JSA Interviewing Good Practice
1. The aim of a Work Focused Interview (WFI) is to achieve Jobcentre Plus
objectives by working through customer interests and needs. Working with the
customer gives you the best chance of success whilst pressurising or 'hard
selling' is likely to be less effective.
2. Having a structure to an interview will:
make the most of the time you have available to spend with customers;
focus on individual needs;
draw up appropriate, realistic and achievable Jobseeker’s Agreements
gain customer commitment to a particular course of action; and
ensure the customer is available for and actively seeking employment.
3. Although discussions vary depending upon the customer’s circumstances
and the type of interview, the process is similar in most interviews.
go through distinct stages.
5. You should be able to recognise and, if necessary, help customers
develop the competences needed for successful jobsearch. The required
competences and qualities can be listed in three levels:
Level 1 - essentials
well defined, personalised and realistic work goals; and
knowledge of the 'world of work'.
These will always be your starting point and will be discussed during even the
Level 2 - basic competences and qualities
desire or motivation to find work;
self-confidence and self-esteem;
positive and constructive attitude and expectations; and
commitment to work goals.
Level 3 - more complex issues
self-awareness and/or willingness to accept and act upon feedback
and guidance from others;
social and presentational skills needed for interviews and to perform
well in the chosen job goal;
communication skills needed;
ability and willingness to plan;
ability to adapt and cope with change;
ability to manage effectively any employment limitations related to
health or disability; and
persistence, determination and resilience.
6. Level 3 issues are likely to require a close working relationship and more
time before you can discuss them openly. Deal with these issues sensitively
when you feel you have established enough rapport to allow you to do so
supportively and safely.
7. All the competences and qualities above could be adversely affected by
personal circumstances, for example:
domestic, or geographical circumstances;
economic or financial circumstances;
a health problem or disability;
personal characteristics, for example:
education and training;
past life/work experiences.
8. Focus on things that can be changed, for example, the customer’s
jobsearch competences. Customers who do not have the necessary
competences will need more help. WFIs will help you assess and decide
upon what kind of help customers need.
Stages involved in a well-structured Interview
9. A Work Focused Interview has the following stages;
defining the job goal.
exploring and evaluating.
10. Preparing properly for your interviews will help ensure you cover relevant
issues and make best use of time available.
11. Before each interview familiarise yourself with the customer and determine
the starting point. For example, find out about:
what they have done previously to find work;
barriers to employment;
health problems or disability;
additional requirements needed to aid communication, for example:
someone with hearing impairment may need a private room or an
action previously agreed; and
specifics that need to be covered or followed up.
12. Prepare for each interview differently, for example, at:
New Jobseeker Interviews use:
the Labour Market System (LMS); and
Jobsearch Reviews or main advisory interviews, look at:
the Jobseeker’s Agreement; and
details on LMS from previous interviews.
13. There are many environmental factors which could adversely affect your
interview or add to any anxiety the customer may be feeling, for example:
interruptions by colleagues;
poor layout of the room/furniture;
uncomfortable temperature; and
14. Also, ensure:
there are clear signs inside and outside the building to let the customer
know where to go;
there is an obvious reception point;
customers are dealt with promptly;
customers have somewhere comfortable to sit if they have to wait -
ensure they do not feel 'in the way' or exposed;
there are facilities available to meet the needs of customers with
disabilities, for example:
appropriate versions of leaflets for customers with visual impairment;
there is something for customers to do while waiting, for example:
direct them to jobpoints;
have leaflets and posters available;
writing materials are available if customers need to fill in any forms
before their interview.
15. Take particular account of the needs of customers with disabilities. For
do they have access to the office?
do they need a private room?
will someone with a hearing impairment need an interpreter.
16. Interviews will normally take place in an open plan setting. They may cover
matters of a personal nature or subjects which customers may find upsetting
17. Arrange interviewing stations so that as little sound as possible travels
between them. Wherever possible, make a private interview room available
for customers who ask for one or for sensitive interviews.
18. The first few minutes will set the tone of the interview. Put customers at
ease and establish rapport as soon as possible by:
explaining what your role is;
explaining how long the interview will take;
not using jargon;
establishing any additional requirements needed to help customers with
a health problem or disability participate fully in the interview; and
pitching your interview at the right level.
19. If the customer is entitled to travel expenses for attending the interview,
they should be paid before the interview. If not, assure the customer that they
will be paid immediately afterwards.
Agreeing the purpose of the interview
20. Listen carefully to what the customer says and be sensitive to any
nervousness and hostility.
21. Explain that the main purpose of the interview is to:
see how they are doing in their search for work;
see what help, if any, is needed;
ensure they remain entitled to JSA by being available for and actively
seeking employment; and
deal with any changes in their circumstances.
22. The emphasis placed on different elements will depend upon individual
customers. For example:
you could spend time explaining JSA conditionality at a New Jobseeker
discussing jobsearch activity with those who appear not to be doing
enough to satisfy the actively seeking work condition.
23. With others who are clearly doing all they can to find work, you could
spend less time on the above issues. Remember, in some cases, too much
emphasis could damage rapport and hinder progress.
