Sunday, 20 July 2008

Who would be a leader?

I’m must admit I’m not really looking forward to going to work tomorrow as I will have to take part in my least favourite activity possible. Namely sitting as a member on an interview panel.

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.

15 comments:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, wouòdn't it be great if we could all be honest in interviews? I can see that the current restrictions on the information you are allowed to have must drive you barmy!

Liz said...

It is quite a depressing view of the world: to assume the worst of everyone.

Nunyaa said...

The problem is everyone seems to be tarred with the same brush, unfair on those who are honest.

Letters From A Tory said...

At least as an interviewee you're unlikely to fall asleep through boredom.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

You ought to do handwriting analysis and psychometric tests. Weeds out the "professional interviewer"

Ginro said...

I can see where you are coming from, but by the same token unfortunately there are people more than happy to base a decision on prejudice and so on. For example, I was rejected from a job several years ago, it appears on nothing more than my age. I was over 40.

Yet I was the only applicant that had both qualifications and experience to do the job. Instead the woman handling the department gave the job to someone barely out of their teens, no qualifications, or anything, yet the same money offered me. It can get quite dispiriting.

jmb said...

I was hired in the last position of my career at age 45 and stayed for 18 years. Several years later, I heard my boss describe a candidate for a job in the department as too old at 43. I queried him and he said but I was "different". Maybe this person would be too. But they were not hired. I was always treated well there and appreciatively until I retired. I don't know if they thought I was truly different but I am sure it is not fun to be looking for a job in the latter years of one's career.

Womble On Tour said...

I'm sure you're doing yourself down as an interviewer ? You're like me; you beat yourself up about stuff...and keep beating, and keep beating. Better to see mistakes (if that's what they are) as something to learn from; call yourself a "silly sod", work out how you might avoid the same thing in future, then move on.
Know what you mean about the "forbidden info" on CVs etc. I always ask about intersts / hobbies when I'm interviewing ("Who's you team ?" was a standard question), but I'm not sure that I'm supposed to. In a recent round when I was the interviewee no one asked me. That said, I'm sure there's no law against discriminating against someone on the grounds that they support Spurs...

Julie said...

I laughed out loud at the account you gave of yourself as a reluctant interviewer - I do love it when someone besides me comes over all excrutiatingly embarrassed by themselves. :-)

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

Seems to me we're just mnaking a rod for our own backs these days.

Wolfie said...

With comments and responses like that people must leave your interviews thinking you are a right nutter. You must be fun to work with.

I'm doing a lot of interviewing at the moment, I have a reputation here as a well composed and iron interviewer who can relate to your observations. I can also spot a weak or fabricated CV at twenty paces but find it quite amusing how candidates unfailingly adhere to the most trivial of stereotypes and prejudices that could be conceived. Life, they say is full of disappointments and interviewing is no exception.

Quoting Churchill is however a little over the top for anyone, it’s a job - not warfare.

jams o donnell said...

Ach I hate interviewing and being interviewed!

mutleythedog said...

I thonk you or some like you interviewed me for one of the 11 interviews I did to get this job. I was unemployed for 4 months and I am 44 .....

Crushed said...

Its tricky, because it isn't ALWAYs clear cut.

OK. Take the company I work for.

It has to appear not to discriminate- but certain factors will stand against you in practise.
Because fact is, we actually have to account for the fact that the people we sell to- mainly people who have moved up from the shop floor and are often- sadly- homphobic, sexist, racist bigots means that sadly, there is a tacit policy of employing only white males who would fit in within a football crowd.

And I can see the logic behind that. We have to tacitly adopt such an approach because we have to fit in to with the customers.

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