Career clinic: ensuring a fair interview

Q: I have just applied for an internal post and been offered an interview. However, I have clashed with one of the two managers conducting the interview in the past and am worried his involvement could hinder my chances. Is it possible to insist a member of HR is present too?

A: It is certainly possible to request that a member of the HR team sit on your interview panel, although I doubt you will be able to “insist” that this happen, writes Mary Jackson. I would suggest that you approach HR formally when asking them to consider your request by doing so you are voicing your concerns, which will hopefully ensure that they are recorded.

The decision on whether someone from HR is able to attend, is likely to depend on factors such as availability, consistency of process and company policy, so it is best to be prepared for the fact that the answer may well be “no”. If this is the case, then all is not necessarily lost.

An interview provides the opportunity for you to demonstrate your skills and ability to do the job, based on your previous experiences and attitude. So it is important for you to maximise this opportunity and do your best to make it impossible for them not to give you a “fair try”.

The questions you are asked at interview will be based on the person specification and job description. These documents should provide you with all the information you need – knowing both inside out will put you in a strong position. Ask questions about the role which show you have really been thinking about it and let them see how much you want it.

These are of course just a few ideas. There are a range of techniques and a wealth of websites with interview tips, so do your research and go in confident that you have done all you can. It may sounds like a cliché, but I am a true believer in the fact that you’ll get the job if it’s the right job for you. It is clear this role is important to you and this will work to your advantage at interview.

Mary Jackson is recruitment manager for Hackney Council’s Children and Young People’s Directorate

Readers’ views:

A: I am slightly concerned about your past “clash” with the manager you mention. Would he be your line manager? Unless you are deliberately challenging yourself in terms of developing your relationship management skills, you might want to give some serious thought about how this difficult relationship could affect you on a day-to-day basis before you decide to go ahead with the interview.

Name and address withheld

6 March question

Q: I am a social work undergraduate and qualify in June 2009. I will be 57 years old when I qualify and my only practical experience is as a volunteer before the degree course and two 100-day social work placements during the course. Can I get a job as a social worker at my age and with my limited practical experience? And is there anything during the remainder of my social work degree course I can do to improve my job opportunities?

This question will be answered in the 6 March issue of Community Care. We want to publish your advice too: please send it to by Monday 25 February.

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