24. Before moving on, check the customers understanding of the interview
any concerns they have arising from their interview invitation letter;
the customers expectations regarding advisory interviews; and
previous experience of advisory interviews.
25. Ensure the customer understands that you are not there to force them into
an inappropriate course of action. Your role is to help them decide upon an
appropriate plan of action. This will help to gain commitment to whatever you
agree. Pressuring customers tends to encourage resistance.
Defining the job goal
26. The starting point is the customers main work goal. Ensure they are clear
about their goal, for example:
training is not a work goal, but should be a means to an end.
the actual work goal is the sort of job the customer hopes to be able to
do after undertaking the training.
27. Ensure the customer does the bulk of the talking. Do not supply ideas too
early unless they have none of their own. Many customers will go along with
your ideas, but have no intention of following them through. If supplying
ideas, ensure they are relevant to the customer and that they fully understand
what is involved.
28. Ensure the job goal is defined as specific job vacancies or job titles, for
office cleaner; or
street cleaner is better than:
taxi driver; or
delivery driver is better than:
Exploring and evaluating
29. This stage of the interview is about:
ensuring the main goal is realistic, reality testing;
considering other options;
identifying needs and barriers;
giving advice and information; and,
checking JSA entitlement.
30. Having defined a main work goal, talk through the detail of how it is to be
achieved. Ensure the goals are realistic to help you draw up an effective
31. If there are still a number of options to choose from, help the customer
place them in priority order.
32. Ensure their aims are realistic. Discuss how they will achieve their work
goal. If they cannot do this, with help and guidance from you, discuss setting a
more achievable work goal.
33. Ensure the customer’s situation lends itself to their chosen work goal,
health problems; and
the local labour market.
34. The goal should be one the customer is likely to achieve and which they
feel keen to work towards. This part of the interview depends upon you having
knowledge of 'the world of work', for example:
what particular jobs involve;
what jobs are available;
what skills are required;
how employers recruit; and
travel to work patterns.
Considering other options
35. It is important to consider other options because:
customers should not rely on one goal which may not work out;
customers may be limiting themselves through a lack of knowledge or
there may be shorter-term goals to aim for;
the customer may appear unsuitable for their main job goal, for
example, their characteristics or personal qualities may be
inappropriate. Take care when considering these issues as the
customers appearance or demeanour at an advisory interview may not
be indicative of their approach to a job interview or work;
the customer may lack focus in their jobsearch; or
they may be needed to satisfy the JSA entitlement conditions, for
actively seeking work.
36. Some customers narrow their options too much; while others leave their
choices so wide that they have no focus to their jobsearch. Those who say
they will do 'anything' rarely mean that. Also, they are less likely to succeed
than those who are better focused on a few options.
37. An interest in a few options is the best starting point especially if
accompanied by a willingness to be flexible. Best progress is likely to be
made by those who are prepared to compromise, take advantage of
opportunities and take a step at a time towards their goals.
38. Your role at this stage is to help the customer talk through what they must
do to achieve their goal(s). Someone who wants 'office work' would be well
advised to consider the different jobs that exist in that area.
39. Encourage customers to pick the goal they think is most suitable and to
work just on that one, using the others as 'fall back' options if the first proves
40. Customers should also keep in mind that they may initially have to do a job
that is not their ideal choice. Having a job may help them get their ideal
choice because they will have current work experience and references.
Unlocking the goal
41. If the customer has difficulty identifying alternative or 'fall back' options, a
useful way of exploring them is to use the 'unlocking the goal technique'.
42. This involves finding out what customers like about their ideal or chosen
goals and using this to explore other options. For example, you may ask:
what is it about being a dental assistant that particularly interests you?;
why do you especially enjoy being a care assistant?; and
what other jobs can you use those skills for?
43. Often, there are several jobs that the customer would enjoy just as much
as the one that they have set their heart on, but they are not aware of them.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to explore these options.
44. Alternatively, a customer who has decided they must go on a certain
training course may not be aware that training could be got 'on the job'. Or
they may be aiming for something that is not usually available.
45. Use your knowledge of the local labour market and occupations to suggest
other options that the customer might pursue.
Identifying needs and barriers
46. Identify any needs or barriers that the customer has to overcome, for
they may know what they want to do and have the necessary skills, but
there are transport difficulties that make it hard for them to get to where
the work exists.
Alternatively, the work they want may not exist in the area in which they
are living or willing to travel;
47. The following paragraphs look at a range of issues that can form barriers
to a speedy return to work and suggests ways in which you can help
customers overcome them.
48. The first four topics might be covered in any type of interview. The rest,
noted as 'casework issues' are more complex and probably better dealt with
by referring the customer on to a caseload where more time can be spent with
them. The topics are:
Self-confidence and self-esteem
Positive and constructive attitude and expectations
Self-Awareness and Willingness to Accept or Act Upon Feedback
Social and presentational skills (Caseload)
Communication skills for the chosen job goal (Caseload)
Ability and Willingness to Plan, be Patient and to Recognise Progress
Ability and Inclination to Adapt to and Cope With Change (Caseload)
Energy Levels, Determination and Resilience (Caseload)
49. Throughout the interview look for signs of the customers intent and
determination to find a job or work towards one. If you feel there is a lack of
motivation, do some gentle exploration.
