Can I just ask…? Jobhunting FAQ’s

When I deliver job hunting and interview skills workshops I’m always peppered with lots of questions so I thought I’d gather them together in a sort of job hunting FAQ. Please note; some of the advice here is specific to the UK job market and associated legislation.

Should I declare a non visible disability on my application form?

It’s entirely up to you whether or not you choose to disclose this information to a potential employer, however if you choose not to do it then you cannot expect your employer to be a mind reader. The legal protection you receive from the Equality Act may not be there if you haven’t informed your employer about your condition.

It’s also worth being aware of the fact that many employers, particularly within the public sector, now operate a policy of guaranteeing an interview to anyone with a declared disability who meets all the essential criteria for the job.

(Please note I am NOT a lawyer and any specific or more detailed questions should be checked with either a lawyer or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau if you’re in the UK.)

What’s with the medical questionnaire I got with my job offer?

Many large employers will now send out a basic medical questionnaire along with your formal offer letter or contract. They should provide a separate envelope for you to use specifically for this document. The information you provide will not be accessed by HR or your line manager but will instead be sent directly to an Occupational Health professional. The reason for this is that it’s unlikely that either your line manager or the HR department will be suitably medically qualified to make any decisions based on this information.

Depending on what you choose to disclose you may receive a call from the Occupational Health professional to discuss things in more detail. Again this should be a confidential conversation, all they are interested in is assessing any potential risks to either you or the organisation and ensuring you have the appropriate support available to help you perform your role. They won’t disclose specific medical conditions but, for example, if you suffered from vertigo, they may notify the employer that you are fine to commence employment but may require help if required to work at heights.

What about my career break?

If you’ve had a career break either to raise a family, travel or due to a period of unemployment then I would mention that at the appropriate point on your CV. A potential employer will be far more concerned about unexplained gaps. To be honest so many people have experienced these situations that they no longer carry the stigma they once used to.

It’s unlikely that you learned nothing during that time so don’t be afraid to mention an new skills you developed or maintained. Which brings me to…

Do I include stuff I’ve done outside of work?

Yes. Learning and development isn’t confined to the workplace so include an appropriate mix of the skills you’ve developed elsewhere. I’m amazed at how many times I hear the expression “I was just raising the kids”. Really? Think of all the things you learned along the way.

Perhaps you’ve been unemployed, if so highlight any voluntary work you did or courses you undertook.
What do you do in your spare time? Are you the treasurer for the local walking club? Or maybe you help out with the publicity for a local charity? Whatever skills you’ve learned or are using regularly need to be included.

What if I don’t meet all the essential criteria?
I’m often asked if it’s worth applying for a job if you don’t meet all the essential criteria. I’d say that so long as you meet the fundamental legal requirements then yes, give it a go. You may not get an interview but, let’s face it, you definitely won’t get one if you don’t apply!

I’ve worked with recruiting managers who’ve said to me “I’ve listed 10 essential criteria on the person spec, but no one had them all so I’m interviewing 3 who have eight of them and 1 who has 7.” So it’s certainly worth having a go.

HOWEVER do make sure you tailor your application to demonstrate exactly why you still feel you’re the best person for the job. In the current climate recruiters are swamped with people sending out high volumes of inappropriate and wide of the mark applications; if you want the job then you need to demonstrate that and highlight your most appropriate and marketable skills.

What do agencies do?

The role of the recruitment agency is to filter through all the applications for a job and provide a potential employer with a shortlist of suitably qualified candidates. For this they will charge the employer anywhere between 12% and 30% of your starting salary depending on the seniority of your position (the more senior you are the bigger the fee).
These days it’s easy to remain a faceless name or number on a database so my advice is that wherever possible try and build a relationship with 2 or 3 agencies. The more real you are to them the more likely they are to remember you when a suitable position arises.

Should I ask about salary at interview?

I’d say it’s not a great idea to bring it up at the first interview. You should have been aware of the salary when applying for the role – and if for some reason it wasn’t advertised at that point I would make it clear on my application the level of salary I’m looking for.

Same with asking about holidays at the first interview – it just sends out the wrong message. You should get a full copy of the terms and conditions of employment along with your job offer letter, at that point you can begin negotiating on key areas if required.

Beth Pipe is a Learning and Development Professional and freelance writer.
You can find more of her professional work here:
You can also follow her at @cumbrianrambler on Twitter.

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