1. sample cover letter
2. sample CV
3. action words for CV writing
4. structuring the interview
5. employment equality act
6. interview techniques
7. peer review workshop - CV and cover letter
8. peer review - interview feedback
1. Sample Cover Letter
2 Westend Road
30th May, 2002
Ms Karen Clarke
Human Resource Manager
Department of Social Welfare
Dear Ms Clarke,
I wish to apply for the position of Pension’s Office Clerk as advertised in the Sligo Champion the 15th May, 2002. I am currently completing a National Certificate in Business Studies at Sligo Institute of Technology and am seeking work experience during the summer months that will supplement my studies.
The business certificate course has a strong practical element and gives extensive grounding in all business subjects. I have competency in a number of computer applications including spreadsheets, presentation graphics and accountancy packages.
Through my course work I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of group projects, including researched written and oral presentations. This work has helped me to develop interpersonal skills, to participate as a team member and to work towards common goals. In both my academic and professional work, I have shown commitment and hard work and feel these are qualities I will contribute to your office.
I also have considerable experience working with the public. In my role as customer service assistant with the Northwest Tourism Board I have practiced and developed my communication skills. I have also had the opportunity to develop leadership skills through researching and presenting guided tours of Sligo for schoolchildren and tourists.
I have enclosed a copy of my curriculum vitae and would like to take this opportunity to thank you for considering my application.
22 Westend Road, Sligo
Date of Birth: 10th February, 1983
Software Packages: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Power Point
obtain Bachelor’s degree in Business Studies and work in e-commerce
National Certificate in
graduation date June 2003)
Communications, Management, Statistics,
Financial Accounting, Computer Applications, French
Ursuline Convent, Sligo
Leaving Certificate Results 2001
tourism information on Sligo and the Northwest
tourists in securing accommodation
and maintain Sligo tourism display case
- Organize and lead guided tours of Sligo
Sligo Summer Camp, Sligo Sports Complex
Volunteer Camp Counsellor
for group of 7 and 8 year olds
- Ensured safety of youth in my care
Prefect, Ursuline Convent 1998 – 2001
Branch Secretary, 1998- 2000
Players, Amateur Theatre Company, lead role in Annie (1997) and cast
in The King and I (2000)
Irish and French language, literature and travelling
Institute of Technology
The following is a list of some action words that you may want to incorporate into your CV. If you are writing about an activity that occurred in the past, use the simple past tense (e.g. budgeted). If the activity is occurring now, use the simple present tense (e.g.
3. Structuring the Interview
Employment interviews are generally structured in three parts: the opening, the body and the close. Each part has a specific purpose.
functions as an icebreaker. It is intended to put the candidate at ease, to help
the candidate get over jitters and to establish rapport.
interviewer is responsible for getting things off to a good start, taking the
lead in introducing himself or herself, and offering the candidate a seat. A
genuine smile, a firm handshake and a warm greeting will do much to put the
candidate at ease. The interviewer should introduce the others on the interview
panel and give their position within the organization.
Once everyone is seated the interviewer may want to explain how the
interview is going to be conducted.
observation or two to break the ice can build rapport and lead smoothly into the
first interview question. For example, the interviewer might refer to something
that can be observed form the CV, may note common ground with the candidate, or
comment on an interesting piece of information.
Many interviewers will begin by asking the candidate to supply a summary of their CV or a summary of their education or work experience. One of the most frequently asked questions is “Tell me about yourself” or “what interested you in this job?”.
Body of the Interview
is where the bulk of information gathering and evaluation occurs, where the
important questions should be asked and answered.
The interviewer(s) should let the interviewee do most of the talking. His
or her job is to draw out the candidate, listen carefully and keep things
moving. Interviewers generally have pre-arranged criteria by which they assess a
candidate such as suitability, compatibility, employability and capability.
Questions in this category attempt to determine if the candidate has the right
background for the job. Summarising employment background, responsibilities
held, key strengths and accomplishments, education or special training can help
Tell me about yourself (not an invitation to start with early childhood
and give full chronology – be focused, specific and purposeful – tie
information as closely as possible to aspects of the job for which you are being
What from your previous experience do you consider most relevant for this
Do you have experience working with the public?
Similar to suitability, this type of question focuses on skill and experience.
Can you do the job? Do you have the technical qualifications? Do you have the
work habits this job requires?
What are your strengths?
What technical skills do you possess?
What were your specific responsibilities in your previous employment?
What skills have you learned in their level?
Have you had the opportunity to practically apply these skills?
What did you find most difficult about your last job?
What would you like to learn or learn more about?
these questions explore human relations. Will you fit into the organisation;
will you get along with superiors, subordinates and peers? Will you be good at
supervising and being supervised, good at working on teams, or providing
How do you handle authority?
What would your former employer say about you?
