Candidate Zone

Welcome to the Thorn Baker Candidate Zone! We know it can seem daunting to find a new job,  so we’ve put together some useful information to help you. Whether you’re looking for a change of career and need to re-train, need some help making your CV look presentable, or would like advice for attending interviews, being well informed is the key. If you have a question you can’t see the answer to here, please contact your local Thorn Baker office and a member of our recruitment team will be happy to help you.

Topics covered:


Which job is for you?

It’s often difficult to decide on which path you want to take in your career. Perhaps you’ve worked in the same industry for years and want a change, or maybe you’re new to the employment market and are not sure which role you are best suited to.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What skills do I have?
  • Who are those skills valuable to?
  • Do I want to change my profession and if so, do I need to retrain?
  • What salary am I looking for?
  • What’s the most important thing for me in my next position?
  • How far am I willing to travel?
  • What are my long term career goals?

Ideally, you should speak to a Careers Advisor or a Recruitment Consultant to properly assess your options. If approaching a Recruitment Agency for the first time, make sure they are REC accredited. This means that they work to certain standards, making them more likely to provide a superior level of service to non-accredited Recruitment Organisations. Thorn Baker hold REC Gold Audit status, we are fully ethical and strictly adhere to the REC code of conduct. For more information visit: https://www.rec.uk.com/aboutrec/employers

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Training

With the government push on training and the need for employees to improve their skills, it’s important to stay ahead of the game. To view training opportunities and providers in your area, visit http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/training/

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Writing your CV

Writing your CV for the first time, or updating your details after a long period of time can be daunting. Your CV is a written testament to your work history and the first representation of you that a prospective employer sees. With the right approach, this is your strongest tool to selling yourself.

Before you write your CV you must consider that you should tailor it to the role you are applying for.  So for example if you are applying for customer service and sales roles, you should have two separate CVs aimed towards each.

Important points to note when writing your CV:

Keep work and education history separate: This is very important in order to make your CV easy to read. Make sure that whichever is most relevant to the job you are applying for is highest up on your CV. So if you have a Media Degree and are applying to be a Web Designer, but have only 3 months experience in web design, put your education first. If you have a Psychology Degree and have 3 years experience in telesales and are applying for a field sales role, your work history should be first.

Make sure you start with the most recent date first and work backwards (e.g. Aug 2011 – Present): Employers are most interested in what you have been doing recently rather than several years ago. It’s standard practice to start with your most recent position. Make sure your CV works backwards from the present.

Font style and size:  Times New Roman, Tahoma, Verdana, and Calibri are the most popular fonts at a size between 10-12pts. This may seem silly to you, but this is a font that businesses typically use. Avoid using lots of colours in your CV. Black is the best option, and red is still considered inappropriate in formal documents such as letters and CV’s. Never write a CV in capital letters as it will appear that YOU ARE SHOUTING!!! It might get the hirer’s attention, but not for the right reasons!

Writing style: Don’t write in the third person. Using I and me throughout your CV is too personal. To maintain an air of professionalism, you should use statements like “Processed orders in line with company deadlines. Produced reports for senior management” as opposed to “I produced reports” and “I entered orders onto the system”.

Length of work history: In order to avoid a CV several pages long, your work history should only span a maximum of the past 10 years. If you have relevant experiences beyond that point that you feel you want in your CV, add those in, but keep the information brief and relevant.

Skill set: If you wish to add a skill set to the top of your CV, make sure the skills you are adding are relevant to the position you are applying for, are specific enough that they can be measured, and most importantly, are true! Depending on your area of expertise, skill sets may or may not be essential to your CV. Technical professions such as IT & Engineering rely heavily on skill set’s to head up CVs with relevant software and systems knowledge in order to sell the applicant, whereas more customer focused and office based roles, will not require this level of detail.

Profile: Your profile is the summary of your CV. It should, in no more than 2 paragraphs describe a brief overview of your work history, your skills, and why you are now available, as well as what profession you are looking for. This should sit at the top of the CV and be the first thing the hirer reads. Imagine someone is introducing you to this hirer to give them a brief idea of what kind of candidate you are. That’s how your profile should read.

Employment gaps: Where you have employment gaps, explain these. If you were out of work for 2 years as a result of caring for family or travelling, state this on your CV. It’s better for a client to see that you’re hiding nothing rather than suspect that you are hiding something.

Job Role Details: Make sure that you are providing good and relevant information about your role with the company. Think about what you do on a day-to-day or a week-to-week basis with your current or previous employers. Provide information on the specific duties you have performed, especially those tasks that directly relate to the roles you are applying for. Keep the list brief and to the point, but with enough detail to sell your skill set.

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Writing a cover letter

Writing your cover letter should be a brief explanation of why you are excellent for the position you are currently applying for.

Quite simply, this is your opportunity to state what skills and abilities you have that are directly relevant for the role you are applying for. The key elements the hirer is looking for at this stage are the correct use of grammar, your understanding of the role, and the skills and abilities you have.

Keep your cover letter to no more than 3 paragraphs.

Paragraph 1: The vacancy you are currently applying for and reference number, title, department location.

Paragraph 2: Brief summary of your skills and abilities and why they are matched to the job description and why you would be the best candidate.

Paragraph 3: Your availability for interview, best method of contact and that you are looking forward to hearing a response.

