Jobseekers need to be prepared for this, as we are seeing it happen more and more. Is it illegal? We don’t think so, although there are certain rules around recruitment agencies deliberately advertising jobs at inflated salaries to attract candidates.

However, if an employer does it then there is little legal redress, you merely have a decision to make.

First of all, what is the reason for the reduced salary? Perhaps you do not have quite the experience they are looking for, or alternatively there are plenty of candidates around at a much lower salary level. The employer cannot bring themselves to quite pay the full rate when there are cheaper alternatives.

But perhaps the applicant has been out of work for some time. Perhaps the employer judges them to be in a vulnerable position.

For the jobseeker this is always a nuanced decision. You have to ask whether you would want to work for an employer who would do this to you. Though in reality it may be the HR or finance department demanding the reduction, not the person you are going to be reporting to.

It will also depend on whether you have any other alternatives. Because if you don’t, it is a choice between being paid and continuing to look for a new role.

A test I always suggest candidates use is “Would I have considered this had it been advertised at this salary originally?”

Because if the answer is that you would, then you are probably foolish not to consider it now. Business, after all, is all about negotiation and a deal is never done until contracts are issued. Although the economy is rebounding, you might be foolish not to consider such a role.

In reality it is always best to point out to the employer that you are disappointed but that you will accept. And you probably will have no compunction about continuing to look, in case the right thing comes along at the right money. And of course, in a year’s time when you have proven your worth to the organisation, you can then tackle your salary package and see if there is an opportunity to have it lifted to the level you think is correct.

One slightly frustrating aspect of this, naturally, is that the same HR departments who cleverly tried to undercut salaries where they can, are extremely careful not to be accused of discrimination. So it rarely happens where this is a possibility, and ironically many of the people missing out are middle-aged, white males. We wonder whether in the future this could become an issue.

One area that many jobseekers fall down on, especially in the interview, is not understanding what is required when asked a “competency-based” question.

I am not a great fan of these interviews, as somebody who is properly coached can do exceptionally well, score very highly, without ever having demonstrated the particular ability in their own career. They just have to know how to answer the question.

Equally, by answering the question incorrectly you will automatically not score well, and be deemed not to have the required characteristic.

What is a competency-based question? It is a question that asks you to display a particular skill, ability or characteristic.

“Tell me about a time when you had to go the extra mile for a customer”. “How do you deal with difficult colleagues?” “Tell me when you had to produce a difficult piece of work to a strict deadline”

When faced with these types of questions, very often interviewees will be a little clueless. They might say, well these types of problems don’t really occur that often, or it doesn’t really apply to me because I always look after my customers and don’t have to do any more for any individual and so on. Such answers will score 0 on the interviewer’s score sheet, whether you are right or wrong.

The best interviewees will take something like the last question and say “we are always working to strict deadlines. Let me give you an example, recently I had to produce a report for an important customer but we were extremely busy at work. I took it home over the weekend, analysed exactly what they needed and wrote the report in my free time on a Sunday. We beat the Monday deadline comfortably and won the contract”

A well-trained candidate will say something like that. It may not be true, they probably won’t be asked to prove it, but it will display the competency a big tick in the box for working to deadlines.

As I say, I hate the line of questioning, I think well-trained candidates do well, badly trained candidates do badly. That is not the point of an interview.

Nevertheless, be prepared. You may be asked to do one of these and it is best you understand what they are looking for and answer accordingly.

We coach many people for interviews. It is an essential part of our outplacement process, if jobseekers can get themselves in front of employers then they do not want to fall at this hurdle.

And what is the biggest issue for those in interview? That they get in their own way.

What do I mean by that? You either get so nervous that you talk too much, or you refuse to communicate at all. Interviewers judge people on many things, but they have considerable frustrations. Especially if they are meeting a whole list of people in a short period of time.

Their biggest frustrations of those who talk too much, then every time you ask a question they give you the background, they explain exactly why the answer will not be quite as good as you think, they tell you the detail of the story or they use that infamous phrase “let me go back in my career to give you a little bit of context.”

You need to stand back and look at yourself. Understand what this is doing to the interview process. And the best way to do this is to watch politicians being interviewed.