50. For example, a customer may say:
'I'm hoping to get a job as a secretary because that's what I really like
doing and I can't see any point in looking for any other job.'
51. At this point the goal might seem fine. However, if there are plenty of
secretarial jobs available, but the customer has been unemployed for nine
months, you may doubt that they actually intend getting this, or any, type of
52. Your response might be:
'That seems like an appropriate goal for you and there are plenty of jobs
to apply for. Perhaps the thing we need to get to grips with is what
might be getting in the way of finding a secretarial job'
53. This may show that the customer is in fact motivated, but there are other
problems. Alternatively, it may result in a number of excuses that suggest he
or she does not want to make the necessary effort.
54. If you feel motivation is a problem say something like:
'I may be wrong, but I'm getting the impression that you are not really
convinced that you do want secretarial work'.
55. This should open up the opportunity to discuss what the customer does
want and, if necessary, remind the customer of the actively seeking work
56. Another example might be a customer who is unenthusiastic about
everything you suggest and who gives you the impression that they do not
really mean what they say.
57. Your response might be:
'We've talked quite a lot about re-training to become a kitchen-fitter, but
I get the impression you feel this may not be right for you. It would
help me, and perhaps you too, if we can talk about any doubts that you
58. Sometimes discussing doubts can lead to better options.
59. If a customer appears demotivated or is not seeking work as actively as
they could, ensure their job goal and jobsearch activities, as defined in their
JSAg, are right.
60. It may be, for example:
that they are no longer committed to their JSAg and that it needs to be
61. If, however, the JSAg is still relevant and appropriate, other action may be
needed, for example:
the customer might benefit from attending a Restart Course or some
other programme aimed at helping build confidence and motivation; or
a referral to a Decision Maker may be appropriate on the grounds that
the customer is not actively seeking work.
62. It may be that the customer’s lack of success has nothing to do with a lack
of motivation. They may for example, be:
actively chasing jobs and well motivated, but lack the basic jobsearch
skills, for example:
interviewing skills; and
If so, suggest ways of improving these;
being beaten to jobs by better candidates. If so:
encourage the customer to maintain their efforts;
help keep them motivated; or
suggest that they may wish to consider different goals that are easier
applying for interviews, but not getting them after disclosing a health
problem or disability. If so:
consider referring to a matching caseload or to a Disability
Employment Adviser (DEA) for more help.
63. To overcome problems:
never assume customers do not want a job:
find out why they appear to be demotivated and help them overcome
help customers see how they would be better off in work:
help them see the benefits and rewards; and
perform a better-off calculation;
explain about Rapid Re-claim and the streamlined process this
provides, if they are concerned about re-claiming following short-term
help build confidence and identify achievable work goals;
give the customer choices to make;
help customers see that progress is being made;
help customers replace irrational and demotivating thoughts with more
positive and rational ones;
if necessary, remind customers of the JSA entitlement conditions.
Self-confidence and self-esteem
64. The level of self-confidence and self-esteem is an indication of how
customers feel about themselves and their faith in being able to get and keep
a job. If self-confidence or self-esteem is low, the customer may appear
negative or demotivated.
65. Overcome problems by:
treating customers with respect and warmth:
show an interest and belief in them and their abilities, particularly if
they have a health problem or disability which is causing low levels
of self-confidence and self-esteem;
identifying, highlighting and praising strengths and positive qualities;
highlighting and praising constructive efforts;
being supportive enough to help customers take steps forward; and
not patronising customers.
Positive and constructive attitude and expectations
66. Ensure customers see jobseeking in terms of success, the rewards it will
bring and the detail of what is involved. An optimistic and practical approach
is more likely to succeed, but this may be difficult for customers who are
depressed about their inability to find work or the length of time they have
been unemployed or finding it hard to cope with the realities of, for example:
geographical location; or
the state of the local labour market.
67. Overcome problems by:
praising any positive or constructive approaches and views;
gently questioning/confronting any persistently negative approaches or
help customers appreciate the implications of these and replace such
ideas with more positive and helpful ways of looking at things;
not getting 'bogged down' or personally involved with negative attitudes;
boosting confidence through highlighting strengths and positive
helping the customer focus on ways to overcome health problems or a
disability that is forming an employment related barrier; and
discuss the help available and how to seek work more positively.
68. Assess how much customers genuinely want to achieve their work goals:
are they applying themselves seriously to the steps necessary to
achieve their goals?
69. Commitment can be affected by other factors mentioned previously, for
a lack of motivation;
70. Overcome problems by:
ensuring work goals are:
highlighting the benefits of achieving the work goal;
identifying reasons for the lack of commitment and try to help the
customer 'iron them out';
ensuring they can see how their goals can be achieved; and
helping them to believe in their own ability to achieve their work goals.
Self-awareness and willingness to accept or act upon feedback
71. Individual awareness of personal skills and qualities can vary
considerably. Some customers:
over-rate themselves; or
have no concept of where they stand.
72. Some customers are also unwilling to accept feedback from others.
Always be constructive in your feedback.
73. If the customer lacks awareness of the skills and qualities that they have:
discuss their work goals; and
how they plan to sell themselves to potential employers.