Keep it short and to the point, and remember to refer the client to your CV in Paragraph 2 “As you can see from my CV……./ As my CV states”

For more advice, call a member of your local Thorn Baker Recruitment team.

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Interview hints & tips

It is natural to be nervous at an interview. Some enjoy the experience of discussing their skills and experience, whereas others feel nervous and put under the spotlight. What is essential to remember is that this is your prime opportunity to prove to the employer through your communication skills that you are the best person for the job.

There are many types of interviews, from assessment days and working interviews to telephone and competency based interviews. What’s important above everything else is that you are prepared.

To discuss the finer points of an interview, or for general advice call our Thorn Baker Recruitment team for a confidential discussion.

Here are some handy tips to making the interview work for you:

Pre Interview Preparation

“It’s better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret”

American Track Athlete, Jackie Joyner Kersee, 1962

Visit the website:- Visiting the company website will provide you with a clear picture of the company’s current news, vision for the future and values. Perhaps they recently were involved in some charity work or made a new acquisition. It’s good to read about this so you feel better informed sitting down with them at interview. Always search the business on the internet for other news stories they may not have published on their website as this can provide a valuable source of information too.

Read the job description thoroughly:- Make sure you have fully read the job description. If you haven’t been provided with one, ask for one. This is an essential tool in preparing for the role and understanding what is expected from the successful candidate. If you have any questions about the job description, you should make a note of them to ask at the end of your interview.

Read your own CV:- So often, applicants don’t take the time to read their CV with a fresh pair of eyes. Is there a gap in your work history? Are you able to clearly explain your reasons for leaving? You need to be confident that you can answer any questions confidently and truthfully at interview stage, so a “role play” interview with a close friend or family member may be advisable. However, don’t take your CV into an interview, you will be expected to remember your own work history without having to bring it with you on paper!

Make sure you know where you’re going:- If you have time, do a test run to the interview address so you know whether there is available parking or the correct route of public transport,  and how long it will take to get there (don’t forget to factor in time for rush hour traffic depending on when your interview is scheduled for).

Know who you need to ask for on arrival:- Make a note of the names and positions of the people you are seeing for interview. This shows you are prepared when you arrive in reception, and will increase your confidence when greeting them with a handshake.

Ask if you need to bring anything:- This is not a silly question and shows the client that you are willing to prepare. Also this is a good time to ask about how long the interview will last. You may need this information for transport/parking, for booking time off work, or for childcare arrangements etc. If you are not sure, it’s advisable to allow yourself two hours from the time of arrival to account for any delays or an extended interview.

Get a good night’s sleep:- When tired, we are not at our brightest and sharpest mentally, and can appear disinterested and bored. A good night’s sleep will not only assist you in handling your interview, but will also show in your general presentation, and you will feel more positive about the day ahead!

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Presentation

Appearance:- Although it’s obvious, it’s often overlooked. Appearance for interview is vital,  as first impressions really do count!

Dress code:- For general office and clerical positions, we always advise our candidates to wear a full suit wherever possible. Ladies, avoid excessively short dresses or skirts (more than 1 inch above the knee), heavy make up or too much jewellery. Gentlemen, a shirt and tie are classed as standard practice. Avoid sportswear and hats for interview. The key is for the client to see your face clearly and be able to read your expressions without the unnecessary distractions.

Cleanliness:- Ensure you and your clothing are clean! Polish or clean your shoes! Employers will see that you take pride in your appearance. If this is the case, it will reflect that you will take pride in your work.

Clean your car! :-If you know you are going to be parking in the company car park and your car will be visible to employees, clean the outside of the car as a must, and at least ensure the inside of your car is tidy. This is an extension of your appearance and your cleanliness.

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During the interview

In reception:- Think about how you’re presenting your personality. From the moment you walk into the reception area, smile and be confident. Interviewers will often ask the receptionist after the interview whether you were polite and friendly. If you can impress the reception staff, you will have a better chance of impressing the employer!

Be honest:- It’s important during your interview to be open, honest and truthful. However, you should avoid discussing your previous employers or colleagues in a negative light. Remain positive and upbeat throughout your interview as this will show the employer that you are well adjusted and cope well under pressure.

Smile:- Reflecting a positive attitude will encourage the same from the interviewers. Think about when you are watching a film and something sad happens, how does it make you feel? Likewise if you are watching a happy event this will have a positive effect on your own mood.

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End of the interview

Handling salary negotiations:- Often at the end of an interview, the employer may discuss salary with you and what you are looking for. Don’t panic and undersell yourself. You should be asking for the salary the position offers. If you have all the skills the client is looking for, you deserve that salary. You should justify this if asked by covering off the specific skills you have that are valuable to them and what you can bring to the role.

Questions:– The employer may ask you at the end of the interview if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to gain clarification on any of the details of the job spec or the company fit. If you don’t have any questions, don’t be tempted to ask for the sake of it. It’s better to say nothing than something useless! Do not ask questions about salary, holidays, sick pay or benefits at this point as these can often portray you in a negative light and undo all your hard work from the previous hour.

Closing:- As the interview closes, it’s a good idea to ask the client if they have any concerns regarding your availability or other questions they would like to ask you. Also find out how many other people they are seeing and when they are looking at making a decision/coming back to you. This will let the employer know that you’re keen and proactive.

Thank them:- As you leave, thank the interviewer for the opportunity, and make sure you say goodbye to the receptionist on your way out.

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