In your search for work do not underestimate the time you will have to spend on tailoring your CV, writing personal statements and drafting covering letters. My first foray into the frenzied hunt that is the search for work came with an application for a job in a national charity dealing with heritage and the built environment.
It had a fantastic recruitment site stuffed full of detail about their new strategy even including a vodcast from the line manager for the post being filled. Whizzy and go ahead I thought. Brilliant. Where do I apply? At this point things got a bit sticky. Candidates were asked to submit a CV. Fine, no problem. And a covering letter. A piece of cake. And answer some simple questions. Ah.
This is where the application process entered a phase not dissimilar to that of the MIB candidate played by Will Smith in the first – and superior – MIB film. By acting counter-intuitively he passed the test. This seemed to be where I was heading.
Question 1 said ‘This role deals with operational delivery and external influence’. It then asked, ‘Do you have experience of both these elements in your current or previous roles?’ I agonised for hours. Was this a trick question? Surely they didn’t expect anyone to say just ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Or maybe they did. Maybe this was a high-level test of nerve and initiative that only the boldly monosyllabic would pass.
What to do? What to do? I asked myself. I asked advice – always a good idea particularly if you have a tame HR buddy to probe – and we all agreed that more than a single word was needed. So I waxed lyrically about my achievements in both areas.
Then came question 2. It said, ‘Can you give indications of the sort of targets you would typically have and the level of achievements against them?’ Oh no. Another trick. Did they just want me to say, ‘Yes I can’ and wait to hear more at the interview. Time for another HR consultation during which I shared the questions. The consensus again was that they were really asking, ‘ Please give indications of the … ‘ etc. So off I scribed again.
I carefully crafted responses to all the questions but my confidence in the recruitment process was badly dented. If would-be employers invest lots of effort in trying to recruit good people why be so imprecise in getting information from them on their competencies and achievements?
But maybe I’m bitter.
After days of work and then weeks of waiting for a response I had a nice email from the HR department saying how much they had enjoyed reading my application – they wouldn’t provide any other feedback – but sadly due to the strong field they were able to shortlist a host of stronger candidates with more relevant experience. I later learned that they had had over 1200 applications for the 4 vacancies. So I don’t feel so bad.
But I have taken some lessons away from this. I think next time I encounter some ill-considered, badly thought-out and poorly worded recruitment gibberish I will simply ring the HR department and check direct what they mean. Afterall I might get brownie points for initiative.