Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
In 2014 I found myself searching for jobs for the first time in a long time. I left my current job due to the threat of redundancy because of a management restructure and the increasingly difficult environment I was in. Retail is not the place to be if a job is not going well. Unfortunately I underestimated how difficult it was to get a job in this current economic downturn. I was not one for shying away from looking for jobs. Within days I had interviews through the phone for various positions, simple questions and simple answers followed. I was usually beaten on experience to begin with though a strange reason for missing out on a job was because my previous salary was not high enough. Yet stranger experiences were to follow.
A job interview for a marketing firm would follow, on this occasion I was given an address of a building to go to (as is expected). On the day I waited for 45 minutes in this room along with a few other people who looked rather desperate for a job, whilst striking up a brief conversation with someone I asked where he was in the interview process. He mentioned that he had already done a shift for free and had another interview to do then he would find out if he had a job. I then filled in an application form with my availability, hobbies and interests. I was then taken in to another room where I would attend the (so called) ‘interview’. The young women questioning me shook my hand and said; “My name is ***** pleasure to meet you” (with all the enthusiasm of someone waiting to be shot). The three world beating questions were “Are you looking for full-time work?”, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and the very classy question of “Are you able to do an unpaid ‘trial’ day on Monday?” The whole process lasted for around five minutes just to then be told “We will contact you at 6pm to let you know if you have been successful for the trial day”. Needless to say with the very lacklustre engagement on the interviewers part and my unwillingness to work for free I left my phone turned off for that evening. This brings me on to the position of Headhunter.
Making up the numbers at interviews is certainly not of interest to the average person looking for work. We have the Headhunter to make this situation possible on occasions. The Headhunter’s job is looking to get as many suitable people through the interview process as possible, this certainly makes sense of course. However on a substantial number of occasions you may (as I did regularly) get the impression that you will be there just to make the numbers up. Employers will often complain about potential employees who have not turned up for interviews and of course it is understandable. However employers need to help themselves by being honest with people based on whether a person really stands a chance of getting a job in the interview process or if your there just to make the numbers up. From experience even if you are out of work there will come a point when you are no longer willing to turn up for job interviews unless the employee has really made your time worth it and you can gain a sense of satisfaction from how long the Headhunter speaks to you over the phone. Giving you a sense of value would be a start. Beyond this some employers need to offer better job conditions once you are working for them as my next example will demonstrate.
Working as a steward for a security company was nothing to be ashamed of in my opinion. I have a BA Honours Degree but would never believe I am too good to be a steward. When the opportunity presented itself I took it. My first and only day after the brief interview was to be a steward at a rugby game. I was sent straight on to showing people in cars where to park without any prior observation of seeing someone else do this job beforehand. Needless to say I made a mess of it, just to be told off by the security man running the set-up. I was then placed in the stands to ‘watch the crowd’ and towards the end watch a bit of rugby. I apologised to the security man in charge at the end for my mistake, he said “don’t worry about it”. He was a reasonable man and I don’t dispute his or that particular companies’ passion for security. Yet for minimum wage, five hours a week in hard to reach locations, with the added issue of this money affecting my jobseekers allowance, there was no incentive to stay on. Had there been enough hours for me to afford to end my claimant to jobseekers allowance and be given more training for the job to avoid mistakes like the car-parking incident, I would of happily become a steward as I believe no man is too good for any job. The truth was that for this particular company, the financial incentive was not worth it and considering the amount of time I spent getting to the location on public transport, the effort I would have to put in to work in that role would have seemed futile to almost anyone. Temporary positions are another area where there is difficulty in weighing up whether to take a job despite one’s difficult circumstances.
From my experience as a job seeker, most temporary jobs that are available provide no incentive to get back in to permanent work. Do not misunderstand me, I believe temporary work has its place in some instances. There are people who need temporary positions for one reason or another, there is the Christmas period where it may make sense to take a temporary job given the financial boost we all need in this holiday period. There are in fact some instances where people choose seasonal work, and of course theme parks can’t be open in winter after all. Yet the conditions that are attached to temporary positions are becoming extremely poor and in some instances untenable. To continually be told you cannot have a one day holiday on the basis that you need to give the employers full commitment is absurd.
Understandably if work is temporary you will have to have a degree of commitment and cooperation along with not planning a week’s holiday somewhere. Yet on numerous occasions I have turned down temporary work as I have had a trip planned for one day that was already booked before I was out of work. Refusing to take a temporary position on the basis of missing out on an event makes sense, after all if you are temporary you have no real employment rights and an employer could ‘let you go’ at any instance. Missing an opportunity of something you have already planned is not worth it unless there is the offer of permanent work.
The final problem currently faced with potential employment are these ludicrous Gladiators styled interviews. Of course the best person is always needed for the job, this makes perfect sense. The problem is that the assessments you are to undergo for job interviews are becoming ludicrous. There are numerous ways that the interviewer will test your suitability for a role through psychometric tests, assessment days, interviews, working a day for free, DBS checks, employment history, meeting countless requirements and skills on the job specification, the application package itself and many other methods of testing your suitability for the role. With the exception of working for free, most of these methods make sense. The problem is many employers are currently using all of these methods at once. An example of my call-centre interview process may be enlightening at this point.
