Friday, 13 March 2009

Job Applications and how to fail them - A tale of an uneven playing field.

Still shaking the sand out of my soul from Dubai – curious how such a few days can be so very affecting – life back in the UK has regained some equilibrium as the past twelve months of bleak hopelessness gives way to increasing invitations to chair events at literary festivals, speak at gatherings and write.

You will by now know that my application to be the Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival was politely declined and that the successful applicant was none other than James Runcie, a delightful man and fine writer who will doubtless work his magic for Bath. I first met him when I interviewed him on Oneword Radio for his non-fiction work The Colour of Heaven that I recently re-read and loved all over again. Its telling of the discovery of lapis lazuli in the hills of Afghanistan and the effect that it had as a pigment in Renaissance paintings, giving rise to greater use of perspective, is a triumph of research and great story-telling. Very good luck James and here’s to a fine future for you and for Bath.

The other post I applied for having lost out on Bath will remain nameless in order that I can say the following.

The email of rejection was as cursorily insensitive as it was troublingly wrong.

I was told that my application was declined as during the interview “…the team felt that you didn't quite understand the idea and principals (sic) as outlined in the supporting material.”

A fine reason for being told ‘no’, or at least it would be had I actually been sent the ‘supporting material.”

So I asked them, “what supporting material?”

Their crab-appley response was, “The Business Plan was only sent to those applicants that came back having received the initial pack, to ask further questions by way of research. It was not sent to every applicant we saw at interview.”

Oh that’s fine then. That despite asking for all the relevant information to be sent to me, it seems that some applicants were given more information than others. Does that seem fair to you? You can guess how I feel, I'm sure. Exactly. Like a one-legged footballer in a boxing ring. Bruised and handicapped.

Then to be told, “Your application had strong drama training and education emphasis (sic) which are not relevant to the post.” would equally have been fine and perfectly acceptable had my application actually had such an emphasis. It didn’t. I told them.

“Did they mean these comments for another applicant?” I asked them, by now less incredulous than I would normally have been.

They responded, “The remark about education and drama training was made in error and I sincerely apologise for that.”

I make no apology for being cross, no scratch that, really, very cross about this. Putting oneself up for posts requires thought, research, carefully worded letters of application and CV’s and isn’t done to pass the time of day, but is done in full seriousness, with contemplation and analysis aplenty. Presenting oneself for interview is a time-consuming, stressful affair – and that’s just if you’re doing it right – to be made to feel that you’re just making up numbers is appalling. To have one’s application declined is of course galling and hard, one only applies for posts that one wants to take on, feels that one can make a difference with. To be declined in such an appallingly amateur fashion is disrespectful at least and bloody rude at best. I tell you, if they were spending Government money on this travesty, I'd be... oh hold on.

I hope that you don't read this as the immoderate, sour-grape, rantings of the recently rejected. Whilst I'd be more than happy to oblige, that's not what I intend here. I've had enough rejection during my lifetime for it not to be an issue, sometimes the face fits, sometimes it doesn't. It's the risk one accepts when applying for anything. What I do expect though, is that those who have the onerous task of declining the advances of hopefuls, do so with grace and humanity and if they can't manage that, simple accuracy would be a good start. What they should avoid is po-faced patronisation and misattribution. It isn't too much to ask, is it? The fine burghers of Bath were courteous, professional and charming. The call telling me that they would not be taking me on left me feeling sorry for the fine fellow whose role it was to be the bearer of bad tidings. Talk about extremes of approach. Grrrrr.

Right, that’s my soul purged of sand and sourness so let us away to happier ground. Now where was it? Drat, I know I left it lying around here somewhere.




Anonymous said...

Here here. thought we had moved on from the era of incompetents hiding behind Dilbert Corporate speak that means nothing. Evidently not. Perhaps you should inform them that, although they presume to be a literary organisation, the word "sorry" is not yet obselete.

Anonymous said...

I know where you're coming from, having been looking for work almost as long as you have been. You get to the stage that you feel you'd accept almost anything, just to get back to work. However, in respect of the second crew, the flip side of the coin is that with such a lack of attention to detail, would you really want to work for them? They'd probably age you by a decade over the course of six months and rack up your BP!

About two months ago it was reported that a redundant solicitor had finally had a job offer after about six months and - if I remember correctly - 872 applications. But when you looked at a sample you could see that not all were relevant to his experience and therefore a complete waste of time.

The market is awash with candidates and where there is work, the employers can be very picky on criteria. Thus it's best to apply for as much as possible, but to keep it focused. And where there is focus, let it show. Sounds like you are doing this, but just happened to come across a band with steamed up glasses over their eyes and a lack of electrical activity in the brain region.

But you are getting some work and more work, which is a good sign. Good luck with your future applications and networking opportunities!

By the way, I'm glad you stopped on the spending government money issue, as we all know what spending tax-payers money is about these days. The dark abyss.

LF Barfe said...

It's galling to be rejected by people who are clearly incompetent. I wouldn't trust the person who wrote that email to run a whelk stall. How do these fuckers get their jobs?

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't have enjoyed working for them anyway, I'll bet! Not if they really are that stupid.