Because the ones that really get up everyone’s noses are those that never get to the point, those that talk an awful lot around a subject but never give you an opinion, never give you a straight answer. So if I ask you how your sales were last year, I really don’t want you to tell me how good they were in 2016. I really do not need you to explain that coronavirus caused problems. I am not looking for an in-depth economic assessment before you tell me they were down by 20%.

Much better that you answer “they were down by 20%, would you like to know why that was better than any of my competitors?”

And if you are in the “yes/no” school of communication, you just need to get out of that habit. In response to the question about sales last year we don’t need to hear “I don’t know” or “down 20%”. Just a little bit more explanation, just a little bit more conversation, just a little bit more interaction.

Interviews are two-way conversations. Understand that, communicate properly but succinctly and you are much more likely to do well.

Losing a job at any time is never ideal. And for you personally clearly it could present short and long-term problems.

But the question is really aimed at jobseekers who feel that it is more difficult to find a new job when not working, as there will always be question marks over why they are on the market.

Whether times are good or bad, my reply to anyone is simple. If you think it is a problem, then it is.

What do I mean by that? Put simply, in an interview situation while the interviewer will try to remain as objective as possible, they will always pick up on lots of non-verbal cues.

The person who thinks their current situation is a problem, one that they wish they were never asked a question about, gives away that impression immediately. Any answer they give is unconvincing or seems evasive.

But the reality is that, providing you have done nothing criminal or grossly negligent, most recruiters recognise that these things happen. Sometimes you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. A change of manager, a change of company policy leaves you out in the cold.

So if you do not think it is a problem, and spend no time defending it or justifying your position, then it probably won’t be a problem in the interview.

If you have fallen out with your boss and agreed to part company then say so. One word of warning, never criticise a previous employer, merely say “Wrong place, wrong time. I don’t blame them, but we decided to call it a day.” Or “I am sure he (or she) had their reasons but I could not agree with the direction the company was taking. So I need to look elsewhere”

Providing it is the truth, it will ring true. And it is no big deal, it is simply a decision that you have made.

There are a lot of people out of work. Don’t beat yourself up badly because you find yourself in that position.

How I hate that question, but I always practice it with my jobseekers, because lazy interviewers love to use it.

There are, of course, no right or wrong answers. But it is the way that you handle the question that is important. Although I would suggest that “I can never get out of bed on a Monday morning” is probably not an easy one to explain away.

In the old days, the cliched answer was “People tell me I work too hard”. But all recruiters have heard that before.

But in all honesty, we all know we have a weakness in our work. Or a blindspot. It may be that you get too involved in the detail, or that you start to manage those reporting to you too much, or perhaps you can never say no, or you have a tendency to leave a couple of details unfinished, because you are concentrating too much on the big picture.

Whatever the weakness you think you have, it is fine to be honest about it so long as you explain how you deal with it. Perhaps you would say “from time to time I find myself managing my people too much. But I make sure they tell me if I’m doing that, so I back off.”

Or perhaps

“I can get completely fixated on the task in hand, sometimes to the annoyance of my colleagues. But I recognised it, and asked them to tell me when I’m becoming a pain.” Or “I used to get too much into the detail, but I have learnt to leave that to others and have become much more productive as a result.”

Recognising your weaknesses and dealing with them is a real strength. Demonstrating that to employers who are trying to catch you out is a real plus. All I suggest you do is think through this question before you go to an interview, like many others, so you can deal with it effectively when you come across it, rather than hesitate rather embarrassingly and come out with something rather unconvincing or even worse shoot yourself in the foot.

We speak to people from many industries. Jobseekers who are desperate to find their next role. People who have genuinely achieved and made a real difference during their career.

But speak to them in an interview, and every improvement, every positive change, every target hit, every budget made seems to be down to somebody else.

Which might well be true, and the truly modest amongst us will never take credit for anybody else’s hard work. The truly sensible amongst us will also recognise that we have made a contribution.

Here is the problem. At interview most recruiters don’t value modesty, reticence and underachievement. They are looking for precisely the opposite. People who make things happen, people who are successful, people who make a difference.

