sometimes it is 2, and occasionally it is 1. If a question asks for ‘the best way’ to do something, it is looking for a single answer.
  • The answers can sometimes be worked out with a little knowledge combined with some common sense.
  • If you are not certain of the answer to a question, make your best guess / guesses. You will get partial credit for an answer that is nearly right. If you can’t decide between two or three of the options, it’s usually worth selecting both or all three, as you will receive credit for the correct answer and won’t be penalised much if your incorrect answer is nearly right.
  • Remember that our client has seen your CV and will know if you are either not technically hands on, or do not have experience in some areas of technology. Don’t think of it as a pass/fail assessment; the breakdown of skills is more important than the overall score.

About the IKM test

The tests adapt to your ability. If you’re doing well, you will receive harder questions. If you’re doing less well, the questions will get easier. After a while the test finds your level, and by the end you will almost certainly consider that the test has been difficult.

There are hundreds of standard tests in the bank, but our clients often create their own by combining sub-topics from a number of different tests. We’ll send you a list of sub-topics that the test contains if you would like to see this.
You will see the following instructions when you log in to complete the test:

  • Each question may have up to three correct answers.
  • You may select up to three answers for each question.
  • Skip a question if you have no idea of the correct answer.
  • If you are able to narrow down the answers to two reasonable choices, you will always get some credit if you select them both and at least one is correct.
  • YOU MAY NOT GO BACK TO A QUESTION ONCE IT IS ANSWERED OR SKIPPED.
  • Answering correctly is much more important than answering quickly.
  • For each individual question, time will not be tracked until the question is presented in your web browser.
  • Once the test begins, you must directly proceed through the test until completion.
  • You should only use your mouse or touch pad to answer questions. Using other key strokes (in addition to the CTRL key or BACK button) may result in a violation causing test suspension or cancellation.

So in summary: take it seriously, follow the instructions, read the questions carefully, and apply common sense.

Good luck!

P.S. Here's a link to our popular blog on this topic