Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Discuss any aspect of applying for posts or courses (apart from the clinical psychology doctorate which has its own forum section), CVs, application forms, etc
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Spatch
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Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Spatch » Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:08 pm

For reasons that are too complicated to go into here it transpired that I would be involved in shortlisting for the new assistant at my place of work. I haven't been too involved before in the whole shortlist process, but remembering my own days at unsuccesful job hunting, and being exposed to the angst here, I vow to do it differently. "Hey" I thought, "I won't be one of those unrealistic, cold hearted shortlisters that just want to keep the status quo. I will look at each application on its own merits, look beyond the surface and try to bring out the best in every application I read. So what if someone got a 2:2? Or isn't fortunate enough to have done any prior assistants posts? God damn it they are not just application numbers each one of these are real people who have hopes and dreams!"

What a naive, uncomprehending boob I was.

I was lucky enough to have the days diary fairly clear to devote to this. This is my story.

8:30am- My boss has sent me an email about the various links and HR guidelines to follow. I was also told that the online application window had been open for less than 24 hours, so all I need to do is click the link and I can get going. Piece of cake.

9.01- Shit. There are over 100 applications here. My browser struggles to load the application numbers.

9.05- I need a cup of coffee for this.

9.10- Manage to get the first application loaded up. Oh, wait there are all these funny boxes on the wonderfully unhelpful NHS website. Even more helpfully the employment history and personal statement are separated! So I have to flick back and forth between various pages. My office mates see the constantly flicking between screens and I suspect they think I am porn surfing.

9.30- I have to write my review online. Thats not too bad, they separate out the review boxes. I write full sentences, trying to take into account academics, research skills, employment experiences and the personal flavour of the candidate.

10:00- I feel I have given justice to the first applicant. I just as quickly realise I have spent 30 mins reviewing one applicant. At this rate I calculate I will have to spend almost double the 37.5 hours a week I am paid to work.

10.01- Oh there is this complicated scoring criteria matrix, that isnt fully explained, but requires me to open up the original Job description and somehow marry up written text into a handy reductionistic number for HR purposes. How joyful. A second coffee I think.

11.00 - I have gone through three more applications. I start to hate poor spelling and punctuation with a vengeance. Things I also start to take personally are lack of paragraphs and the prevailing desire to cram ones life history into the space provided. I now understand why clinical training courses strictly limit to one side of A4. I feel I have had to speed read the Bible. Several times over.

11.30- Fatigue has started to set in. I find myself writing feedback into the little dialogue boxes without using pronouns or indefinite articles. My reviews start to sound as if they are written by Rorsarch out of the Watchmen. My heroic attempt to champion the cause of the non-traditional applicant and those with 2:2s and belows is immediately subverted as I am obligated to put in "0" into the scoring matrix for Essential critiera -which I am guessing puts people out of the race immediately. So much for my autonomy.

12:30 - My colleagues ask me out for lunch. I ask them to bring me back a Tuna and mayo baguette and some Cheese and onion crisps. And more coffee. I am dining with application number f1sef1ae351ces5af.

12:45- Email boss how many are we shortlisting? Two or three comes the reply.

Oh.

1pm - This must be what its like to be a very attractive girl who is internet dating. Trying to find out about true personalities on the basis of hundreds of written statement. I can imagine the applicants say "but how come I didn't get the job? Why?" Instead of "Its not you its me", its more a case of "Its not you, its the dozens of other applicants and the rigidly binding NHS HR scoring criteria, and my need to go to the toilet".

2.20pm - 10 minute break. Call ever suffering girlfriend to tell her I may be a bit late out of work.

3pm- Its not so bad now. I am hitting my stride, getting through the masses of text and speed reading employment histories. Some of these applications are really well written and make me feel woefully lazy about what I have achieved in my own life. Note to self must learn two additional languages and master Tae-Kwon-do. Also must win Nobel prize before age of 35.

3:45pm. Call off the search. Surely this candidate is the ONE! Almost perfectly written form, sense of personality, targetted appropriately and reflectinve and thoughtful. I love you. Perhaps we can move away together and live in a small village and eat all butter croissants for breakfast with Nutella every morning. Get a grip Spatch.

4pm. Some of these applications are really badly written. Many are generic and have no real evidence that they are interested in working for our service at all. In fact I feel a bit put out that I have spent more time reviewing their application than the 3 second cut and paste it took them to post out a generic CV. To come back to the internet dating metaphor they are like someone writing "I would like to meet a woman with big breasts and who is interested in having sex".

4.05pm More coffee. I start to actually shake. The team OT informs me that she is going to call the on cover medic in the event of collapse. I don't care.

4:50pm. Hmm. A foreign applicant from a CP. Do they have GBR? Or what? Write to boss. Send. Suddenly aware that boss is not going to be responding because its 10 minutes before the weekend and has more sense than to be answering emails at this time. Also realise that by me doing what I am doing reflects a certain lack of intelligence and naivety on my behalf and explains the power dynamic of why they are the boss.

5:30pm. Office is empty. Sunlight outside. I really don't want to do this anymore. I want to go out and play. Please mummy, can I go out with all the other boys and girls. School is over.

