February 18th Column

Q. I am hoping to finish my business degree this year. Apart from working in a local shop during the summer, the only work experience I have involved spending six months at a major multi-national IT company as part of my college course. I wasn’t even paid, but I learned a great deal. Should I present this as work experience in my CV?

A. Yes. Work placement shows initiative and it also demonstrates to the interviewer that you have had experience in the workplace.

This experience should be strategically placed in the CV and highlighted. If this is highly relevant to the job that you are applying for, place near the top of the CV. If this is your only experience, ensure that it stands out.

Think of each area that you worked in and make sure that this is highlighted. Avoid the common error of only making a fleeting reference to your experience. Make it effortless for the interviewer to be acquainted with your achievements.

If you worked in IT Support, highlight your interpersonal skills and trouble shooting skills. You should include the systems and networks in which you gained experience.

Also, describe any projects to which you had the opportunity to contribute. When scanning through a CV, the interviewer will not be put off that this is unpaid work. If you feel uncertain about how to present the information, place the title ‘Relevant Work Experience’ or ‘Voluntary Work Experience’.

However, give it the same attention to detail that you would a regular paid job.

‘It is clear that employers place a high value on graduates having work experience. Being ‘work ready’ tops employers’ wish list, and evidence suggests that students are more likely to be successful in obtaining employment if they have previously had good quality work experience’ Learning Through Work placements and Beyond’ (Brenda Little and Lee Harvey, 2006).

Q. Should I ask about money in an interview?

This is a delicate area. Look at interviews like a card game.

In the first interview, the interviewer holds the stronger hand. At this point, questions should be focused more around your interest in the role rather than your interest in the perks.

Try to avoid answering questions on money expectations. If you quote too high (in the hope of being offered something a little lower) you can ruin your chances before you advance any further in the interviewing process.

If you quote too low, you may sell yourself too short. So what do you do? Best to try to avoid this topic, saying that you are negotiable in the first round interviews.

The point of offer is where you have a stronger chance of negotiation. At this point, the company provisionally chosen you for the role so they are more likely to be more favourable in negotiation.

Ensure that you have sold yourself and demonstrated to the interviewer that you are an asset to the organisation before money is referred to. It will help you gain the package that you want. Remember that the interview should be talking about your skills and value to an organisation and not a wage war.

Sli Nua Careers (tel 094 95 42965, www.SliNuaCareers.com) carry out CV Preparation, Mock Interviews, Interview Training, and Career Direction. For your free e-book on interview & CV tips, email GetThatJob@SliNuaCareers.com. They provide online CV makeovers at SliNuaCareers.com/cv-preparation/cv-makeover/.