Expert Chat with Graham Allcott: Job interview tips

Interview expert, GrahamPick up tips from careers guru Graham Allcott on how to sell yourself in your job interviews and applications, changing jobs, dealing with interview questions and talking about your mental health when applying for a job.

Sarah: I've been sending off loads of applications and I've had job interviews where it's looked promising, but nothing seems to follow through. Am I doing something wrong?

Graham: It's really important to get constant feedback from interviews as ultimately if you're getting to interview stage then you're playing a numbers game. You've been picked from a pool of anything from 30 to 300 people, then maybe shortlisted down to six. You've done really well to get that far but there's work to be done to stand out even further.

Ellie: How do I big myself up in applications and cover letters to make what I've got seem like more than (I think) it is?

Graham: Firstly, if you take all of your advice about how to apply for jobs from a regular career advisor (or advice source) then your CV will look like everyone else's! You want to stand out but you don't want to look like a crazy maverick, which can be a fine line ;)

Ellie: I think my CV is okay, it's just the 'Why do you think we should give you this job?' crap. That's what I suck at.

Graham: Most people who apply for jobs spend more time focusing on the role description than the person specification. People are hiring on your capabilities so make it really obvious that you're structuring your application based on matching the capabilities in the person specification - scan for key words as you're doing this. A lot of employers will also recognise volunteer roles and the skills you get from those. Really play up those experiences and compare them to the person specification. That should help you to feel much more confident in your experience :)

Casey: I have a question I'm dreading at interview, 'How much money are you looking for?'. I always feel guilty about getting paid and the jobs I'm looking at have guide rates of about 10% less than what I was being paid in my last job.

Graham: The first thing to say is this conversation is as awkward for the people on the other side of the fence. No-one likes talking about money! As a result of that you can really help build the relationship if you're the one who can pierce the tension with a bit of humour or something that's light-hearted or authentic. Personally, I would say something like: "Well, this is what I was paid in my last role, however this is a company I'd really like to work for so I'm willing to be flexible and negotiate that".

Ellie: What would your advice be on bringing up my mental health difficulties during job interviews? Do I risk pissing them off by not mentioning it until later or should I take the risk and tell them straight off the bat or somewhere in between?

Graham: While I don't agree with the world being as it is, I think realistically you don't want to do anything to prejudice an employer even if they're in the wrong. However, as soon as you have an offer, then you should disclose it. You're then in a much better legal position to get the right support and stay in the job. You shouldn't feel bad about telling them how it is at that stage. Does that make sense?

Ellie: I feel like that might annoy them though, not having the full picture from the start? I know I shouldn't care about that but I do.

Graham: It's not something you should feel bad about. It's about putting yourself in the best position to get the job. So, why you could argue that it's your job to make the employer aware, it's the employers job to not discriminate. Unfortunately you can't guarantee, based on the world we live in, that they won't discriminate.

Ellie: I understand that, thanks Graham.

Matt: How can I go about asking for a different position at work without sounding like I hate my current role?

Graham: Hi Matt, do you have any kind of supervision or appraisal structure that exists already?

Matt: Yeah, there's a recruitment-type lady that directs employees to different jobs. She gives out certain roles. I'm currently working indoor maintenance but I did a shift with grounds keeping and tree surgery today and I really want to switch.

Graham: Is it a comparable role or really quite different?

Matt: It'd be different but it's still manual labour. It wouldn't be like going from desk to workshop floor if you know what I mean. I currently do things like electrical maintenance, plumbing and furniture maintenance. I'm just worried my supervisor will get the wrong impression that I hate my current role.

Graham: Okay. So the main issue here is going to be around not losing the trust of your current boss. You could broach it around the idea of broadening your experience? You could make this as more of a general development within the company (as well as this new area of work). You could talk about progression, taking on new responsibilities or learning new skills. The overall message your supervisor gets should be "I'm really happy with the company, what more can we do together?"

Matt: Thanks a lot Graham.

Graham: Thanks all. It's been a pleasure answering your questions. Try not to get too downhearted in the job hunt. While we're in a tricky time for unemployment, there are jobs out there and it probably will continue to pick up over the next few months slowly but surely.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015