Some interviews are worse than others. This one, reported on the BBC news website, turned into a nightmare when candidates for a sales assistant job were made to to a daft dance. Let me stress that this is not normal!
The government has introduced a new website ostensibly to match employers with jobseekers. Employers can register and post vacancies, while those looking for jobs can register and find the appropriate vacancies. Sounds sensible. But a number of problems have already arisen. There is no human check on what vacancies are being posted, and Channel 4 News this week showed how a group of hackers (although they didn't need to actually hack the site) were able to register as employers, post phony vacancies and then harvest the personal data of those who applied. Then there's the fact that all the DWP guidance says that it's not compulsory for jobseekers to register, but many people on JSA are being told that it is, and threatened with punishment if they don't register and let their "advisers" check on what they're applying for.
I would say there's no harm in using the site, if you're careful. Don't give out personal data such as NI numbers. And if you're told that it's compulsory to register, point out that it isn't.
The entrepreneur James Caan (who used to be on Dragons' Den) has a new book out called Get the Job you Really Want. We haven't had the chance to read it yet, but it looks useful. We don't hear enough from the people who do the recruitment, and Caan is a genuine expert. Ask for the book in your library.
It's a common problem, especially for women. Who is going to look after the children if you get a job? Professional childcare is impossibly expensive for many. So should you just go after jobs and cross that bridge when you come to it?
That's the advice of Hayley Taylor. A questioner on her website says that the only jobs she can see are shift working. She needs to have fixed shifts, she says, so that she can arrange childcare. Should she mention this at the interview, if she gets one?
Taylor's advice is not very helpful. Don't tell the employer, wait until you've got a job and then "you will be surprised just how friends / family etc. will help out when they know you have an offer on the table". Really? I agree that it's not a good idea at interview with an employer to state that you can only work certain shifts because of childcare arrangements. But these sort of jobs are almost always via agencies, and the agency will want to know if there are shift patterns you can't do. They are used to that. Perhaps you can only work days, or early shifts or whatever. Say so. You are hardly unique. Once you've got your childcare arrangements in place you may be able to vary them.
We can't ignore another post from "Fairy Jobmother" Hayley Taylor. A 50-year-old graduate says she's been made redundant after 15 years and is now "applying for anything going" without success. Ms Taylor's response is a bit strange. First, she says "don't apply for just anything! apply for what you know you can achieve! " (We have noted before that punctuation is not Ms Taylor's strong point). This makes sense in the early days of unemployment; you go after jobs similar to the one you've been doing. But after a while, and especially if you're sent on the Work Programme, you apply for anything you think you're qualified for.
Then the age question. "Remove anything from the document (CV) that relates to your age, years etc, as an employer can work it out, and then be ageist." This assumes that you are applying for jobs which require a CV, and, as we've pointed out, most of the time you are filling in an application form which requires dates. If you do have to supply a CV you still have to put a work history as well as your education. This 50-year-old cannot avoid giving clues to her age.
Hayley Taylor, who once worked for A4e and then became TV's Fairy Jobmother, has used her website to answer a question about someone's "personal profile" on his CV. It reads:
"A very experienced and accomplished Customer Service professional. A natural communicator who can deal with people at all levels. Flexible, adaptable and quick to learn new skills. A reliable team worker who can take responsibility for any task. Demonstrable ability to follow instructions very well, yet able to take the initiative as required. A determined worker who can achieve targets through hard work. Looking to continue to build a career in the retail sector."
Ms Taylor says: "Well done, thats great, just watch your punctuation so that there is a continuous flow and maybe elaborate a little more."
If you spotted the irony in that reply (big punctuation mistake, it should be "that's") well done. But what about the original profile? It has all the cliches, which I doubt any employer takes much notice of, but you feel obliged to include them. I largely agree with Ms Taylor about the lack of flow. It isn't written in sentences, just detached phrases without verbs. Perhaps the writer was trying to avoid using "I", but it would read much better as, "I am a very experienced ..." etc. And yes, it does need elaboration with some specific examples. A personal profile should be genuinely about you.
I was amused by this report in the Daily Mail. It was first reported in the Northern Echo. "Website to help unemployed literacy skills littered with spelling mistakes." (Ironically, that headline is itself ungrammatical.) The errors were apparently reported in June but by yesterday had not been corrected. The fact that welfare-to-work companies are careless about such things doesn't mean their clients don't care. And employers certainly do.
Thanks for all your messages and comments on the first day. I'd like to respond to some of them.
Eric sent a message saying, "I would say if you send a lot of email applications, have a dedicated email address just for jobs. Use it for updates from sites like jobsite, monster etc. Dont have an email address thats a bit 'weird' ". Good idea.
Some good points from Simone (but if you send comments with loads of URLs in them they get filtered out as spam). You said that you need more than one CV. But that is the point of having your CV on computer so that you can tweak it for different jobs. You also said, "If you are an older applicant with good work history then school results are redundant." Maybe, but you will have to put them on applications forms; and on CVs it depends on the job. "A" levels might be relevant. As for your point about filling in application forms in pencil first, I can't agree. When you write over it in pen it will look messy; and when you try to erase the pencil it will still look messy. You should have a spare copy to do the draft. If you make a mistake on the final copy, just cross it through neatly and rewrite - or use Tippex very carefully.
Captain Canal's point about social networking sites is well made. People tend to forget that what they put on there can be public, so be careful.