What would your co-workers say about you?
What types of team project experiences have you had?
Do you prefer to work independently or with others to get things done?
Where do you want to be five years from now?
Have you ever been in a position where you have had to motivate or lead
these questions are designed to uncover poor performers, high risks, people who
will be more trouble than they are worth. The recruiter will look at employment
history, length of time jobs have been held, and progressively higher or more
Why did you leave (are you leaving) your last position?
Have you ever been promoted?
In your previous work or academic career have you been entrusted with a
position of responsibility?
What were the results of your last performance review?
How long would you expect to be with our company?
The interviewer verbally signals that the interview is concluding by asking the candidate if she or he has any questions. The recruiter should thank the candidate for being interested and for attending the interview and should explain what the follow up procedures will be. Tell the interviewee that you have enjoyed talking with them, maintain eye contact and shake hands. You should have left the interviewee with a positive impression of the job, the organisation, and you as its representative.
Equality Act (1998)
The most significant elements of the Act concern discrimination and harassment. The nine categories of discrimination are sex, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race or membership of the travelling community. Employers must not discriminate in relation to recruitment, conditions of employment, grading, training, promotion or classification of posts. Be conscious of how appropriate some of your questions might be and avoid questions about marital status or family status (being a single mother for example). Do not ask questions about ethnicity or religion.
6. Interview Techniques
Your CV/application form has been effective - you have been called for an interview. What do you do now? You prepare for the interview, do the interview, evaluate the interview and pro-actively wait for an offer.
Stage 1 - Preparation
The research you did at the application stage will be of benefit to you now. Find out all you can about the company, its products and services and where the position you are applying for fits in to the organisation. Focus in on the requirements of the job you are targeting. For example, if it is a marketing role establish what markets the company serves, what potential markets could it serve, what distribution channels it uses, how does it promote its goods/ services, etc.
You now use this knowledge base to differentiate yourself from the other candidates by identifying your unique selling points. Draw from your databank of information a list of best career achievements (academic or professional) that you believe establishes a match between you and the job you are applying for. You should ask yourself:
What skills and talents did I use in those situations?
What did I learn from the experiences?
How do the experiences relate to the position on offer?
The next stage of your preparation involves anticipating questions and knowing how to handle them. It is suggested that you answer the questions ‘out loud’ to give you an opportunity to hear the sound of your voice. You may be surprised what your voice sounds like in a formal, artificial setting such as an interview. Practice your responses in front of a mirror so that you can watch your body language. For example, eye contact, gesticulations, facial expressions, etc. In your interview you want to portray yourself as an experienced candidate who you can bring added value to the company but equally, you do not want your responses to sound too rehearsed.
A sample of the type of ‘difficult’ questions you may be asked include:
Tell me about yourself.
What were your reasons for leaving your jobs to date?
How did those jobs influence your career?
Why do you want this job?
Why should we employ you?
What aspect of your current job do you like the most?
What aspect of your current job do you like the least?
Have you changed the aspects of your job that you do not like?
If not, why not?
How long will you stay with this company?
Give me an example of your management style?
What is the most difficult part of being a supervisor?
Have you ever dismissed anyone?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
What are your career objectives?
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Finally, you should prepare some questions to ask the interviewer(s). Use this as an opportunity to learn more about the position.
Where does the position fit into the overall organisation?
What would my priorities be?
What does the company consider the five most important duties of the role?
How will my performance be evaluated?
What are the opportunities for advancement?
If one were highly motivated what could they hope to accomplish in this job?
Stage 2 - The Interview
If you are unsure of the location ring the company beforehand to find out directions, car parking information, etc. It is advisable to arrive at the interview fifteen minutes early so that you can get your bearings, survey the premises, read notice boards for information, etc. It will also give you an opportunity to go to the restroom to freshen up and check your appearance in a mirror. You should leave all your belongings at reception and only bring your briefcase with you to the interview.
In general, interviews follow the following format.
Establish rapport: Interviewers usually open the interview with neutral, non-threatening questions such as ‘how was the traffic?’ The purpose of the interview is explained, followed by the sequence of topics to be covered, how the information obtained during the interview will be used, the duration of the interview and if there will be an opportunity for questions and answers. Remember, the interviewer may be nervous too so making him/her feel comfortable may help you get the job!
Obtain information: This is the ‘body’ of the interview, the part where you are thoroughly questioned. The interviewer(s) obtain information by asking open and probing questions. Examples of open questions are ‘tell me about …’, ‘how do you feel about …’, ‘I’d like to hear about …’, etc. Examples of probing questions include ‘what did you do then?’, ‘how did you react to that?’, ‘why did you …?’, etc.