6:14pm. Dear applicant number 1,000,000,123213 I dont understand what you have written. I genuinely have tried hard. It looks like English but doesn't make sense. You probably are fantastic, and may even be the sort of under-represented, non-traditional applicant that we need to have in this profession. I can't know that.

7:20pm. You haven't graduated yet. You may be the reincarnation of Sigmund Freud. Still. Your name is not down. You are not coming in.

8:27 pm. I have made a tiny dent in the number of applications to go through. I also realise my browser has a "next page button" and on clicking it it sends me to another, previously unseen page of even more applications.

8:45pm. I have been doing this for over 12 hours. I am leaving as I have a pounding headache and the horrible, sinking realisation I may have to come in over the weekend.

9:30pm - argument with girlfriend about evening plans being ruined. Lack of boundaries, and accusations of "you should have just deleted them in the first 20 seconds".

2am- Insomnia. Mind occupied with several lifetimes of voluntary experiences and elaborate dissertation titles. Decide to write cathartic, therapeutic account of day to post following morning.

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Spatch
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Post by Spatch » Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:10 pm

Note to mods. Perhaps sticky? Maybe helpful for applicants and trainees qualified or anyone that could be future shortlisters?

To be continued.

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Post by katyboo » Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:24 pm

:lol:

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Post by Elsie » Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:29 pm

Spatch wrote:Note to mods. Perhaps sticky? Maybe helpful for applicants and trainees qualified or anyone that could be future shortlisters?
You have been stickified :lol:

Loving your work Spatch - I imagine I will be linking to this post many times in the future! Looking forward to the next chapter...
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel
-~-Maya Angelou-~-

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Post by choirgirl » Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:41 pm

Love it, Spatch :lol: :lol: :thumright:

Your cold flannel and dark room to lie down in are on stand-by....
Last edited by choirgirl on Sat Jul 04, 2009 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Red Auerbach

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Post by miriam » Sat Jul 04, 2009 12:45 pm

I'm tempted to send you the livechat log from when I was shortlisting and you berated me for my heartless/rapid/traditional system of who got through each sweep! But perhaps you can read my wiki on shortlisting applicants for AP posts, and have sympathy in retrospect ;)
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com

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Post by mungle » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:57 pm

Wow, that's a really funny take on the application process. Feels a bit better being on the other side now! (or maybe we should all be panicking about not having a nobel prize :lol: )

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Post by Spatch » Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:31 pm

I'm tempted to send you the livechat log from when I was shortlisting and you berated me for my heartless/rapid/traditional system of who got through each sweep!
You could, but isn't there something in the BPS code of conduct preventing you from saying "I told you so"?

If not there should be.

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Post by Spatch » Tue Jul 07, 2009 9:24 pm

Day 2.

1pm - In order to appease the Taxpayer's Alliance and to stop them writing letters to the Daily Telegraph saying "Dear Sir! Its disgraceful that front line staff are reading through supporting statements instead of treating patients", I make sure I actually see my clients in the morning to free up some time for more shortlisting. I try to find all of the various job spec, scoring sheets and various paraphenalia that I had thrown around the room on Friday and collecting them is a bit like an easter egg hunt.

1.20pm- My boss walks into my office, while I have my first applicant of the day on screen. She takes one look at my calculations and detailed job review, feedback and stares at me with incredulity. "Look" she says firmly "you are doing this all wrong. First of all scan through them to see if any are assistants already and that have the specialist experience. Ditch the rest. Then start". My mind thinks about all of those noble thoughts about championing the non-traditional and trying to help the fresh grads onto the ladder.

It then brings back my bosses look of incredulity, and reminds me not to be such a chump unless I wish to end my career on Band 7.

2pm - Really flying now. Actually its not too bad. There are a hell of a lot of 2:1s out there and I have "This candidate has an upper second class degree in BSc in Psychology and therefore satisfies the essential critieria for the job specification" as a Control + V command as it goes into almost everyones review box. In fact its only if you have a first or postgraduate qualification that my attention is caught, because I can't use the cut and paste command.

3pm - The lengthy list is starting to crumble. Then a run of candidates brings things to an unintentional standstill. Within the space of 5 applicants I get a series of adjectives including the candidates are "astounding", "amazing", "exceptional" and "without comparison". One says that that they consider themselves as the perfect candidate and look forward to joining my team in the near future. (Only presumably neglecting to inquire where their future office is going to be in their app).

Hang on a sec, aren't I supposed to be making that decision here? Maybe its like a Jedi mind trick and without knowing it I will pass it onto the "accept" list.

3:30pm- Several people have also helpfully included that they have no experience, knowledge, or affinity for the service. To me this is like Coca Cola producing an advert saying "Its full of sugar and rots your teeth. Still please buy it". Does anyone think stating this helps? Perhaps I can at least rephrase as positive feedback under "Honesty and integrity".

4.14 pm- Starting to notice a pattern. Many people who have assessment or neuro experience feel the need to write all of the tests down, as if this is somehow impressive in itself. Its not. It just takes up space and I just scroll through the list. In fact its hard to imagine anyone else in my position not doing the same.

