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MOTW Collaboration with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and PurpleCV

close up of a laptop showing people on a video call, a cup of tea is next to the laptop

In May 2022, we hosted an All-Staff Workshop that focused on supporting MOTW participants with job applications and interviews. Delivered remotely via TEAMs and hosted by Jess Mundy, a member of our Programme Team, we welcomed two guest speakers – Sarah Lamb from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Emma Wood from PurpleCV.

Our workshops are a great chance for our delivery staff to refresh their knowledge, get some top tips, and hear directly from the experts. 

Our first speaker was Sarah Lamb from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust who spoke to us about applying for jobs within the NHS; the information provided by Sarah was specifically related to the Northumbria Foundation Trust, which is one of the top-performing trusts, but may also be relevant for other NHS trusts. 

Did you know the NHS is the 5th largest employer in the world?

Typically, when we think of the NHS, we think of the fantastic work done by nurses, doctors, and other clinical staff, but Sarah spoke to MOTW Navigators about the range of jobs available. Within Northumbria Trust, there are over 350 job roles in clinical and non-clinical positions. More employees are actually non-clinical roles, with administrative functions such as managerial positions, HR and payroll. Sarah emphasised that one role is not more important than another; a surgeon couldn’t carry out their job without HR, IT or domestic staff.

They also offer different ways to enter the workplace, such as apprenticeships and a staff bank. 

Apprenticeships – The NHS offers apprenticeships in various roles; these are available to anyone over the age of 16, and there’s no upper age limit. 

Staff Bank – Those in a staff bank should have previous experience working in the role and can take on individual shifts within a hospital or trust. 

There is a job for everyone, no matter your background

The NHS has an online jobs site through which all applications are made. Sarah advised MOTW on how to use this website when supporting participants. 

Sarah’s top tips for completing NHS applications are to;

  • Use your CV as the basis of the application, transferring all relevant information into the online application form
  • Focus firstly on the essential criteria mentioned in the job description, then the desirable criteria, followed by experience. The essential criteria are the first thing the hiring manager will look out for
  • Ensure your English and Maths qualifications are included
  • Provide references covering 3 consecutive years; this doesn’t have to be an employer, but it can’t be a family member

For those with previous convictions, details can be included in the application or discussed during an interview. Convictions do need to be disclosed; however, they would not be included in the scoring of the role, and it would only impact your ability to be hired if the conviction was relevant to the line of work you’re applying to. 

When working in an NHS clinical environment, it is preferred that staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and, in some cases, this could be a requirement. 

The online job application aims to show you can do the job. If you progress to an interview, this is value-based and aims to show that you align with the trust and their values. Rather than the HR department, interviews in the NHS are generally carried out by the hiring manager so they can get to know you directly (and you can get to know them!). 

In the interview, you’ll be asked behavioural questions; these are questions based on how you acted or would act in specific situations and help the interviewer better understand you, how you react to stress, your skills and how you conduct yourself. 

We’re very grateful that Sarah was able to share this information with us. We know it will be beneficial for our Navigators to have these tips as they support interested participants in making applications for NHS jobs. 

The second speaker was Emma from PurpleCV, a professional CV writing agency.

You Are Not A Template 

PurpleCV believe that every CV should be as unique as the individual and support people to write CVs that put them head and shoulders above the competition.

They’ve kindly agreed to talk to Moving On Tyne & Wear on a quarterly basis and cover a range of job search topics that our Navigators want to know more about.  This time, the workshop focused on tips to succeed in a job interview. 

MOTW staff have been supporting participants to build their skills, their CVs and job applications since 2017; and they’re great at it. When a participant is ready, Navigators support them with all aspects of a job application, that includes preparing for an interview. Emma was able to share some useful information to help our Navigators support their participants to excel in interview situations.

Emma’s top tips were to:

  • Review typical interview questions that employers ask, and practice some answers
  • Give concise answers with concrete examples that demonstrate your skills
  • Emphasise the skills that are most important to the employer and relevant to the position
  • Review the job listing, make a list of the requirements, and match them to your experience

As part of the workshop, Emma chatted through some typical interview questions and how to go about answering them.

What are your strengths?

This is a chance for you to use your knowledge of the job description. Think about what the employer is looking for and link this to examples of your skills.

What are your weaknesses?

If you’re asked this question, consider weaknesses that you’ve already made steps to address, this will show the employer that you’re proactive and willing to learn new things. For example, you’re not great at using Microsoft Excel but have signed up to free tutorials that will help you learn more about how to use it. 

Why should we hire you?

Think about your assets and what makes you different from other candidates; this is a chance to express your personality while also talking about your experience. 

Tell us about yourself.

This is always a dreaded question, but a simple way to look at it is a 1-minute advert about yourself. To answer this question well, make sure you know your CV; it can help to follow the same structure you’ve set out in your CV. 

Why do you want this job?

Make sure you’ve researched the job and the company, then talk about how you match well with them. They’re looking to see that you’ve thought your application through.

What do you know about the company?

Another chance to show that you’ve researched the company before your interview; think about their history, culture, social aspects, and any news. If you don’t get asked this question, it’s good practice to try to include some of your company knowledge throughout the rest of the interview. 

Did you know that building rapport can increase your chances of being hired? Emma advises that you develop a connection with your interviewers; using their names can be a great way to do this. 

Preparation is definitely key when it comes to excelling in interviews. Some tips to help you feel prepared are:

  • Get ready ahead of time; have everything you need on the day ready the night before. This can be ironing your clothes, packing your bag, and planning your journey. 
  • Be on time (hint: that actually means be early!); arrive at your job interview 5-10 minutes before your time slot. 
  • Try to stay calm; this one can be harder than it sounds! 

Many of the Moving On Tyne & Wear participants have been out of work for a while, so how do we talk about gaps in employment history? The first thing is to be prepared to talk about it and be honest with the interviewers. There are tons of reasons that people have employment gaps: leaving work to care for a family member or children, redundancy, or personal reasons. 

You don’t have to go into too much detail about why there is a gap, but you can talk about what you did in that time – did you do any volunteering? Work on self-improvement? Maybe you engaged with a fantastic local employment project? You can talk about why this gap was useful to you. 

What if you have a criminal conviction? This can be discussed in the interview; try to start with something positive, then explain the offence in your own words. Use this time to reassure the employer that you are not a risk. 

The main purpose of a job interview from an HR perspective is to get an insight into your personality, competencies, capabilities, and achievements. To sum it up, the interviewer is generally looking for answers to these important questions:

  • Can they do the job? 
  • Are they willing to do the job?
  • Will they fit in?

But remember, job interviews are a 2-way street; you also want to make sure that this is the right company and job role for you. 

The session was brilliantly informative, and our Navigators came away feeling reassured that they’re doing the right things, but also with some handy tips, guidance and increased confidence to help their participants prepare for interviews and get the jobs they really want.

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