74. Without mentioning at this stage, any discrepancy between what the
customer thinks they can do and what you see in their behaviour:
ask about how they got on at previous interviews or in past jobs, and
about any feedback that they received from these;
give them the opportunity to diagnose their own problems;
ask rather than tell;
feedback where it is necessary, but in a constructive and sensitive way;
support where feedback is difficult to accept;
help customers see how the impression they give can have an
undesired effect, and,
help customers see how trying to change something about themselves,
their work goals or their activities could help them find work.
75. If the customer seems to be too aware or self-conscious:
help them to see the irrational aspects of overemphasising
characteristics that others will probably not consider that important;
highlight their strengths and ability to succeed.
Social and presentational skills
76. It is important that customers behave and appear in a way that will be
acceptable to an interviewer or employer. This includes how they interact with
others and how they dress.
77. Clearly, in some jobs, for example:
this requirement will be much lower or less important than, for
management jobs or jobs with people involvement.
78. Overcome problems by:
ensuring you cover social and presentational skills when discussing the
suitability of work goals;
asking customers how they feel they will cope with the job requirements
and at interviews;
highlighting the social and presentational skills the interviewer will be
asking the customer how they will convince the employer that they are
the right person for the job;
exploring the options available to help customers if their communication
skills are affected by a health problem or disability; and
giving feedback honestly and tactfully if you think the customer does not
have the necessary:
abilities for their chosen work goal.
Communication skills for the chosen job goal
79. Customers must have communication skills that match the expectations of
the employer and the job. These skills will vary depending upon the kind of
work the customer is looking for.
80. For example, many manual jobs require modest communication skills, but
will require good communication skills. The interview is one way in which the
employer will assess communication skills.
81. Overcome problems by:
covering communication skills when discussing the suitability of work
ask the customer how they feel they will cope with the job
requirements and interviews;
highlighting the kind of communication skills that the interviewer is
likely to look for;
ask the customer how they will convince the employer that they are
the best candidate; and
giving feedback honestly and tactfully; and
as a last resort if you think the customer does not have the necessary
communication skills for their chosen job goal.
Ability and willingness to plan, be patient and to recognise progress
82. Some customers lack the organisational skill to work out all the things they
need to do to achieve their job goals.
83. Since success cannot always be achieved instantly and many goals need
a good deal of work or effort before they can be achieved, customers must be
prepared to make progress one stage at a time, and be prepared to wait for
the ultimate reward.
84. Some customers give up too easily, become depressed or cynical
because one or two interviews did not work out very well and need reasons
and encouragement to keep trying.
85. Overcome problems by:
breaking down suitable work goals into chunks or sub-goals, for
checking details of the job content;
reviewing technical information;
taking a correspondence course;
reading a book;
doing some voluntary work;
finding people to give them references,
finding out which employers to contact;
ensuring the benefits and rewards for each task are clear;
ensuring the customer understands that each step builds on the last;
and the idea of building towards the ultimate goal;
ensuring customers put 'failure' at an interview into perspective and
understand that this is no reason to give up. Not succeeding at
interviews can be for a variety of reasons, some of which are outside
the customers control;
encouraging customers to undertake training or strive for short term
goals that will help lead to their ultimate work goal;
helping customers with a health problem or disability to identify barriers
to employment and to plan a way around them; and
reminding customers of their obligation to actively seek work.
Ability and inclination to adapt to and cope with change
86. Customers may need to be able and prepared to make changes to their
behaviour, attitudes or plans in the light of experience, new events or
evidence, without being demoralised or stressed.
87. Deal with problems sensitively and tactfully, as some customers may feel
uncomfortable about change.
88. Overcome problems by:
identifying what is not working in the interests of the customer;
exploring options and helping the customer find more constructive ways
of looking at things so that they do not continue with ways that stress
them or block progress;
not expecting too much change too quickly; and
remembering that change can be threatening and frightening for some
customers and that they may need support throughout this process.
Energy levels, determination and resilience
89. Looking for work requires considerable persistence, determination and
resilience. It also means being able to take set backs and overcome them
without being thrown off course. It is less likely to be problematic if, for
self-confidence is high;
work goals are realistic; and
the customer’s approach is positive and constructive.
90. Overcome problems by:
ensuring work goals are realistic and achievable;
identifying the benefits of success;
identifying ways of making progress one step at a time, and by
highlighting the benefits along the way;
ensuring motivation, confidence and skill levels are high;
discouraging a lifestyle that will lessen energy and hinder the
customer’s ability to cope or achieve their work goal; and
encouraging customers to do things for themselves and ensuring you
praise or acknowledge their efforts.
Giving advice and information
91. Throughout the interview, ensure you allow the customer to make his or
her own decisions. Give advice when it is needed, the ideal kind of advice
being that which influences, but allows them to make their own decisions.
92. This leaves control and responsibility with the customer and is described
as a 'pulling' style of influencing.
93. For example, a customer wishing to do a particular course of engineering
may not have, and may not be aware that they need, a certain level of
mathematical ability. Knowing this may help them focus on a more
achievable work goal. The customer may, of course, still want to do the
course, but will need to obtain the prerequisite skills.
