Granted it’s probably a significantly better position to be in than being the interviewee but I really don’t like doing these at all. I get really nervous about the whole thing. Of course I and the fellow panellists plan the questions in advance to ensure that all of the interviewees are treated equitably. But I invariably end up going off on conversational tangents and chucking stuff in that I really shouldn’t. It’s down to nerves I guess.
For example during an interview last year we were discussing the progress in installing a new purchasing system. We had the software and now it was a case of populating the on-line catalogue with all of the items requisitioners might like to buy.
I was asked how far into the process we were and what the problems had been. A valid and eminently reasonable question. Being the puffed up show pony I can occasionally be I responded that’ it wasn’t the beginning of the end but was perhaps the end of the beginning’. I guess it was my rather tremulous way of saying it had been a bit of a battle to get this far but everyone gave me rather odd looks.
This paled next to the time when someone asked what projects I had undertaken in the last couple of years. The applicant probably wanted to gain an understanding of what sort of contracting work could be undertaken. I said I had bought a couple of big pathology analysers and most recently had completed contracts for the purchase of an MRI scanner. They were rather impressed and in a rather creepy way intimated that I must be good (yeah right!) and that they would, if successful in their application, look forward to learning more from me. My brain went into a blind panic as my mouth blurted out the Ozymandian ‘Look on my works ye mighty and despair’. Which was naturally an attempt at self deprecation but of course lit up a huge neon sign over my head saying ‘prat’.
Mind you the interviewees can also trot out utter nonsense too. For example on one of the current batch of application forms we were earnestly told that it was, in so many words, this persons ‘dream to work in logistics and supply for the NHS’. If that was anywhere near the truth then I’m sure the application could immediately be rejected on the grounds of uncertain character.
But of course it’s all part of the merry dance. I long for the day when someone says that they want the job because either they want more money, don’t have a job and need one or they just hate their current position. Sometimes there are genuine opportunities but nearly everyone I know and or more importantly ever employed have subsequently admitted that these were the real motivating factors. And we all know it at the time.
The one thing that has annoyed me this time beyond measure is the restriction on the information about potential applicants that we are allowed to see. I’m not sure whether it’s the result of legislation or just new NHS policy but I am no longer allowed to see many of the personal details of the applicants before selection for interview. I have to read a CV / application form without details of name, age, gender etc to ensure that I only select interview candidates on their own merit and experience.
The aim is obvious and laudable. Making the process race or gender (or whatever) blind and to assist in getting the most capable applicant into the vacant position.
Heaven forefend that we would want, of our own volition, to employ the best people that the limited wages will attract within our teams. If not for the efficiency of the services we lead then selfishly as the quality of our own staff has a direct impact on our own managerial employment prospects.
Interestingly though we are allowed to see educational and employment histories within the CV’s submitted and it’s surprising how much of the ‘forbidden’ information you can glean from these.
So really if I we so minded to exclude someone for any of the reasons that I shouldn’t, there really is enough information available to be able to do this without having to see the full application paperwork.
And that’s where the annoyance creeps in. It sets a moral position and tries to enforce it with a system that has gaps that you could sail the QE2 through. But it also implies that we can’t be trusted not to be racist, ageist or misogynistic. To me it portrays a view that everyone is potentially inclined to prejudice and so presents a rather dismal view of humanity.
And this is particularly sad as it is a view of people who joined a service key to the welfare of others. Even if they ended up there because either they wanted more money, didn’t have a job and needed one or they just hated their then current positions.