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CV, Skills and Interviews

CV Preparation, Skills, Interviews Technique and Candidate Testing

CV preparation, Skills, Interview Technique and Candidate Testing

CV preparation

CVs continue to be an important part of your 50+ customer’s approach to finding a job despite the increased use of application forms for nearly all public and voluntary sector jobs and online applications for jobs with many larger private sector employers.

CVs are particularly useful when approaching SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises employing fewer than 250 people).

As you will be encouraging your 50+ customer to look carefully at this group of SMEs, they will need an effective CV to support their job search.

Agencies will say they prefer a chronological CV with detailed information covering the last 10 years. However, you will probably be guiding your customer towards a CV that is skills and experience based, as this will highlight what they are selling.

But how completely should your 50+ customers hide their age; what should they do about their possible lack of formal qualifications; and what should do they do if the job(s) that they have been doing for the past 10 years are largely irrelevant because they have to, or want to change careers?

It is important to establish first what your 50+ customers are selling themselves as: what would be the job title on the perfect job advert? That job needs to be:
  • something they want to do (or at least are happy to do)
  • something that they broadly have the skills and experience to do
  • something that they can sensibly market themselves into. This last may be the hardest because there are so many jobs now that have a ‘barrier’ qualification (often a specific degree) that the applicant must have.
Once your customer can answer those three questions positively, the CV becomes simpler, and importantly shorter. Miss out the detail that is irrelevant, exclude date of birth and dates of qualifications, and make the CV one that shouts their relevance for the job. But make sure any claims made about skills and experience can be backed up by evidence.

Then design a CV in the best format for the role your customer is seeking. Here are two versions that give a flavour of different approaches.

Gareth had been a wireman for most of his working life. But the need for wiremen has largely disappeared and he was finding it impossible to get a job as one. So after a couple of years doing any temp work he could find, he decided to become a van or small lorry driver, as he had also spent his life driving, and obtained a Class 2 driving licence. His first CV  made him look like a wireman who had been drifting for two years and didn't help him sell himself.  He then improved his CV to highlight his driving skills..
CV Highlighting Skills
2 Feltham Road
Reading RG51 4GS
Tel: 01189 708968
Mob: 07771 450099

An experienced Van and Lorry Driver, with a Class 2 licence, who has been driving for more than 20 years, and who has a background as a BT maintenance engineer.

  • Obtained Class 2 Driving Licence in 2007.
  • Have driven 7½ tonners, Transits and cars commercially since 1988.
  • Working for Direct Vans delivered parcels within the Thames Valley.
  • Working for AutoHave, delivered repaired cars back to customers. Picked up courtesy cars.
  • For BT and Holyoak, drove a Transit Van for over 19 years while maintaining and repairing the telephone network, within the United Kingdom and Eire.
2005 – Now Short-term contracts through Direct Vans and Camelot Recruitment
1998 – 2005 Holyoak Total Network Solutions, Faultman / Jointer
1982 – 1998 British Telecom, Telephone Engineer
1978 – 1982 Acumen, Engineer
1976 – 1978 PZH, Wireman

Education: Fingals Cave School 2 ‘O’ levels
References available on request.
Victor wanted to get out of being a one-man market researcher (successful) and get back into employment as he missed working in a team. But he knew he would not get employment as a market researcher, so wanted to point up his well-developed administration skills. This boxed CV (pdf 28KB opens in new tab or window) stops readers just reading it chronologically and allowed Victor to sell himself in a couple of paragraphs.

This example of a good practice CV (pdf, 48KB opens in new tab or window), provided by The Plus Team, includes helpful tips and areas to focus on.

Identifying transferable skills

50+ jobseekers sometimes find it hard to work out what skills they have and what they could use them for in a different context. They confine their thoughts about this to very narrow parameters which relate to previous training or job roles.

The key to unlocking these skills is to ask ‘trigger’ questions and, in feeding back the responses you hear, explore the transferable skills your customers have.

Teasing out skills demands good listening as well as skill in giving feedback.
It is useful to use key competencies as a framework for this as many job descriptions and specifications are based on these.
Key Competences
  • Communicating
  • Coping with pressure
  • Working as part of a team
  • Being flexible
  • Organising
  • Solving problems
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Technical skills
 This approach is particularly helpful when you are working with someone who has been out of the workplace for some time. The workplace they left has probably changed a great deal and frequently people find matching what they did before to what they might do now very challenging.