94. Sometimes, your advice may need to be more persuasive, particularly if
someone is not taking positive action to find work, and they are putting their
entitlement to JSA in doubt. If so, it is probably in the customers best
interests to 'nudge' them into something that brings them a step closer to a
95. If you have to do this, be open and honest about what is being done and
why. Discuss the situation and reach agreement on what they will do, taking
into account their circumstances. This is known as a 'pushing' style of
96. Bear in mind is that whatever action is suggested, it must be clearly in the
customers interest or likely to satisfy what they see as their needs.
Otherwise, they will be unlikely to agree to it. Also ensure the customer
understands the reasons for doing what you suggest, otherwise they will have
little commitment to following it through.
Checking JSA entitlement
97. Bear in mind, especially during the exploring and evaluating stage of the
interview that customers must be available for and actively seeking work to
98. Ensure the customer understands that part of your job is to ensure they
have a reasonable chance of finding the work they are looking for and are not
reducing their chances because of unreasonable limits on, for example:
the type of work they are willing to do;
the days and hours they are willing to work; and
where they are willing to work.
99. These are important considerations when discussing work goals and the
steps needed to achieve them.
100. The final stage of the interview is planning, you must:
agree how the work goal is to be achieved;
be specific; and
clarify, review and summarise to check understanding and agreement.
101. Having agreed the most appropriate work goal and discussed how this
is to be achieved, ensure the Jobseeker’s Agreement (JSAg) is meaningful
and appropriate. This involves deciding:
what needs to be done, including who to contact;
where it needs to be done;
how it should be done; and
when it should be done.
102. Ensure the customer leaves the interview with a clear understanding of
what they need to do if they are to find work in their chosen field. The way
that planning is done will depend upon the individual. The more competent
and able the customer, the more straightforward this will be.
103. With others you may need to spend more time, keep the plan simple
and short, and explain anything about which the customer is unclear.
104. The main goal and the steps to achieve it will be set out in the
customers JSAg. The number of steps will vary depending on the capacity
and needs of the customer.
105. More able customers will be able to cope with a longer list of steps, say
4 or 5. Less able customers will be better off with a shorter list. However, the
content of the JSAg, if followed, must be sufficient to meet the actively
seeking work and availability criteria.
106. Ensure the customer is clear about what will happen next. Be open
and honest and let the customer know what to expect. What you do will
depend upon the sort of interview you have undertaken and what you have
agreed with the customer.
at a New Jobseeker Interview tell the customer;
that they will be seen fortnightly to discuss how they are getting on in
their search for work;
see if any further help is needed; and
to ensure they remain entitled to JSA;
that if they remain unemployed, they will be interviewed after 13
if they have one, at the end of the permitted period, to review their
JSAg and see if it is still helpful or needs to be changed;
if referring them to a DEA:
why the referral is being made;
how they will be notified of the interview; and
what will be covered.
if you intend to take the customer on to your caseload:
tell them when you would next like to see them and why;
at other advisory interviews tell the customer:
we will maintain an interest in them through Jobsearch Reviews.
108. This section gives general advice on interviewing techniques in the
109. Gaining commitment is crucial if customers are to see their Jobseeker’s
Agreement (JSAg) as a useful aid to jobsearch. There are three key principles
to apply when trying to gain commitment: uunderstanding the customer’s view:
if the customer feels you are trying hard to understand their situation,
concerns and problems in getting back to work, they are more likely to
have confidence that the options you are suggesting will meet their
needs. Agreeing the purpose of the interview helps the customer to
understand that you are there to help and not just to check that they
satisfy the conditions for receipt of Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA).
Being a positive influence:
ensure customers feel that you are interested in and positive about
them and their situation. For example:
focus on their strengths;
praise any indications of effort or success;
use positive language, such as:
'Tell me what you are doing to find work.' rather than:
'Are you doing anything to find a job ? '
find positive aspects in what the customer says to you. For example if
they say they are too old to find another job, highlight the qualities
older workers can often offer:
good work record;
Leaving control with the customer
Consider the following:
the more control customers have over what is in their JSAg, the more
likely they are to be committed to it, and the more confident they are
likely to be about their abilities and themselves.
do not make lots of suggestions too quickly. Customers will often
readily agree, but be less committed to following through what is
do not confuse control with structure. You control the structure by
outlining the purpose of the interview and by influencing as
necessary to keep the discussion relevant. The customer should be
in control when discussing interests and work goals. Let them make
their own choices.
110. To gain customer commitment to a course of action, persuade them
effectively. There are two styles of persuasion:
A 'push' style:
is usually characterised by you:
taking too much control;
making too many suggestions too early; and
by giving too much information.
it also occurs if you are thinking only of outcomes you want, rather
than considering what the customer wants and what is appropriate
for them. Generally, this results in low levels of commitment. Even if
customers appear to go along with your ideas, they may not follow
: Generally, the 'push' style of persuasion is unhelpful. However, it may
sometimes be in the customer's best interests to 'nudge' them in a certain
A 'pull' style:
involves the use of carefully structured and specific questions to draw
out the customer's views and build upon their ideas;
this approach is much more likely to gain the customer's
commitment, while still allowing you to achieve office targets.
