Book reviews – Brilliant CV and Brilliant interview

Brilliant CV by Jim Bright and Joanne Earl, and Brilliant Interview by Ros Jay

This article was first published in February 2006 in Student Accountant.

Writing a CV and going for a job interview have the power to make many of us feel insecure and uncertain. This provides an explanation why so many books on the subject can claim to be bestsellers. These two, which are part of the ‘Brilliant’ series, have now been updated and published as second editions.

Brilliant CV claims to be the first book to provide advice that has been shown scientifically to work. The word scientific is a little puzzling in this context. The authors have spoken to a lot of recruiters but that’s true of most authors of such books, which is probably why the advice in this one is pretty much along the lines of what most other CV books will tell you. The first section of the book takes you through the basics of CV writing in nine chapters. The layout makes it easy to dip in and out, each chapter’s introduction has details of what is covered, the language is concise and easy to read, and exercises and examples help reinforce the points made. The second section – The icing on the cake – deals with refinements such as competency statements, career objectives, and covering letters. Section 3 is probably the most useful part of the book, providing an insight into meeting selection criteria and dealing with tricky questions. The CV Makeovers chapter in this section has extremely useful before and after versions of CVs for a range of different job seekers such as school leavers, new graduates, and those in mid-career.

Overall, it’s as good a book as you’re going to get on writing a CV, although the authors mention of their CV writing service seems a bit misplaced – why would you need it once you’ve read their book which claims to share all their secrets on how to make sure your CV gets to the top of the pile?

Being at the top of that pile will bring you to the next hurdle – the interview – even more stress-inducing than writing a CV. Brilliant Interview could be a real help here. Ros Jay’s succinct and encouraging approach provides a wealth of insights and support. The book’s tone is chatty and positive, with an approach that helps calm nerves by explaining processes and breaking what could be an ordeal down into a series of stages which can be prepared for.

Divided into three parts, the book starts with a robust section on what you should do in advance of the event and finishes with positive advice on what to do after the interview – including details of what should go in the reply you send to a rejection letter. Section two, which contains the bulk of the content, concentrates on the interview itself. Ten chapters guide the reader through everything from coping with nerves – ‘interviewers don’t consider nerves a problem at all so long as they don’t get significantly worse during the interview’ – to second interviews. There’s advice on projecting the right image, popular questions and tough questions, assessment centres, and psychometric tests. Boxouts are used to highlight the smart things to say as well as potential pitfalls to avoid. Knowing what to expect and being well-prepared is the key to surviving and even enjoying any potentially scary event. Reading Brilliant Interview and following its advice should go a long way to providing the extra confidence that comes from having thought ahead.

Irene Krechowiecka is a career coach, author, and freelance journalist

"Brilliant CV claims to be the first book to provide advice that has been shown scientifically to work"