So unless you get into the habit of blowing your own trumpet, explaining clearly how you were able to contribute, how your team outperformed, how you were always valued when compared to your peers, then you will not stand out.

Because it is highly probable that most of the others on the shortlist are doing just that. Even if in reality they have achieved very little, they will still take credit for small successes.

So when people say “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet” our reply is “You must, because nobody else will do it for you”.

Unless you take your mother to the interview, that is.

Here is your problem. In the absence of any other strategy, people approach interviews trying to be likeable, trustworthy and passionate.

Not bad as an aim in itself, except that employers see lots of people who tick those boxes. But when they are recruiting what are they looking for?

Normally a solution to a problem. And in times of stress like this, it is normally a short-term problem.

They may not find somebody with exactly the right experience who has solved this problem before. But they will recognise the person when they see them.

Now nobody is suggesting that if you’ve been working in hotels all your life you have the right experience to suddenly become a brain surgeon. But in many other walks of life, skills are transferable. Salespeople in one industry can generally do well in another, especially if the profile of the customer is similar.

Likewise technical experts may benefit from 20 years with such and such technology, but in reality technology is changing so fast most people have no more than a year’s experience in any of it.

So recruiters are looking for people who solve problems. Whether on the front desk, whether managing a team of people, foreign customer support. But they want to understand that you can recognise problems and how you solve them. If you demonstrate this to people at an interview, they will listen. If you communicate it in the right way they will remember you.

But they see plenty of nice, 120% committed, likeable people. And that is not enough.

We speak to lots of jobseekers who we are supporting through outplacement.

Quite often when we speak to them after an interview, they feel slightly frustrated by their performance. That they have not quite got the message across. Which is why they nearly always benefit from interview coaching.

You see the problem is, many of us are not great storytellers. At interview, many are also really quite nervous. And under pressure, especially if you really want the job because you need it or it is the job of your dreams.

So instead of communicating clearly what you can bring to the organisation, you tend to go on a bit of a ramble, get a bit disconnected and add in a few too many details. And you can sense that the recruiter is getting bored and wished that you would get to the point.

And that is precisely what I recommend to anyone in an interview. Get to the point as quickly as possible and ask the interviewer if they would like further qualification.

Do not be tempted to paint an elaborate picture. Because you’ll probably end up in a Ronnie Corbett style monologue, going down all sorts of blind alleys and leaving your audience unimpressed.

Much better to get the key message across and add more information afterwards, than trying to tell your life story in one go.

Look, I know that jobs are not to a penny at the moment. I know that the market is not flooded with opportunity.

But nevertheless, some of you are so keen to get a job that you’re scared of disagreeing with the recruiter, even when what they say is plainly wrong.

Sometimes this can be a test, to throw something controversial into the questioning and see how you react. Whether you stand up for yourself and what you believe or whether you simply roll over.

At other times you may fundamentally disagree with everything that is being said to you. However desperate you are for a job, would you feel comfortable in an organisation like that? Would they respect you more if you stood up to them and said you felt it was wrong.

We don’t suggest you pick an argument in every interview, but if you know something is plainly wrong then tactfully suggest that you don’t quite agree with everything. It might be a test or they might be a nightmare to work for.

Good luck!

Or at least get your lighting right.

Online interviews are becoming more common and more important. First impressions really count. So often I start online coaching with call from a dark murky figure against a brightly lit window. If I’m lucky the camera is pointing at their head if I’m not it misses them altogether.

Online interviews really are important. Practice them carefully beforehand, preferably video calling with a friend and asking them to take a screenshot. That way you can see whether you look like a professional TV presenter or someone stuck in the back of a cupboard in low light.

I know that many complain that their laptop does not have a great camera, or they can only use their phone. But if you are serious about your career, and recognise that this is an important part of the process, then invest £20 in a decent WebCam. Then set yourself up somewhere in the house with decent lighting and a plain background. It will pay real dividends.

Get the lighting right and you can shine.

The question I’m often asked – ”Why did they get the job when they’re nowhere near as good at it as me?”

Because many people who are brilliant at their jobs are rubbish at communicating it. They don’t understand that what comes to them naturally, is difficult for others to comprehend.