111. By looking at people talking together, you can spot those who have a
good rapport by their non-verbal behaviour.
112. Those with a good rapport will usually be sitting in the same way, for
sitting back; or
adjusting their posture at the same time.
113. To listen to them, you are also likely to notice they are:
speaking at the same pace; and
using the same kind of language.
114. Use 'mirroring' during interviews to help establish rapport, for example:
if the customer leans back and looks relaxed, do the same;
if they speak slowly, do likewise.
115. There will, of course, be times when 'mirroring' is unhelpful. For
example, if the customer is angry, it would be unhelpful to mirror all aspects of
their behaviour. However, by looking serious and by using small movements
of the head you can mirror the pace at which the customer is talking and, by
using active listening skills, show that you understand their feelings without
necessarily agreeing with them.
116. Adopting this approach will help you diffuse the situation and
encourage a more constructive discussion.
117. Active listening means showing that you understand what the customer
is saying. This will help you and the customer understand the situation. It will
also help ensure the discussion is customer focused.
118. Skills involved in active listening are:
119. This involves repeating back to the customer what they have just said,
but in a slightly different way. It shows that you have been listening and that
you understand what the customer has said. It also gives customers the
chance to correct any misunderstanding you have about what they have said,
‘I don’t know how I'll ever find a job. I'm too old.’
‘So you think your age is making it difficult for you to get a job?’
120. This is more than paraphrasing as it involves repeating to the customer
the idea or feeling of what they have said. To do this, look 'behind' what the
customer has said and take into account their non-verbal behaviour.
121. Doing this will help you expand the discussion and draw out the
meaning of what the customer has said, for example:
‘I don’t know how I'll ever find a job. I'm too old and just cannot see
what I can do.’
‘So you cannot see any way back into work?’
122. This encourages more information from the customer and allows you to
emphasise positive aspects. If the customer is being negative about their
situation, wait for a natural break in what they are saying and get them to look
at their situation in a fresh light, for example:
‘I can see your difficulties, but let's look at the qualities you have as
an older customer, for example, experience, good work record,
drive, flexibility, innovation and reliability. These are things that
employers look for’.
123. Check that you have understood what the customer has said by asking
probing questions, for example:
‘I don’t know how I will ever find a job. I'm too old.’
‘What makes you think you are too old to get a job?‘
124. If this does not encourage the customer to expand on their feelings,
use supplementary questions, for example:
‘Is it because you think employers feel you have little to offer?’ or
‘Do you think you are too old to consider other types of work?’
125. At other times you may be uncertain about something because the
customer has said so much. If so, admit this, for example:
‘I'm sorry, I have not quite followed what you have said. I was with
you until you mentioned your qualifications, but I'm not sure why you
feel you need further training. Would you take me through that
126. It is better to admit to being confused rather than wait and hope that
you will understand later.
127. Summarise at various stages during the interview. This will help ensure
there is a common understanding of the situation and it will help you make
appropriate suggestions. It will also clarify what has been done so far and
what the customer needs to do next, for example:
‘Let's recap on what we've discussed. You feel it's going to be hard
for you to get a job because the work you have normally done is no
longer available. Is that right?’
Course of action:
‘So you may wish to consider re-training in the future, but right now you
want to explore alternative jobs you could do now.’
Silencing and pacing
128. Choosing the right time to speak and the right time to listen is
important. Silences give customers time to think and answer - do not rush
customers if an answer does not seem forthcoming.
129. If you rush them they may agree just to keep you happy, but they will
be less likely to do what they say they will. Wait as long as possible for an
answer, but say something if the customer seems lost for words.
130. Pacing your interview is also important. Be observant. Check the effect
of your speed and change it if the customer seems to be struggling to keep
up. Try and pace your speed to match the customer's and their mood.
131. These are questions which require very simple, often one-word,
answers, for example:
‘Did you enjoy that job?’
‘Are you seeing the Disability Employment Adviser?’
‘Do you like office work?’
‘Do you prefer working outdoors?’
132. Such questions are useful when you want quick and simple
information. They help narrow a conversation when the customer is being
vague or speaking in general terms.
133. These kind of questions are useful for getting information, views and
comments from customers, for example:
‘What did you like about the job?’
‘What kinds of work do you like doing?’
‘What do you think about joining a Jobcentre Plus Support Contract
‘How do you feel your health problem/disability limits you in finding
Three levels of questions
134. Another way of thinking about questions is in terms of what kind of
information is required. This information can come at three levels:
‘How many job applications did you make last week?’
‘How do you think you did at the interview?’
‘How would you feel about joining a Jobcentre Plus Support Contract
135. Listening to and interpreting answers is as important as asking the right
questions. Clues to opinions and feelings can come from not only what the
customer says, but how they say it.