It is possible to demonstrate any of these competencies in a work or non-work setting so that a person who has been a carer could have evidence of skills in:
  • coping with pressure
  • being flexible
  • organising
  • solving problems
  • interpersonal skills.
“I have to organise the appointments with health professionals, be able to respond to my mother’s health needs and be ready to change any arrangements without warning.”

A person who is no longer able to do a manual job because of an injury might need some prompts to help them identify any transferable skills. For example:
  • talk me through what you did on a daily basis
  • how did you organise the work schedule?
  • how did you let everyone know what they had to do?
These questions might reveal that they had skills in communication, organisation, and working as a member of a team. The important thing is to ensure that they have evidence to back up any transferable skills you help them identify.

This case study illustrates how a Heavy Goods Vehicle Driver moved into a training job.
Case Study 1: Identifying Transferrable Skills (Highways to Opportunities)
This case study has been provided by Highway to Opportunities, based in Oldham.
A customer we saw last year at H20 was extremely positive about the support we gave him.
After more than 20 years as a HGV driver, Jim was made redundant in early 2009. At his first appointment he was quite unsure of the direction he wanted to take but explained that he would like a career change as he no longer wanted the long driving hours and nights away from home. He was worried that his age (55) might be a barrier. After several appointments we found out that he had worked as a volunteer at his local cricket club for the last 15 years, coaching and training the children. Jim attended our CV Workshop and further appointments which enabled him to identify the full range of his skills and experience which included six years’ service in the British Army, HGV Licence, HIAB (RITTB) Licence, ADR Licence, FLT Licence, along with over 20 years’ experience operating this equipment.

Six months after his first appointment and a couple of weeks after his last, Jim came in to thank all the advisers who had worked with him and to say he had found work at a large training company that helps people gain various licences related to transport and distribution. He added that his new employer was going to invest over £2,000 to train him in how to train people.

After several months of support and from not knowing what he wanted to do and believing his age was against him, he found a job close to home that offered new challenges. His employer took into account the value of his experience and transferable skills and as a result was willing to invest in his ongoing development.
Having a clear idea of what jobs consist of can assist the customer in identifying transferable skills. Some current job titles do not give many clues to what they mean in practice especially if they are new to the jobseeker so any work they can do to explore this is useful.

This first case study below (2) describes how a carer was helped to identify her transferable skills to find work. Case study 3 shows how a careers adviser helped a retired NHS employee identify her transferable skills and draw up an action plan to find less demanding work but work which would enable her to achieve her goal of continuing to contribute to society.
Case Study 2: Identifying Transferrable Skills (Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Service)
We support quite a few mature carers looking for work.  One of the things they often share is a sense of isolation and as a result a lack of confidence, particularly in being able to find work.  This is especially the case when they have been carers for much of their lives. We get a lot of “How can I write a CV when all I’ve ever done all my life is care?” Of course it’s not easy, but we start talking about them as a person with a unique set of skills and knowledge and it comes as a real surprise that they do indeed have many skills that would be real use to employers. So what transferable skills do carers have? Well, we’ve found that most have strong evidence of:
•           patience
•           communication skills
•           great dedication and loyalty
•           nursing skills
•           sense of humour
•           organisational skills (consider having to administer complex drug regimes and dealing with NHS and social services staff, for example).
We also have to work on job search, interviewing and IT skills.  Because of many carers’ lack of exposure to interviews, we find role play a good way of practising the different types of interviews they may experience.  As well as asking them to play the role of the interviewee, we also ask them to play the role of the interviewer, working out what questions to ask and developing an awareness of the kind of answers employers like to hear.  
It’s not unusual to see a great transformation in some carers.  One of our customers who had cared for her severely autistic son for many years was in a position where she was able and wanted to work.  But she had very little work experience of any kind, although she had spent some time doing voluntary work at a hospital. When she started with us she lacked confidence and had no idea of what she could do. Over a period of time we helped her to identify her transferable skills and to understand her strengths.  At the same time, we coached her on job search skills, interview skills and helped her to write an interesting CV which brought out her gentle, patient nature , her sense of humour and her affinity with children. It was amazing to watch her grow in confidence as the weeks went by, and her improvement in interview skills brought her a spontaneous round of applause at the job club.
Case Study 3: Identifying Transferable Skills (New Challenge)
After 44 years' service as a midwife in the NHS, Miriam decided that the time was right to retire and she took a well-deserved extended break to visit family and friends in her native West Indies.

Four years slipped by and Miriam came to thinking about what to do next with her life. She'd reached her 66th birthday and although returning to her previous occupation was out of the question, Miriam felt she still had something to contribute to society and was considering returning to a less stressful job.

