Recently we interviewed for our new Hospital Link Worker and we are excited to soon be welcoming Hannah to the team.  She will be based at Dawlish Hospital supporting patients on the ward and their families at home.  Throughout Covid, visiting times in hospitals has been restricted, so having this additional contact with a patient who can’t have visitors, and keeping in touch with family at home who wish they could visit, has been such an important role.  Hannah will be supporting people whilst they’re in hospital and helping make their return home as smooth and safe as possible, signposting them on to other services to reduce the chance of another hospital admission. Over the past few years I have been sat in the interviewer’s chair at job interviews several times, and I have learnt so much from this experience.  Fortunately, I have been with Volunteering in Health for seven years now so I’ve not been in the candidate’s chair for a while, but I do remember the agony of finding what seemed to be my dream job advertised, working so hard on an application, then maybe never hearing back.  Or sometimes getting an interview but not getting the job and not understanding why. Many people have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and competition for jobs is fierce!  So I thought I’d share some of the things that go through my head through the recruitment process, and the things I wish I’d understood when I was job seeking.  I hope they help you!

  • Shortlisting and interviewing is a real pleasure. We receive applications from all sorts of people, but without exception they all sound like lovely, kind, friendly, positive people who we would love to meet and employ.  If you’re applying for a job at Volunteering in Health, experience tells us you’re probably a lovely person!
  • Do your research.  Visit our website.  Call us and ask questions.  It will make your application and interview stronger because you’ll have a better understanding of exactly what you’re applying for – and could save you time if it’s not the right thing for you.
  • We want to understand why you want the job just as much as why you think we should want you. If you want it as a stepping stone, that’s ok, we want to support people towards their long term goals!  If you have a connection with the charity, maybe we helped your family member or you have done some voluntary work, we’d love to hear about it!  If it’s the fact that this job is local and flexible then tell us that – some of our roles are more flexible than others.  We need to understand your motivations to make sure the job is the right match for you as well as you being the right match for it.
  • We ask for a covering letter and CV because it gives you more of an opportunity to sell yourself in your own way. We encourage individual, creative approaches to all of our roles so this is your chance to show yourself in your best light!
  • Being nervous in your interview is fine, it shows us that you really want the job and want to do well. If you’re nervous, or ill, or your kids are causing havoc in the background – just tell us.  It might even be the ice breaker you need to feel more relaxed and comfortable.
  • Being late is definitely not fine! Being far too early isn’t fine either though.  If you’re really early, go for a walk round the block or something.  (I remember once going to an interview in nice new shoes and getting horrible blisters from my nervous pre-interview walking!)
  • Example questions! These were always my nemesis – in an interview I’d be asked “Can you tell us about a time when …?” and I would panic, mind utterly blank.  But having sat on the other side of the interview, I now understand why they are so important – they are what show us that you can put your theory into practice.  Take your time with these, find the right example to showcase what you can do – even if it’s from your personal life rather than your work.  We’re interested in what you say, not how quickly you can come up with an answer – we know these are hard!
  • If we ask you follow up questions to your answers, that’s a good thing! It either means that we are genuinely interested in what you’ve told us and want to know more, or you’ve not quite hit the spot and we think you’ve got a better answer in there and we want you to do well.  (Take this one on board!  In this situation I always felt like I was getting my answers wrong, it certainly didn’t feel encouraging – but it should!)
  • We score each answer given in an interview. After all the interviews we will talk through the candidates and our gut feelings.  Then we add up the scores and – guess what – they almost always reflect what we were thinking.  They are really useful, especially when it’s very close between two people.  When the feedback is that you scored highly but just not quite highly enough, we mean it!  It’s a frustratingly useless piece of feedback though and we will always try to give you something more constructive to go with it.
  • Sometimes we employ someone with lots of relevant experience and sometimes we employ someone who is looking for a complete change of career. Most of our roles require excellent communication and empathy – the rest can be taught.  We don’t know before the interviews which way it will go and we never have an image of exactly who we are looking for before we interview.
  • If you’re not getting anywhere in your job search, volunteering is a brilliant way to give your CV a boost, gain some different experience, and up-to-date references. If you’re interested in joining us as a volunteer, please get in touch!

Our Vice Chair of Trustees, Manuela Grossmann, is an HR Consultant with SSG Consultancy and has been a huge source of support with our HR and particularly recruitment – she’s the one that showed me how important those example questions are. We wish you the very best of luck with your job search.  Remember, if you are returning to work after a break and need to rebuild your confidence, our Wellbeing Co-ordinators may be able to help you build your confidence and set suitable goals.  Please call us on 01626 771696 or email for more information.