136. Creating a positive, problem solving, optimistic approach and trying to
understand the customer's view is the basis of convincing them that their
problems can be overcome, and ensuring they are committed to their
137. In addition to listening and asking questions, influencing strategies
the 'think about it' approach
giving prescriptions for action
dealing with distress
dealing with difficult customers
138. Present options by:
demonstrating how they will help the customer address their problems,
if the customer says they have a problem finding jobs, tell them how
Jobclub can help identify employers that they might apply to:
this is using the 'pull' style of influencing and it is more helpful than
selling Jobclub on 'free stamps' - sell options in relation to customer
listening to the customer and encouraging them to expand upon any
doubts. Doubts can be allayed more effectively if you clearly
presenting information in small chunks;
describing how they have helped customers in the past; and
letting customers decide for themselves.
139. This means bringing issues into the open for discussion:
do this when important issues appear to be hidden or being avoided;
do it clearly, but carefully, particularly if the issue is about actively
be calm and maintain a positive, helpful attitude;
say what your concern is;
show concern by explaining the consequences of the customer's
actions, or lack of them.
140. Pay attention to what the customer is saying, for example:
‘From the things you have said, I get the impression that you have
other concerns about finding work. I'm wondering if your health is
causing problems which may affect the work you could do.’
‘From some of the things you are saying, I get the impression that you
might not really be looking for work.’
‘I see you are looking for a wage of £300 per week. Do you think you
will be able to get that kind of wage for the work you are looking for?’
: say the above in a supportive and understanding way, rather than
accusingly. Try to maintain rapport so that the issue can be discussed calmly.
The 'think about it' approach
141. This can be very useful for encouraging customers to think things
through for themselves, for example:
‘What do you think an employer would think about the experience you
‘How many jobs like that have you seen advertised in the last month?’
Giving prescriptions for action
142. Only tell the customer what to do as a last resort. Prescriptions which
may prove useful include:
‘I want you to talk it over with your partner and come back on Thursday
to let me know your decision.’
‘You want to continue looking for work on your own, but this does not
seem to be working out. I suggest if you are not successful in the next
month you should join a Jobclub to get more help. Is that reasonable?’
143. If you feel the customer ought to take a course of action, which they
are refusing to do, you may wish to issue a Jobseeker's Direction.
Miscellaneous influencing strategies
144. There are other verbal strategies which you can use to 'chip away' at
negative thinking or indecision, for example:
‘It sounds more like you do not want
it will go wrong.’
it will go wrong’.
It is impossible.
it is impossible.’
I'd like to, but.....
‘You'd like to and.
Customer is anxious and will not
‘What is the worse thing that could
make a decision because of what
happen?’ ‘Would that be so bad?’
Customer is not receptive to change.
Explain how things could be different
Customer seems to be 'bottling'
‘What would you like to say/do?’
Customer finds fault with everything.
I'll leave you to think about it for a
145. Some customers will not be able to do things for themselves, for
example those with:
a severe lack of confidence:
very low self-esteem: or
146. If you feel this is the case, you may need to do more for that person
than would ordinarily be required. This may even mean taking action for the
customer, which they would normally be expected to take themselves. This
kind of support may be particularly appropriate to some customers with a
health problem or disability.
147. Ensure you do not take over completely. Customers must feel that
they are doing something for themselves and making some progress. For
if a customer wants to go to Jobclub, but they are too shy to go alone;
arrange for the Jobclub leader to meet the customer or get another
member to accompany them.
148. In extreme cases, you may think it appropriate to take them yourself.
In other cases it may be enough to phone the leader, explain the situation and
put the customer `on the line'.
149. Seek an appropriate balance between what you will do and what the
customer will do and encapsulate this in the Jobseeker's Agreement. Offer
the minimum support needed. Encourage the customer to do as much for
themselves as possible as this will build confidence and help them be more
Dealing with distress
150. If a customer shows signs of distress, for example:
they are angry;
appear worried; or
are close to tears, deal with their emotional state. Do this by:
acknowledging the problem;
stopping the interview if you have started it;
working to understand why the customer is angry or upset;
explaining things clearly and calmly if the reason for the customer's
distress is related to something you have said; and
give them time to compose themselves.
151. Do not continue with the interview until they are in a more composed
152. Few customers are actually unpleasant or unmanageable. There will,
however, always be some customers who are more difficult than others. This
can be for a number of reasons, for example, some customers may:
have personal problems:
be depressed; or
be sensitive or ill and less able to cope with daily events;
appear not to be seeking work and react aggressively when approached
have an appearance which is not suited to their job goal and they may
take exception to being challenged about this;
may not be prepared to take the steps necessary to achieve their work
153. When difficult situations arise, it is likely to be the customer's reaction
to the situation they are in. In the main this will relate to discussions about
unrealistic job goals or an apparent failure to satisfy the actively seeking work
or availability conditions. However, it may also be a reaction to your
behaviour or that of others in the office.
154. Report to your manager:
actual physical assaults;
any other instances where you feel threatened by a member of the
public, either inside or outside the office, and it is in connection with
your work. This includes threatening behaviour and verbal abuse.
155. Try and avoid difficult situations by:
treating all customers impartially and with respect;
showing empathy (understanding) rather than sympathy (showing
concern and sharing the problem in some way);
being sensitive to the customer's feelings;
listening carefully to what customers say to you;
explaining things carefully and in plain English;
preparing properly for your interviews;
being positive, not patronising;
ensuring what you tell customers is:
up to date;
referring to your line manager if a customer refuses to accept your
not getting involved personally in the customer's feelings or situation.