5pm - Within 20 seconds I know this one is definitely a keeper! Many of the people on my shortlist are from Oxbridge/ Redbrick universities. Its something that has crept in, and its not out of bias but it is because they have written better, more suited and readable supporting statements. Or are assistants anyway and know the drill. A ghostly whisper from my social psychology lecturer talks about self perpetuating social elites and the hegemony of individuals with social capital. Like something out of a Dickens novel, to those that have, more is given.

6pm. - I have read your charming story about your adversity but I really can't do anything with your experience at a notable fashion/ fast food/ retail franchise and realise I am disregarding years of work, ambitions and hopes at the click of a mouse. The NHS scoring matrix says no.

I am sorry. If its any consolation, I have a brief meloncholic image of a much loved ex-girlfriend who was a social critic/ activist whose favourite phrase was "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem". I feel I am rapidly ascending the elevator to the "Part of the problem" floor.

I am done for today at 6:30pm. I feel like I have grown up in some way, but lost an innocence too. Like a 14 year old boy after his first day working in an abatoir. Still more to go...

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Post by parsnip » Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:23 am

There are a hell of a lot of 2:1s out there
This has had me thinking quite a bit recently...I've just graduated with a 2.1 with an average of 69% and its really annoying that when it comes to jobs I will be grouped with people who just scraped a 2.1 with 60. With so many people achieving 2.1's it seems as though there needs to be some sort of differentiation within the classification boundary as the difference between 60 and 69 is quite significant over 3 years of work.

Or is this just me being bitter and twisted?! :twisted:

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Post by Dr.Dot » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:21 pm

parsnip wrote:
There are a hell of a lot of 2:1s out there
This has had me thinking quite a bit recently...I've just graduated with a 2.1 with an average of 69% and its really annoying that when it comes to jobs I will be grouped with people who just scraped a 2.1 with 60. With so many people achieving 2.1's it seems as though there needs to be some sort of differentiation within the classification boundary as the difference between 60 and 69 is quite significant over 3 years of work.

Or is this just me being bitter and twisted?! :twisted:
There is nothing stopping you telling them that you got a High 2:1, and giving the percentage.

Spatch: when you are head of service you can return to your ideals, perhaps?
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?

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Post by escapee » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:34 pm

Dorothy wrote: Spatch: when you are head of service you can return to your ideals, perhaps?
Lol! He can get the newly qualifieds to do it to his specs! :)

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Post by KAR » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:17 pm

I got a first for my undergraduate and am about to finish my masters in August (fingers crossed I get the distinction I've worked for). However, this does not seem to stand out to anyone as I have not yet got a job. I've been applying for years while also trying to gain some relevant work experience. I have done voluntary work with young offenders.

My current job, in a pub, is the same one I had when I first started at university. This is far from what I would like to do and there is absolutely no way I would stay there. I do, however, use the experiences I have gained whilst working in a pub in my applications. For example, I use the communication skills that I have learned and developed (I used to be incredibly shy) and that I can work with people at all levels (new starters, managers, company owners etc).

Perhaps my problem is a lack of experience. Friends of mine who got a 2:1 are all in better positions than I am now and not all of them had work experience either. I guess my point is don't give up.

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Post by jane doe » Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:08 am

KAR - I've PMed you

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Post by Spatch » Thu Jul 16, 2009 5:28 pm

Day 3

11am: My hard work has not gone unnoticed and someone has been reading my reviews and paying attention("Very entertaining"-The Sun, "Splendid work"-The Times). So I get a shortlist of a dozen people who are selected by my boss and forwarded to me. I am told to get them down to about 6 who will be invited to an interview sometime in the next couple of months. After what I have had to do on Day 1 and 2 its a piece of cake.

12pm- Its not a piece of cake at all. If it was I would have read them, picked the six best and away we go. But its trying to judge one piece of very good experience against another different but equally good.

What strikes me is that almost everyone shortlisted has been an assistant before, or has accrued enough experience to be one in all but name. Really I get the impression that this post is going to be a finishing school before someone gets onto training. None of my plucky placement-year-and-a-nice-form hopefuls are shortlisted to my sorrow.

It also strikes me that most of these guys have more experience than I do.This isn't going to be a formative "My captain, my captain" Dead Poets Society experience for any of these guys (or girls as they all are). Its going to be yet another hoop for most of em.

1-3pm It kicks off on the ward. Normal service is resumed shortly.

4pm - I get my final half dozen. Honestly I could have picked them out of a hat at this stage, there really is nothing in it. I fill in the form for HR and the nice lady asks who is going to be on the panel and I tell her. I contemplate getting a service user involved, devising a battery of psychometric assesments, requesting degree transcripts and demanding a full medical examination.

But no. That way lies madness.

5pm- I and my boss sit together and try to think of interesting and original questions to ask that a) genuinely elicit evidence of the characteristics we want, b) cannot be seen as discriminatory by HR b) already available here or elsewhere and can thus be rehearsed, coached and subverted.

We come up with some. All the interviews are held on the same day so there is unlikely to be any passing on of info.

Right. Now that bits over, pat myself on the back. Onwards to the interview day!

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