The Fairy Jobmother’s top tips for getting hired

Expert advice to get you from on the dole and into a role...

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Hayley Taylor, aka the Fairy Jobmother, is back with a new four-part series trying to help people out of unemployment and into the world of work (started Tuesday 7 June, Channel 4). Only instead of just concentrating on one family per episode, she is going to be running open-house job clubs for communities in four different locations: Bootle, Hartlepool, Southend and Birmingham.

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The return of the series couldn’t, of course, be more timely. With government cuts now starting to bite, and local authorities laying off staff all round the country, the Fairy Jobmother here offers UK jobseekers a few useful do’s and a lot of definite don’ts.

Her one golden piece of advice? “Persistence pays,” says Hayley, who helped her own husband find a job after he was made redundant ten years ago. “Persistence plus an excellent CV. So long as you treat finding a job as a job in itself, you will eventually succeed.”

Do
…boost your self-esteem by listing all your successes.

And I mean everything: Scouts and Brownies badges, Duke of Edinburgh awards, anything. Concentrate on your successes, not your failures. Also, eat before you leave home; I was running late for an interview once, had a bacon sandwich on the train, and managed to drop tomato ketchup all down my blouse. I spent the entire interview with a folder held up in front of me, as camouflage.

Do
…use the words that appear in the job advertisement, especially if you’re applying online.

If the ad asks for applicants who are “focused” and show “initiative”, be sure to include those exact words in your letter of application. If not, the computer will weed out your application before it even reaches a human being.

Do
…wear a smart suit; you’ll feel better and carry yourself more confidently.

Remember, people tend to make up their minds about you within the first five seconds, so first impressions are crucial. Check, too, for dandruff, and pet hairs (I once interviewed a man who was covered in them; he’d left his jacket on the sofa and the cat had climbed all over it). Remove all face piercings, and don’t for a minute consider wearing jeans and trainers for the interview; they’re your social clothes, not your work clothes. A good tip: if you’re going for a retail job in a clothes store, wear something you’ve bought at one of their branches – it’s an instant conversation point. 

Do
…take a deep breath before you knock on the door.

If you suffer from a dry mouth (like I do), you can give yourself a couple of squirts of a fake saliva solution called Biotene. If you get sweaty palms, run cold water over your wrists: it cools down the nerve endings in your hands.

Do
…lean forward; it makes you look intelligent, and shows you are paying attention.

Sit with hands together, and fingers interlocked, never in your pockets. Cross your legs at the ankle; it anchors them and stops them trembling if you’re nervous. You should never lean back; that’s the prerogative of the person who’s interviewing you. Oh, and gentlemen, you should never sit there with your leg crossed over and one ankle resting on top of your knee; it doesn’t look nice, and it doesn’t look appropriate.

Do
…ask questions.

There’s nothing worse than someone shrugging and going “Er, no”, when asked if they’ve got any questions. Ask whether there is “room for progression within the company” (it shows you’re keen to get on). And ask your interviewers where they see the company in five years’ time (bit of internet research required pre-interview for this one). As for the questions they ask you, be honest, but not brutally honest. If asked why you didn’t stay long in a job, don’t say you hated it, say you were “looking to upgrade your skillset” or “hadn’t quite found your niche”. And if asked a question that completely stumps you, ask if you can come back to it later (nine times out of ten, they’ll forget to).

Don’t

…tell lies on your CV; you could get sacked if your new employers find out later you’ve been fibbing. 

That said, if you were in a job that didn’t last long, don’t put “fired because I couldn’t stand my boss”; put “temporary” or “seasonal” in brackets alongside. Plus, if you’ve had lots of very short-term jobs, perhaps only include the longer-lasting ones on your CV; seeing you’ve been in and out of lots of different jobs will raise unwelcome questions in the minds of the people interviewing you.

Don’t

…use your jokey email address on your CV. 

It gives totally the wrong impression if you style yourself SexyLegs ,MinnieMouse@disneyland or “VodkaDrinker” (believe me, I’ve seen them all). That side of you is for your social life and weekends; don’t let employers see it. And whatever you do, don’t put your date of birth at the top of your CV. That way, potential employers can weed you out straight away, on ageist grounds; ie they think someone of 18 will be too inexperienced, and someone of 54 will be past it. It’s also wise not to put your National Insurance number on an application, either; you’re laying yourself open to identity theft.

Don’t (for men)
…go wearing novelty socks, with “Monday” or “Tuesday” printed on them.

Remember, gents, when you cross your legs, your socks will be on show. And at all costs resist the temptation to wear jokey ties; I’ve seen Daffy Duck, Homer Simpson, all sorts. You’re there to make a good impression, to come across as a professional, reliable person. Don’t be like the man I once interviewed, who turned up in November wearing a flashing Christmas tie; he asked if I’d like to press it and hear it play Jingle Bells! 

Don’t (for ladies)

…forget that when you sit down, your skirt is going to be two inches shorter than when you’re standing up. 

You want your interviewers to be concentrating on you, not on your inappropriate clothing (the same goes for showing cleavage – don’t). Interviewers (both men and women) are looking for employees who are professional, not sexy; they can imagine all too well the effect you’ll have on other colleagues if you are in the habit of dressing outrageously.

Don’t
…get too chatty or familiar with existing members of staff.

They’ll be watching and judging you, and may well be asked for their impressions by their boss after you’ve gone. I even knew one employer who put a camera in the waiting room, to see if applicants behaved the same as when they were in the interview.

Don’t
…eat or drink. Anything
.

If you’re offered a biscuit, or a cup of tea or coffee, politely decline. Your interviewers will hear immediately if you’re nervous and the cup and saucer will be shaking in your hand. And the possibility of spilling liquid is just too great. I once made the mistake of saying yes to a glass of water when I was going for a job as a teacher. As I reached out for the glass, I managed to knock a jug of water all over the woman who was interviewing me.

Don’t for a minute…
…think you’re among friends.

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I remember interviewing a man once who thought we were and I were having an informal chat, and who started swearing. He soon found out it wasn’t as informal an occasion as he had believed!