Borders College

Essential Skills for Employment

Preparing for Job Application – CVs/Applications

  • Employers are looking for evidence based CVs/applications. Statements saying what you can do are limited unless backed up with good examples/evidence.
  • Generalised CVs stand out and can give the impression that little effort has gone into the application process. Each CV/application submitted should be tailored to the job description.
  • CVs/applications should not be an exhaustive list of everything you have ever done – only include what is relevant to the post that you are applying for.
  • Identify transferable skills. Although you may not have done a specific job before, you may have done one using the same skills, e.g. team working, using initiative – emphasise this!
  • Do not be scared to sell yourself – although employers said that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance!
  • Follow instructions of application process, e.g. if a CV is requested then send a CV; however, if an application form is requested, complete all questions on the application form. Never send a CV attached to the application form with a note to refer to CV.
  • If black ink is requested – use black ink. If you don’t, this may give the impression that you cannot follow instructions and have poor attention to detail.
  • Carefully check spelling. This includes covering letters and email communications.
  • If emailing an attachment to an employer, please make sure the document is attached.

Preparing for the Interview

  • If asked to confirm attendance it is important that you do so.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Dress appropriately for the job being interviewed for.
  • Do not give closed (one word) answers. Try to expand on your answers and give as much relevant information as you can.
  • Listen clearly to the questions being asked and take time to consider the question before replying.
  • Interviewers will take nerves into account.
  • Good interviewers will adapt their interview style, taking into account the level of the post and the maturity/experience of the candidate.

Social Media

  • Some employers are checking applicants’ facebook pages during the recruitment process to gain a better insight into the views and behaviour of the person.
  • Some companies use software which alerts them to the use of their company name on social networking websites. When staff are found to be responsible for any negative comments, this may lead to disciplinary action.

Employers TOP TIPS!

1. What essential skills do you look for in a potential employee?

  • Good communication skills – verbal and written
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • Good timekeeping skills
  • Good personal presentation

2. What makes a potential employee stand out at interview?

  • Personal presentation
  • Confidence and interest in the post being applied for
  • Knowledge of the organisation, e.g. check the website to find out as much information as you can
  • Try to have eye contact during the interview
  • Have energy and enthusiasm (be happy!)
  • Positive body language
  • Giving full answers to questions asked
  • Punctuality
  • Matching skills to job

3. What do you think gives a candidate the competitive advantage over other candidates?

  • Enthusiasm and the ability to demonstrate how much they want the job
  • Interest in the organisation
  • Previous work experience or volunteering
  • Tailoring answers to the role applied for

4. What are your three tips for applying for a job?

  • Tailor application to job specification
  • Follow instructions for applying (if application requested – then complete application form!)
  • Accuracy/grammar/spelling/formatting of the letter of application, CV, application form
  • Complete every box on the application form
  • Be honest – don’t write anything that is not true
  • Include relevant experience in personal statement
  • Use competency-based examples in the application form

5. What are your three tips for a successful interview?

  • Turn up on time
  • Enthusiasm
  • Knowledge of organisation/sector/role
  • Give evidence-based answers
  • Confidence
  • Good personal presentation

6. How much do you rate previous employment/work placement experience?

  • Rated highly – particularly with specialist roles
  • Experience is very important – sometimes more so than qualifications
  • Work experience demonstrates both an interest and willingness to work and can be used when seeking a reference


Borders College would like to thank the following organisations for their valuable contribution to the development of this information on Essential Skills.

• Waverley Housing • Mainetti • Hawick Knitwear • Iain Smith and Partners • Eildon Housing