A few weeks before Christmas 2010 Miriam was browsing her local Harrow People magazine when the Experience Counts 50+ advertisement jumped out at her. A project funded by the London Councils and European Social Fund, it was the description of the personalised support on offer to older people that caught her eye.

Miriam duly booked a one-to-one appointment with a careers adviser at New Challenge. During this first exploratory meeting it became apparent the wide range of skills and experience that Miriam could offer. Miriam realised that being 66 and in good health, she might still have many years ahead and wanted to commit to something serious. Together with her adviser they looked at the possible opportunities open to her and drew up an action plan needed to achieve her goal.

Given Miriam's extensive experience in healthcare, her adviser suggested that the health and social care sector could make good use of her skills. A short time later Miriam came across an advertisement from the Harrow Shared Lives Scheme, looking for a long-term carer. Those who want to participate in the Shared Lives scheme as carers open their home to a vulnerable adult, someone who is able to live independently with support but who would otherwise have to live in a residential care setting.

Miriam felt that her long career with the NHS had equipped her with the right balance of skills. She had enough room in her home to share with one other person and could offer a safe and comfortable environment. And it would be companionship for both ...

Once committed, Miriam proceeded with the comprehensive screening needed by the Council to enrol in the scheme, including a Criminal Records Bureau check to ensure she was a suitable host for a vulnerable adult.
The combined support provided by New Challenge and the Head of Adult and Community Care in Harrow Council helped Miriam to compile a successful application to the Harrow Shared Lives Scheme, which opened the doors to a new later life ‘career' as a long-term carer.

Interview preparation and techniques

Interviews have become the most daunting part of job search for the 50+ jobseeker, because for many their previous experience was of short half-hour chats with a single interviewer followed by a job offer. Now they face three, four or more different sessions extended over a few weeks, with presentations and / or psychometric tests thrown in. In competency based interviews (pdf 72KB opens in new tab or window) candidates are evaluated on the quality and detail of every answer.

The more interview practice 50+ jobseekers can get, the better, and if you can arrange practice sessions for your customers, this is invaluable. The availability of cheap video cameras, which can be played through a laptop, allows the session to be recorded, and it can be very helpful to be able to show customers how they come across at interview.

This case study shows how one highly qualified candidate, who kept failing at the interview stage,  was shown what was going wrong and helped to improve his interview techniques.
Case Study: Interview Preparation and Technique (Kennedy Scott)
When Rajeev (62) first came to Kennedy Scott, he had been out of work for more then five years. He had a disability and had been on Incapacity Benefit for five years. But he had recently been reassessed as capable of working and was transferred onto Jobseeker's Allowance.

Rajeev was a highly qualified accountant. When he started to receive Jobseeker's Allowance, he tried to look for work and was invited to several interviews but had had no success in finding a job. Jobcentre Plus then directed him to Kennedy Scott for further help.

He felt depressed as his disability had worsened and he was under financial pressure because of his mortgage payments. He felt a failure as he couldn't provide for his family.

Warren, the Personal Development Coach at Kennedy Scott, says about his first meeting with Rajeev: "He had a very soft voice. He was swallowing his words and I had difficulty in understanding what he was saying. This was a barrier he had to overcome."

When Warren recognised that Rajeev was feeling very low, he offered him free counselling. "At Kennedy Scott, we buy professional counselling from another organisation. Rajeev was able to benefit from counselling support in parallel with the job search support I was providing. This continued for about seven months until he found a job."

"We then turned to his CV. I needed to review whether his accountancy knowledge and skills were up to date. I came to the conclusion that they were as he was being invited to interviews. His five years out of work were easily explained by his ill health. It was also helpful that he had taken some courses on the latest version of Microsoft Office.

"After that, we needed to look at his interview technique. The way Rajeev spoke gave the impression that he lacked confidence but it was difficult to tell him this and I had to handle it sensitively. So I suggested that we analyse the unsuccessful interviews he had had. I asked him how he felt, leading him into discussing the problem areas and their possible causes. As a result, Rajeev admitted that he didn't give a good impression of himself and that made it easier for me to help him."

It was, nevertheless, difficult for Warren, as a younger man, to coach Rajeev. In the Asian culture in which Rajeev had grown up, older people have to be shown respect. Warren got over this sensitive cultural issue by asking Rajeev to treat him as his son, explaining that he needed to understand him better to help him succeed.
"I had to be sure to adopt the right approach. At first I sympathise with my customers to help them open up but then I have to take a different tack to give them feedback on what they can improve. I always work with examples as I find my customers are more receptive to this approach. When working with Rajeev to improve his interview skills, I told him that if his posture and body language were wrong, if he shrank into himself, he was effectively saying I am not the right person for the job. I also mentioned that if he thought he was good and could handle the job he should say so loudly and clearly..

