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What does the job centre do?

Gone are the days of physical job boards with little cards on them calling for a local lollipop lady to patrol the big crossing outside the local infant school. The job centre of the nineties and noughties is a thing of the past. For those of you too young to remember the Job centre of my youth the good news is, the Job Centre of your youth is infinitely different to what I remember. Nowadays, it is a place of unfaltering support, masses of knowledge and endless encouragement. The Job Centre is unique and deeply committed to showing that a government subsidised income and being in paid work really can go hand-in-hand. 

How do I know this? Ah ha, being a lucky journalistic lady, I had the opportunity to interview Matthew, a Work Coach from my local Job Centre branch. I jumped at the chance to get the inside scoop on what the Job Centre is and how it helps people to get into work. While I was there, I also slipped in a few cheeky questions about what candidates can do to get ahead in job interviews for all you job hunters out there. 

During the interview Matthew mentions Universal Credit a couple of times so, first things first let’s give you a couple of facts in case you are not familiar with it and are thinking to yourself, what is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a payment from the government to help with your living costs. It is paid monthly (or twice a month if you are in Scotland). 

Universal Credit replaced the following benefits and rolled them all into one neat tidy payment. 

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Working Tax Credit

I may do a more detailed post about Universal Credit soon and if I do, I will update you here when it is live, but in the meantime if you want more info about Universal Credit click here.

Let’s get back to the interview but before we start, grab a pen and some paper because there are some really fabulous job-hunting tips coming up.

What would you say is the main driving purpose behind the Job Centre?

The primary function of the Job Centre is to assist those in receipt of Universal Credit in their returning to work or starting to work journey, in whatever form that may take and however long it takes. 

How do you connect with the Job Centre and get help finding a job? 

When you apply for Universal Credit online you will be tasked with going to your local Job Centre. When you arrive at the Job Centre you will be assigned a Work Coach and a dedicated central Case Manager. You and your Work Coach will have a chat about the process and the next steps.

How can the Job Centre help people find a job? 

It’s not just about job boards anymore. Your Work Coach will work with you to identify what sort of work you might like to do. It’s about finding the right work and the right frequency of work for you as an individual. 

Together we will brainstorm ideas, identify any training you might feel you need, and if you are not quite ready to dive straight in to the world of work we can arrange work experience or voluntary placements too.

Is temporary working currently promoted and encouraged through the Job Centre?  

Absolutely! Temporary working is actually great for people in receipt of Universal Credit. Because Universal Credit is flexible, increasing and decreasing in real-time based on your actual monthly income, it works perfectly for the nature of temporary work where you may be taking on extra shifts, less shifts or in some instances no shifts from one month to the next. 

What are the other benefits of temporary work? 

There are many positives to temporary work, weekly pay is always a popular perk, but it  can also fill a gap on your CV, help you to build up your skills, provide you with a recent reliable reference for your next job application and it can often lead to permanent or ongoing work.  

What are the most common concerns that candidates express when they start their job-hunting journey?

Everyone experiences periods of doubt. Sometimes they don’t know what to expect or where to start, they feel they have no relevant experience or that they lack the skills required to find the job they would like. But that is why Work Coaches like me are there, we want to help people find solutions to the barriers they feel are standing in the way of their progress, whether that is through finding training courses, work experience placements or even specialist help to create a detailed CV.

How important would you say industry experience is compared to qualifications or education? 

I think it is more to do with age or generation. For a more mature applicant their experiences, whether it is work or life experience becomes the focus of their application and subsequent interview because they have more to draw upon and use as an example. For younger candidates who have little or no work experience their educational history is a good way for them to show that they can learn and apply themselves. 

What would you say are the most important soft skills to highlight on your CV? 

Skills that are important are, reliability, flexibility, commitment, enthusiasm, as well as the ability and desire to learn. How to actually do the job will be taught to you once you start but enthusiasm, reliability and other skills like that can’t be taught you need to show that you have those qualities already. 

What 3 things can a candidate do to increase their chances of getting an interview? 

  • Make sure your CV is up-to-date and that any gaps in your work history are accounted for.
  • Read the specification in the job advert, find out who they are looking for and repeat it back to them in your application. 
  • Top Tip: Many applications are screened via applicant management software that searches for the right keywords in the application, these are generally the same words that were used in the job description i.e. reliable, ambitious, confident, team work, flexible, the job title etc. Therefore, making sure you have included these words in your application will mean that you are automatically shortlisted by the computer for a human to review in more detail. Leaving the keywords out will unfortunately often lead to instant rejection by the applicant management software.

What 2 things should a candidate consider before applying for a job? 

Work should always be sustainable and enjoyable so the two main things would be;

  • Consider the location, can you get there reliably every day?
  • Is it something you can see yourself doing every day?

What should a candidate always try to communicate in an interview? 

For all candidates we would always recommend that they stress that they are reliable (providing they are of course). In many cases an employer is primarily looking for someone they can rely on to turn up and do the job so mentioning it in your interview is really important, it can often be the deciding factor for an employer when they are selecting the right candidate.

Where do you start when looking for a new job? 

First of all, speak to a Work Coach at the Job Centre and then register with multiple agencies as a priority.

Try to think out of the box a bit when it comes to applying for a job. Don’t just apply online, go into shops, speak to people and hand in your CV’s in person. Approach businesses even if they are not advertising a position, they might be hiring but have not got around to advertising it yet.

Be patient, you may apply for many jobs and not get through to an interview so don’t be disheartened. Getting an interview is not easy so when you do get one, make the most of the opportunity to impress. 

Practice interview skills and enlist anyone who will help you to practice so you are less nervous when it comes to doing it for real.  

Let me round up by saying, Matthew was just lovely to talk to. He is knowledgeable, positive and enthusiastic about the work he and his colleagues do. He really is a wonderful advocate for the services that are available at the Job Centre. 

You can find information and the location of your nearest Job Centre by clicking here

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