Understand it, but do not get entangled in it;
keeping calm and unruffled, but responding rather than seeming to
not being judgmental. When giving feedback do not be aggressive or
explaining things clearly and indicating why a problem exists;
calling for help if a customer becomes aggressive; and
telling your manager if you have reason to believe a customer is
156. If none of this works:
make clear to the customer the conclusion you are reaching. Use
evidence to explain and describe the consequences that could result;
encourage the customer to take responsibility for themselves;
you may need to be more directive and start making suggestions or
giving advice based on what you have heard;
ensure the customer understands the problem that they have and the
consequences of failing to resolve the issue or problem, particularly if
there is a risk of losing benefit;
tell customers what you are obliged to do if the issue or problem cannot
be resolved; and
give the customer every opportunity, at all stages of the process to
resolve the issue or problem.
Safety in the workplace
157. Business Managers are responsible for ensuring local instructions are
measures to minimise the likelihood of assault in their office(s) and in
places where their officers are outstationed; and
what action to take if an incident appears to be developing or if an
assault takes place.
158. The preparation and introduction of such instructions is a legal
requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations
1992. The instructions must contain:
a policy statement and responsibilities;
guidance on customer handling;
guidance on how to make the physical environment safe;
guidance on what to do if an incident is developing;
guidance on what to do if an incident develops;
guidance on what to do following an incident; and
details of how instructions will be updated and reviewed
share confidences with customers regarding your personal life or other
members of staff;
give the impression that you are available for lengthy casual
attempt to give advice where referral to another organisation would be
put yourself at risk by reacting aggressively or by being judgmental. If a
customer is rude or uncooperative they may just be nervous;
do not take an agitated customer into a private room unless you have a
colleague with you and have made other colleagues aware of it;
continue to deal with a customer if they make you feel uncomfortable or
upset - refer on to your line manager;
discuss customer details openly in the public area or with family or
enter into 'deals' outside work with customers, for example:
buy things off them; or
sell things to them;
accept personal gifts from customers as this could compromise your
professional rapport with them;
raise false hopes. Be realistic, do not make promises you cannot keep;
give lifts to customers;
leave loose objects around which could be used as a missile or a
interview alone a person who is known to be:
potentially violent; or
who appears to be under the influence of drink or drugs;
keep customers waiting longer than necessary;
try to arrest or detain an assailant;
retaliate by word or action.
Interviewing/advising friends and relatives
160. Unless unavoidable, never interview or advise:
customers you know personally, for example:
neighbours, if knowing them could affect the outcome of the interview
or compromise your position.
161. In such situations it may be difficult to be objective and could lead to
accusations of unfair treatment. Tell your manager about any customers you
feel you should not interview.
162. Some customers will ask for a third party to be present at their
interview, for example, if they:
need an interpreter due to language or hearing difficulties;
lack confidence and need someone there for support;
prefer to have a parent present; or
wish to have a witness there.
163. In such circumstances, explain the purpose and confidentiality of the
interview in a reassuring and helpful way. If the customer feels they cannot
cope alone, do not object to a third party being present. Refusing to agree to
a third party could provoke hostility and be counter productive.
that it is the customer who should receive and
respond to advice given, direct questions at them, not the third party. Treat
the third party with respect and courtesy, but do not let them control the
165. If a claimants command of English, or Welsh, is not good enough for
you to deal with them properly or the claimant is deaf, hard of hearing or
speech impaired and it is in the Department’s interest, you may arrange for
an an interpreter to be present. Further information about our Interpreting
policy is available in the Department’s Interpreting Services Guidance.
166. In certain circumstances it can be useful to invite the customer's
partner to the interview. By partner we mean a person who is married, a civil
partner of someone or living with someone as if they were married or civil
partners. Their presence may allow you to tackle objections to attending a
programme or taking up a job.
167. Also, many customers are concerned about the consequences of
transferring from benefits to a job or training allowance. They could be
concerned about the loss of related benefits, for example:
Council Tax Benefit; or
168. Involving the partner directly gives you the opportunity of explaining
how the transition can be made easier. It also gives the customer and their
partner a chance to discuss and fully consider the options available.
Tape recording interviews
169. Exceptionally, a customer may ask for their interview to be recorded.
Ask them politely why and ensure the customer understands that as an
alternative to tape recording the interview they can:
bring a friend to the interview;
take notes during the interview.
170. If they insist on recording the interview, ask your manager for
guidance. Ordinarily, the manager should not refuse the request. If you are
still not confident about undertaking the interview, ask another adviser or your
manager to do it.
171. If you think that the recording may be used for purposes other than the
customer's own use, seek advice from your District Manager (DM). If your DM
needs further guidance, they will seek it from regional office.
Disclosure of information
172. When asked to disclose information relating to a customer, only
disclose that information to the customer or a person who has their written
consent. There must be no variance of this, except, as in accordance with the
law, for the prevention of crime, or protection of the rights and freedoms of
173. You may disclose:
information to the other member of the couple in the joint claim only
when that information directly relates to a claim in which both customer
are or were participants; and
details about a disallowance against a customer from a previous claim,
if that disallowance now affects the joint claim.