Monday, 7 November 2011

Thing 21 : job applications and interviews

Just thinking about this one makes me feel miserable. So much hangs on successfully finding a suitable niche for yourself, and yet at times it can seem an almost impossible task. Fortunately it's a long time since I have had to go through this horror, and I am very much hoping it won't ever be necessary again, but you never know, especially given the current economic climate. I do not have a current CV, and I think I would need to start from scratch again if I had to do one now. I did at one time have the art of the written application so finely honed that I got a high proportion of interviews. Sadly if you are no good at interviews you don't get any better at it as time goes by - if anything I have found that you get worse ("that answer must have been the wrong one, I must find another one").

The interview process can have its lighter moments. *whispers* some people are not very good at conducting interviews - some consolation perhaps!  Most memorable disasters included the library which had summoned all the candidates for a day which was to have included a tour and sessions with current staff. The library had flooded in the night and everyone had been sent home, so we spent the whole day shivering in a different part of the campus which was deserted as it was out of term time, and never saw the library or met the staff (but had to hang about all day just the same!) At another interview candidates were given lunch, plate in one hand and glass in another, and then invited to traipse up some narrow stairs, through numerous doors and across a courtyard. Maybe that one was a test of social skills! Most annoying was the university library whose interview process required two days, with a shortlist of five being whittled down to two before lunchtime on the second day. Only as we three who did not reach the final cut set off to the station (without any lunch) did the box-ticking nature of this exercise become apparent. Out of five candidates, there were three white people and two from ethnic minorities, three men and two women; so, two white men, one white woman (me), one man and one woman each from other ethnic groups, thus exactly complying with an HR target of a 3:2 m/f and white/non-white ratio. No prizes for guessing which the final two were. This simply made me feel that I had been wasting my time: I don't want to be a token female (and I did really want the job!) On another occasion I tentatively asked a County Librarian of a public library service whether there were any plans to automate, and got the answer "over my dead body!" (This was in the 1990s, so it was not an unreasonable question!)

I could go on, but I won't: dwelling on this sort of thing embitters the soul and gets you nowhere. It's an employer's market at the moment (for those who are able to recruit at all), so things are not easy for those who are looking. Best of luck to everyone at the start of their careers, and even more luck to the older ones, because whatever equal opportunity policies are in place it does not become easier when you are older. I am going to take on board all the good advice in the cpd blogpost, and I may update my CV, but I am not going to spend too much more time thinking about this topic unless or until it is forced on me, as I think I've done my share.

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