Top Tips on CV Writing & Preparing for an Interview from Nicki Cotton, HR Manager at the Michelin-starred Lucknam Park

Whether it’s your first job, or you’re already established in your career, applying for a job can be a daunting prospect. But there are a few things you can do to better your chances of scoring an interview.

We speak to Nicki Cotton, Head of HR at Lucknam Park to get her advice on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, and how to make the right impression at an interview.

You might spend hours crafting what you think is the perfect CV for your dream job, but according to Nicki, it’s the covering letter that could really make the difference.

“The covering note is what we will look at even before we get to the CV,” she explains. “Make the first paragraph really punchy – something that will get our attention and show us what you are like. And we want to see a real passion for the industry.”

Nicki also suggests doing your homework.

Lucknam Park Hotel“Show us that you have made an effort to find out about Lucknam Park,” she says. “There’s so much information on the internet there’s no excuse for not knowing about us.”

But while it might be worth swotting up on your potential place of work Nicki says that qualifications are not the primary consideration when she’s shortlisting candidates.

“To be honest I’m not that interested in GCSE results,” she says. “It’s more about experience and attitude.

“Do make sure you make sure you make it clear which position you are currently working in, the dates that you have worked there, and some bullet points about what you have achieved.

“Don’t just give us a list of places, job titles and dates you have worked there, but don’t ramble on either – be concise.

“We always look at how long people have spent somewhere. If someone tends to move on a lot after a short period of time it might raise some concerns.

“When you are trying to build a team it’s important that people are wanting to commit to a reasonable amount of time.

City of Bristol College student“Show some personality as well – tell us about your hobbies. If you participate in team sports for example then that’s good because it shows that you can work as part of a team. We want to see that you are well-rounded as a person.”

Your CV and covering letter however are just the start of the process. The interview is your chance to really impress.

Dress smartly,” advises Nicki. “It always makes a good impression when someone comes in suited and booted.”

But it’s no good looking the part if you’re not properly prepared.

“It’s about being articulate,” explains Nicki. “We are quite relaxed in our interviews. We want people to feel comfortable, and this is their chance to sell themselves.

“Make sure you can explain your CV. Everyone bumps up their CV a bit – we all know how it works, but make sure you can talk about any positions you’ve held and what responsibilities you’ve had, and be prepared to answer questions about it.

“For example, we might ask a candidate about a service period and what role they took in it and how they coped when something went wrong.”

And don’t forget to make the employer feel special too. If they feel like they are just one in a series of job applications it won’t make the right impression.

“Show us that you know all about the hotel, not just the food and drink offering, and demonstrate why you want to work here,” says Nicki. “It’s also good if people have tried to understand the star rating and how that relates to the hospitality industry.”

Don’t forget though that it’s not just you that will be getting the grilling. An interview is a two-way process.

Have some questions lined up to ask,” says Nicki. “You need to have an idea what you want to learn from the interview as well.”

Lucknam-FoodShortlisted candidates at Lucknam Park will then be asked to complete a trial in the kitchen.

“This gives us the chance to see not just your cooking skills but how you will fit into the team as well.

“If you are chatty and outgoing and ask intelligent questions then that’s great, but at the same time we wouldn’t discount someone just because they were shy if they performed brilliantly. In an ideal world we want both, but that can’t always be the case!

The most important thing we look for is attitude. If someone has the right attitude then we can teach a lot of the other things.”