A recruitment agency rang me during my countless hours of applying for jobs. The recruitment agency said there were positions available working at a call-centre in Sheffield. I travelled through to the recruitment agency for an interview. I had to fill in the usual stuff, five years of where I last lived, five years of my employment history, my qualifications and my availability. None of this was an issue for me as I understand the necessity for DBS checks and so forth. I then had an interview with the usual discussions on my experience and why the role interests me. The interview did go well as I was told so by the interviewer. I was then told my details will be passed on to the call-centre company where I would then undergo an assessment day. The assessment day would involve selling a product in front of everyone else who was present, then a practice of a pitched cold call to a pretend customer would follow. If I passed those exercises I would then get an interview. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your perspective) I did not even get to the assessment day. In an email two days later I was told that my current skill-set did not match the company’s current phone campaign. It strikes me as a very poor state of affairs when the job market has come to this.
Thanks to my degree, an internship for a public service training provider presented itself for me. There were two people on a panel sat far apart interrogating me about local councils. I knew nothing of this subject, my college education in public services dealt with the emergency services not councils. Surprisingly enough, I did not get on this internship, furthermore I was later informed that my eye-contact was bad throughout the process. I am not adverse to constructive criticism yet when two people on a panel sit so far away from one another it is hard to maintain eye-contact with just one person. I was told “We don’t have that here, so the other job available in the admin department is not for you”. There was another job available if I did not get the internship and that was it, in the administration department. To this day I do not care that I did not get that internship or that job, the eye-contact was a ludicrous expectation when two people were simultaneously firing questions at me sat far apart from one another. If that was the test then I don’t care that I did not pass if that particular company cannot forgive briefly disrupted eye-contact.
I had other poor experiences where I turned in for an interview for a call centre job in Leeds. I had to fill in questions about my hobbies and interests and my highest qualification to date. The interview questions involved were ‘Do you want full time work?’ and my hobbies and interests (my eyes were already rolling at this point). I did not get the job as I believe I was there to fill in a required number of interview candidates, I believed this because I saw two of the other candidates shouting over to their friends on the phone. For those two individuals the interview was a formality, it wasn’t about what you knew, it was about who you knew. Once again do not misunderstand me, I believe there should be none of The Apprentice themed interviews taking place unless it is absolutely necessary. Yet at the same time I equally do not have time for unprofessional care-free attitudes exhibited by the aforementioned call-centre and the marketing firms that show very little enthusiasm toward the candidate. To expect professionalism and your integrity to be respected is not much to ask when going through the gauntlet of the job application process in Twenty First Century Britain. A little less of the absurd expectations and ludicrous requirements, as after-all, the amount of interviews and applications job seekers have to go through these days is an absurd task in-itself.
Another company had asked me about coming to York for a potential 6-month contract with a call centre, I initially agreed but I decided not to turn up for the interview. I am not travelling miles to make up the numbers on a temporary contract with a remote chance of getting kept on. The Headhunter on the phone did not seem very interested in what I could offer and I sensed that there was a ‘just making the numbers’ conspiracy going on. Through trial and error I can filter the different interests shown in Headhunters and the difference between enthusiasm and lacklustre responses is all too obvious.
There have to date been many positive experiences while searching for jobs even when I did not receive a job. The Third Sector made me feel like I really had a chance of getting a job, they gave really good feedback on occasions. My general feedback is that I am missing experience (before you believe I am useless in job interviews given how many I’ve mentioned). An interview for an assistant manager for a wine company presented itself, it was 7:30pm and an odd time for an interview. Yet the two interviewers made me feel I stood a chance with the job and I did not feel I was there to make the numbers up. The difference between some interviews is that you can understand when your time has been worth it and you can grow as a person. Filling in ‘Mickey-Mouse’ style application forms and travelling miles to job interviews does feel like you have been used when you don’t get the job. There is no issue with having a good or bad interview. Simply put, some employers have ridiculous requirements and that will never be appealing to the wise-minded individual who is knowledgeable about such tricks.
Employers have been able to exploit the saturated market since the 2008 economic crash. No person should just ‘walk into a job’. Rigorous tests should be imposed on certain jobs, an Air-traffic controller for instance should face rigorous tests given the seriousness of the job involved, a graduate should have to show that they are worth more than just the University degree they have. Yet running a gauntlet for a call-centre job is absurd, a ludicrous gladiator-style process for the most basic of jobs is testament to employers taking advantage of the saturated job market. There is no elitism here, simply common sense tells you that there are certain jobs that will be simple enough to do providing appropriate job training is given. An interview should be essential in getting any job and probation periods should be used but not exploited. We were all born in to this world and deserve to have integrity in our workplaces, be reasonably paid enough to afford to feed ourselves and our families and to be able to afford to have a decent place to live. We should not have to ride a long wave of uncertainty and disdain when we are willing to work and be prepared to be placed on probation periods. Prior to 2008 you never did ‘walk in to a job’ but you rarely ‘ran such a gauntlet for a simple job’. The time for change has come. Employers should remember that not everybody is desperate enough to run your gauntlet, and many won’t, as human beings require and deserve respect and integrity. These values shouldn’t be cast aside by employers. We need some civility brought back to the job seeking process.
Oliver Wilson, 2015