You should recognise open questions as an opportunity to put yourself across as you want to. Relate your answer as directly as you can to the question. Pick specific examples of your work experience that can be readily understood by the interviewer(s) and show their relevance to the job on offer. Be ready to give views about your experience - facts alone will not tell the interviewer(s) enough about you as a person and your suitability for the job. If you are asked a hypothetical question use your past experiences to explain your future behaviour. If you are asked a negative question turn it in to a positive
Lead to close: In general, the interviewer(s) signposts that the interview is coming to a close, clarifies any outstanding issues, provides a final opportunity for you to comment and explains what happens next.
Your interviewer(s) will probably have a checklist of skills and qualities that he/she is looking for. For example, communication skills, organisational skills, ability to work with others, ability to manage others, etc. Try to work out what the interviewer(s) is looking for in his/her line of questioning. Your pre-prepared responses should enable you to answer most questions. Remember, the questions may not be asked in exactly the same way that you practiced! If this is the case, pause before you answer and identify what is being asked. Chances are that you have prepared a similar response. If you do not know the answer say ‘I don’t know’ - don’t pretend. If you are unsure what you are being asked, seek clarification. Take opportunities to pick up on comments and suggestions that the interviewer(s) makes. Try to connect with the interviewer(s) and capture his/her interest. Keep checking the body language of the interviewer(s) to ensure that you have said enough and/or that you are not saying too much and/or you are not rambling.
If important information about your qualification has not come out during the interview, impart that information now.
Thank the interviewer and be sure to look at them directly.
Finally, you should not be asked discriminatory questions at an interview. The Employment Equality Act, 1998 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race and membership of the traveller community.
Examples of discriminatory questions include:
I see you are married. How would your spouse feel about the amount of travelling you would have to do if offered the job?
Would you have any difficulty in working for a boss younger than you?
You have a foreign sounding surname. Are you an Irish citizen?
This job involves some physical activity. How would your disability limit you?
If you feel that you were asked a discriminatory question you can refer the case to the Director of Equality Investigations. The Director will investigate the case and will issue a decision. This decision is binding and enforceable through the Circuit Court and all decisions may be appealed to the Labour Court within forty two days of issue. If you feel that a potential employer (or your own employer) has asked you discriminatory questions you should contact the Employment Equality Authority (Tel: + 353 - 1890 - 245545).
Stage 3 - Post Interview Evaluation
Immediately after the interview you should record the questions that you were asked, who interviewed you, any new company/product information you gleaned from the interviewer(s), the next stage of the process and most importantly your responses. You should hone in on the areas that you felt did not go well and how your responses could be improved. This will assist you if you are called back for a second interview, as these types of interviews are more in-depth and probing. (from www.peoplematters.ie)
2.Be confident-have a firm handshake, and make eye contact.
3. Sit upright and lean slightly forward.
4.Pay attention to what the interviewer is saying. Give eye contact to the person who has addressed you with occasional glances to others that might be on the panel.
5.Try to remain calm and alert at all times.
6.Answer questions clearly and concisely. Take your time and be sure to speak up.
7.Never interrupt the interviewer. Don’t finish their sentences for them etc.
8.Do not smoke (not out in the car or outside the door beforehand).
9.Try not to fidget. If you overuse your hands or tend to touch your hair or face leave hands folded in lap.
10.Leave on a positive note, thanking the interviewer.
11.Remember to smile, it relaxes you and also gives a calm and friendly appearance.
Job Application - Peer Evaluation Form
Comment on the overall visual presentation: Does the layout enhance clarity? Does it effectively organize the material? Are the headings consistent? Is the material easily scanned?
Make two or three suggestions pointing out where the visual layout could improve.
Comment on how the information is organized.
Can it be more effectively organized? Is there any information that, in your opinion, seems to get buried?
Has the author condensed the information highlighting essential points/responsibilities through graphics such as belluets? Is there any place where the author has used too much narrative?
In your opinion, what are the candidate’s strengths? Are these highlighted enough?
Proof-read for the author. Note any errors on the script.
Are there any places where you are unclear about the information being presented? Note these.
Make three suggestions as to how this CV might be improved.
Is the letter formatted correctly?
Has the writer identified his/her reason for writing
Has the writer explained his/her particular competence for the job, reasons for interest and special skills they will bring to the job?
Are personal qualities mentioned?
Is there a concluding paragraph?
Proof read, noting any errors on the script.
Make three suggestions which you think will improve the body of the letter
As a group, please discuss the following questions. I would ask that you respect the privacy of the individuals and keep your commentary confidential. Please submit to me a short report of the proceedings in memo form. Your memo should be a maximum of one page and should refer to each of the candidates.
Discuss how the interview proceeded.
What were the candidate’s main strengths during the interview?
How might the candidate improve their interviewing technique?
the candidate prepared?
non-verbal behaviour contributed to or distracted from the overall
Who gets the job and why?