"From then on, we held some mock interviews. At Kennedy Scott, we try to make them as authentic as possible. We take the ‘candidates' into a special room, where a colleague plays the role of the interviewer. I just take notes or film the session. We run through the entire interview procedure from beginning to end.
"Rajeev enjoyed the mock interviews and was even able to laugh at himself when he discovered what he was doing wrong. We practised several times until he made a noticeable improvement. I also made sure I met Rajeev a day or two before a real interview to bolster his confidence."

In the end Rajeev found a full time job as an accountant with a large company. After five years of unemployment and more than seven months of job hunting, he achieved everything he wanted.
Most of the issues are common to being interviewed whatever the age of the interviewee, although the 50+ person may need to demonstrate drive and enthusiasm even more than a younger candidate simply because of their age.

Impact is important, and candidates who present themselves well and dress neatly and appropriately improve their chances. You could suggest that your customer tries to find out the employer’s dress code so they fit in. Job applicants don’t have a second chance to make that important first good impression.

Get your customer to think through their ‘Difficult Questions’. “What do you not want to be asked of you – and when the interviewer asks it, what are you going to say?” These are some examples of typical questions 50+ jobseekers may be asked.
Typical Questions 50+ job seekers may be asked

50+ jobseekers are often prepared to settle for a lower level of job in moving from a large company to a smaller one, because they cannot get work at their previous level. They will get questions like:

“How will you cope with moving into a very different culture?” In answering this question, they will need to explain how they will find it exciting to be more involved in all that is going on, for instance.

“Isn’t this job too small for you? Won’t you get bored?” needs your customer to explain that they really enjoyed doing this work in their previous job, and are looking forward to the opportunity of concentrating on what they like doing, and do best.

And the question: Aren’t you over experienced and over qualified for this role?requires your customer to explain that although they are no longer wishing to climb the career ladder, they are looking for a fulfilling role to which they could bring the benefits of their knowledge, expertise and experience. Your customer should be prepared to provide examples of how they could make a contribution.

Some questions may relate directly to age: “At your age, shouldn’t you be thinking of retirement?” Current legislation should prevent ageist questions. But if and when they are asked one, it is better for your customer to deal with it in as straightforward a way as possible. Your customer might explain that an age-diverse workforce has benefits for employers enabling them to draw on a mix of skills and experience that can give employers a positive competitive edge. Also, that they enjoy working, and fully expect that an ageing workforce will need to play a greater role in the future.
Some 50+ candidates do not treat the questions with the seriousness they should when interviewed by much younger people, particularly if the interviewer might become their manager. It is critically important that they get across that they will be able to support the younger boss, without either being a threat or putting them down in any way. It is a difficult path to tread. You can help your customer by giving them a practice interview with an interviewer at least 20 years younger than they are.

Above all, remind your customers they are only after a job offer. When they get that, then they can ask their questions, and voice their concerns before they accept, or decide to reject, the offer.

Candidate testing

It is not uncommon nowadays for an employer to ask candidates to complete some form of testing either before or after an interview before offering them a job. You should always check whether an employer is going to test your customer so that they know in advance.

The types of tests can vary widely. Some can be practical and directly related to the job, examples of which might be:

• A wiring test for someone applying for a job as a technician.
• Asking you to sell something to the interviewer or interviewing panel, if you are applying for a sales job.
• A typing test for anyone where speed and accuracy of typing is a must.
• A spelling test for a job where spelling is of importance i.e. secretarial, proof reading.
• A visual accuracy test - for where being able to pay attention to detail is important. (Picker/packers are often asked to undertake this type of test.)

For some jobs the testing process can involve one or more exercises which may include a psychometric test, a reasoning test, either verbal and/or numerical or another combination. It is common to be tested in a variety of areas.

If the prospective employers confirms that they will be asking for tests to be completed, it is reasonable to ask what the test is or what it involves. This will offer some opportunity for practice and preparations.

The following website can help you prepare: Spelling (opens in new tab or window).

If your customer is likely to encounter some of the reasoning tests, either at interview or on line before or after interview, practice is essential as individual scores and times can be much improved..

There are some excellent practice tests available online, such as (opens in new tab or window), and these will help your customer hone their skills for when the real test comes. And ask your customer to try (opens in new tab or window) from one of the largest providers of the tests themselves.

This site (opens in new tab or window) provides helpful information and guidance about testing.
WHP is co-financed by the ESF

Co-financed by the European Social Fund