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Interview with Mildred Talabi

Cover of  by Mildred Talabi

Interview with Mildred Talabi

Firstly, thank you for agreeing to do an interview for us, really appreciate it!

For young people who may not have heard of you, tell us a bit about you and what you do?

I speak, write and blog about careers on my website; I also run a CV writing business called ?CV Makeover Expert? ( where we create effective CVs, cover letters and application forms for jobseekers. I wrote a book on how to write good CVs which was published by Harriman House in September 2011. The book is called ?7 Keys to a Winning CV: How to create a CV that gets results. It?s especially aimed at young people so it?s very easy to read and easy to follow ? you can get a copy from Amazon and all good bookshops.

What made you decide to choose your current career path and to setup CV Makeover Expert?

I actually trained as a journalist so my original plan was to climb the media ladder and one day reach Rupert Murdoch?s status! Along the way I got sidetracked while working as the assistant editor of a film magazine not too long after graduating from university.

In this role, I had to recruit staff and volunteers also and I came across so many bad CVs and cover letters over the course of the two years I was there that I decided to set up my own business as a CV consultant. That was seven years ago and today that one-woman band has evolved into CV Makeover Expert, my book 7 Keys to a Winning CV, and me speaking, writing and blogging about careers on the whole.

Brillant, that?s impressive! Research shows employers make a decision on a CV within 30 seconds. How can a person get their CV noticed? Are there any out there ideas you have come across?

Yes, there?s lots you can do to stand out in that short space of time. I?ve actually written an article on this for Guardian Careers which you can read here ?

Based of your experience, how should a CV be structured and presented? Are things like font and design important?

A CV should be structured and presented in a logical and professional manner in order to maximize your chances of standing out in the crowd. How your CV looks ? font, design, layout ? matters just as much as what you say on it so take the time to make sure you get this right. I talk about this in much more detail in 7 Keys to a Winning CV, but for a quick guide on how to dramatically transform your CV layout in under 10 minutes, check out my blog post here ?

How important is it to make adjustments to a CV to match the job one is applying for?

Generic CVs simply do not work ? you can?t use the same CV to apply for any and every job going; what you need to do is tailor your CV to the specific industry you want to work in (e.g. media) and then make minor adjustments each time you apply for a specific role within this industry. This saves you having to redo your CV from scratch each time ? that?s really time consuming and unnecessary. Your cover letter, on the other hand, is where you really have to make sure it matches the specific job you?re applying for as closely as possible.

What would your advice be for someone who has work experience gaps or no work experience at all?

If you have no work experience at all ? which may well be the case if you?re fresh out of school, college or university, emphasise on what you do have going for you which is your education and any extracurricular activities you take part in, such as sports, or maybe helping out at your local church, mosque or community centre.

If you have gaps in your work history, that?s okay too as long as you explain any long gaps so the employer knows what you were up to during this time. If you were simply looking for work, it may help to write about what you were doing specifically to look for work at that time (for example, ?learning how to use social media and using this to reach out to organizations within my industry?).

GCSE?s. If someone has below average grades, how should they best approach this when writing their CV?

Summarise ? write something like, ?9 GCSEs, including Maths, English and Science?. To be honest, below average GCSE grades are not the end of the world for most employers so it?s not something you should worry about too much.

What are the most common and simple mistakes people make when it comes to CVs which can put their CV in an employers ?no pile??

Spelling and grammar mistakes always come top of the list for employers CV grumbles ? I can?t stress enough how important it is to get this right. If in doubt, ask someone who knows what they?re doing to look over it ? like your teacher or careers advisor, or a friend or family member who?s good at English.

Other mistakes include submitting generic CVs which have little to do with the job advertised and turning in CVs with poor formatting that?s hard to read.

When it comes to writing a CV personal profile, how should it be structured?

Short, sharp and sweet ? not more than two to three sentences! This is one of the 7 Keys in my book so I?d recommend reading that chapter to get the full picture.

What?s the best way to get hobbies/interest right without being generic?!

This is something I?ve blogged about so check out this piece here on ?The Upside Down CV ? How your interests and activities could land you your next job? ?

With the way technology is developing, what do you think the future holds for CVs?

Funnily enough I?ve met quite a few people this year who are launching online video CV packages so clearly this is a growing trend. I also think sites like LinkedIn ? which is essentially a public forum for your CV ? are going to become even more prominent as a means of recruitment with other methods phasing out gradually over the years.

You have an amazing book out, 7 Keys to a Winning CV which has 5 star reviews on amazon!! What was your drive for writing the book? How long did it take you to write and was there much input from employers, recruitment agencies?

Thanks for the compliment! I wrote this book because after several years of doing one-to-one CV consultations I realised I?d built up quite a bit of knowledge on CV writing which I wanted to pass on to others. I narrowed down what I knew into seven keys and developed a workshop programme which I started to deliver in various locations. I received such great feedback from the workshops (including from recruiters and employers) that the next natural step was to replicate those same ideas into a book that would have a reach beyond my physical presence ? and so 7 Keys to a Winning CV was born!

It took me 7 days to write the book as my new year?s resolution for January 2011, after reading a book by Len Allen called ?How to Write a Book In 7 Days?! The editing process took a bit longer and I finally handed it over to my publishers Harriman House around May that same year.

To the budding authors out there, what would be your top 3 tips for writing a book and getting it published?

My dad?s a serial author of 27 books (7 self-published) and I used to edit books for other authors before I wrote my own, so book writing is something else I know quite a bit about. In light of that, my advice is very simple:

Start writing
Finish what you started
Learn all you can about marketing
I wrote an ebook called ?Write that book NOW!? for budding authors which is on sale at ( but if you send me a message ? info(at)mildredtalabi(dot)com ? I?m happy to email it to you free of charge.

The marketing is incredibly important because whether you decide to seek out a publishing deal or self-publish, you?re going to need to find a way to let people know about your book and that?s where marketing comes in. Traditional publishers won?t even consider your proposal unless you?ve given consideration to the marketing side ? as Robert Kiyosaki said (paraphrasing), being a successful author is not about how well you can write, but more so how well you can sell!

Finally how can we sign up to receive your amazing blog hot off the press?

You can find out more about me, subscribe to my blog and get a copy of my book 7 Keys to a Winning CV by going to my website ? I have a free 45-minute audio interview on ?how to land that job with a winning CV? that I?d love to give you when you sign up ? absolutely free of charge.

Can?t say no to that! Anything else you would like to share?

I?m currently working on my second book which is aimed at graduate jobseekers entering the job market for the first time. I?m looking for graduate job hunting stories to feature in the book so if you?re a recent graduate (of up to three years) with a good or bad story to share, please get in touch with me on Twitter (@mildredtalabi) or by email ? info(at)mildredtalabi(dot)com. The book will be out in Spring 2013.

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