And they don’t understand that if you can learn to communicate your skills, can explain exactly what makes you different and why you have better results, you will get noticed.

It has always been one of our biggest frustrations that the best operators sometimes don’t get the career breaks they deserve. And we have often looked on in amazement at those who cannot perform at that level rise rapidly through the ranks, impressing everybody at each stage of the interview process. They can’t manage but they can interview well.

Learn the secret to this process and your career will take off. Pretend that it makes no difference and it will hold you back.

Talk to us, we can tell you how.

On the one hand they aren’t really. If you know what you’re doing.

But most of us are not broadcasters. And the only video calls we ever really make are with our mates, and never really trying to impress a new employer.

And how many interviews have you ever had to do with the family running around in the background? Or with the stereo blaring from upstairs?

Because many of our jobseekers have to overcome these hurdles and more. How do you get the lighting right? How do you dress? How do you lead and guide the conversation rather than a series of grunts and Yes’s and No’s?

We know that the online coaching that we do makes a massive difference. So do our jobseekers. 

In any interview first impressions count. An online interview is not an informal chat – get it right, understand the principles involved and you will be way ahead of the competition. And whatever background or experience you have, you will stand a much better chance.

In today’s market, as we all try to keep apart from each other, recruitment still has to go on. And if you can master the online interview then you will find yourself back in work much quicker than most. 


Apparently this is the most feared question in interviews, and features in more Internet searches than any other interview question.

And it’s surprising really, because if you think about it it is the one question that you should know all the answers to. But then most candidates are worried about how they express themselves and how they present themselves in the best possible light.

Well here’s my first tip, don’t talk about yourself, talk about the things you’ve done and achieved, the things that you are most proud of. And give due prominence to the most recent events. It is absolutely fantastic that you got the best A-level results in the country, but if that was 40 years ago I don’t think it is going to impress many employers.

On the other hand, if you have taken your current dealership from bottom of the manufacturers league to into the top 10 in the last two years they may well sit up and listen. If you just tell them you are an inspirational leader they probably won’t take your word for it and ask for some more proof. Achievements, figures, objectively measured results are what matters.

The key thing is to expect this question, it will get asked at least 50% of the time in interviews. Prepare and practice your answer and you will be rarely under pressure when you answer it.

It is always tempting, you are desperate to justify yourself in an interview.

And the best way to do that is to demonstrate what an idiot your previous boss was. Or how incompetent the board was. Or what a ridiculous strategy they were following.

It is probably one of the most common mistakes that jobseekers make. It is entirely understandable and completely wrong. All employers want loyal committed and preferably compliant recruits. It is best not to fall at the first hurdle by giving them definitive proof that you are anything but.

However idiotic or stupid your employer may be, and we all concede that it is quite possible, do not fall into this basic trap. You will almost certainly head to Room 101 before you get a further chance to explain yourself.

All employers have their own agendas, few of them are perfect and everyone accepts that. But few accept that the person you were reporting into is more idiotic than you. So if you’ve been stupid enough to work for them that any length of time it reflects badly on you as much as it does on them. And your disloyalty and disrespect will put almost everybody off.

By all means explain you have had disagreements, by all means explain that you were not the right person for the job. But never be rude about a previous employer, because you won’t get the next job.

Whether you are submitting a CV or attending an interview, the initial impact you make will broadly determine the outcome of the process.

In fact it can be as little as five seconds during which a lot of decisions are made.

Take the humble CV, for instance. Tests have shown that a recruiter will make up a decision about a candidate’s CV in between 6 and 8 seconds.

Admittedly that decision may be a definite No, a definite Yes and lots of Maybes. They then spend a bit more time on the Maybes, but in eight seconds you might not get that far.

In interview situations, however objective the process, a similar instant reaction, apparently less than five seconds, is made by most of us. It dates back to much earlier times, when your very survival depended upon whether an individual was for you or against you. And we just can’t help using those instincts, whatever process we are asked to go through.

It is not the whole secret to preparing a CV or to attending an interview, but if you are entirely capable, and competent, and you can make a great first impression and you can interview well then you are on the road to success.

If you can’t, you have to work that little bit harder. Learn to make an instant impact and you will do better.

However unfair that is.