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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Geishawife
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Geishawife » Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:33 pm

This thread is bringing back so many nightmare memories of short-listing!! It's almost as if some applicants feel they are owed a job (or at least an interview) and put little or no effort into their application. Lack of interest in the client group (especially prevelant in Older Adult work, I found), atrocious spelling and grammar, badly written supporting statements, the list goes on. Then there were the applicants who had swallowed the manual on buzz words and phrases - I was tempted to track down and hit the next applicant that told me they saw difficulties as a challenge - and those who had clearly cut and pasted without proof reading the end result such as the applicant who told us they were perfect for a job in Scotland because they lived 10 mins walk away from Derriford hospital in Devon!!!

It saddenbs me greatly that people effectively sabotage their own applications through not reading adverts properly. It also annoys me greatly that people then complain at not being short-listed! Surely it does not involve too much effort to put together a decent application?

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by miriam » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:15 pm

Well you know me and the word "vast" - I have started to see it as the big red flag that suggests people don't yet know how much they don't know and are at a much earlier stage of knowledge development than those who recognise their limitations. But I also got applicants who literally told me "I am the best applicant for this job" despite not actually appearing to know what the job was. And yes, several who saw my post as a perfect step towards sporting, educational or forensic ambitions. And some CVs formatted so badly they were almost impossible to read. As well as people who had acknowledged they didn't have the essential requirements for the post, but applied anyway without even an explanation.

BTW, lots of ambiguity about eligibility for GBC. People who think this is synonymous with BPS membership (so don't tick it even if they've done an accredited degree if they are not a BPS member) or who have never heard of it, or who claim to have it when their course website states that the qualification they have done doesn't confer this. Plus international applicants who don't seem to understand the rules about employment in the UK requiring right to remain and/or a working visa (some of whom sounded really impressive, but I can't legally employ).
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Geishawife » Mon Aug 06, 2018 1:22 pm

"Well you know me and the word "vast" ".

Ha, yes, I remember that little saga!

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Esuma » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:39 pm

I do really feel for you guys going through these applications but one thing to remember is that often with these applications there are such time pressures to get the application done - most vacancies I have seen in my area recently are up for less than a day, by the time I even get home from work to start the application they’re closed! I try to take my time to fully personalise each application but when there’s the constant threat of the vacancy closing I can see why people just submit something to be at least in the running

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by miriam » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:52 pm

Indeed. It is a difficult balance, because candidates do feel like they have limited time and it could close at any minute. But on the other hand, the odds really change for successful short-listing when you personalise an application - so much so that even if some jobs close whilst you are doing so I'd say the odds are still better overall if you personalise applications.

I'd see it as much like the advice that it is easier to get half the marks in all the questions than all the marks in half the questions in exams - a really simple strategy change can substantially increase your chances.

In this case, it shifted the odds of being shortlisted from competing against 70 applicants to being in a pool of 19 applicants who made some effort to show how they met our requirements for the role specifically. And in reality, those 51 other applicants wasted their five minutes on applying, whilst the 19 who personalised got into the running by spending 10-20 mins instead - and given we are interviewing 4 or 5 applicants that meant they each got a 25% chance of being shortlisted - so I'd say that extra ten minutes was well spent!
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Geishawife » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:28 am

I don't think anyone denies the pressures of time, but the fact that enough people CAN put together a decent application to enable a short-list to be drawn up demonstrates it is possible to work within those time constraints. I guess that is part of the skill set that people develop - being able to put together a decent, tailored application in spite of the time pressures.

Even allowing leeway for time, however, that doesn't (at least in my mind) excuse the appalling grammar and spelling that I have seen at times (especially the use of hideous non-words like "alot" or "irregardless"!!), nor the leaving out of essential information, such as whether or not your degree confers GBC. I actually had one applicant ring for feedback who, when I pointed out that they had omitted this, told me it was MY responsibility to check with the BPS, not their's to tell me and it only took 2 minutes to check on the BPS website! Well, it might only take 2 minutes, but if I have 90 applicants and spend 2 mins checking for each one that's 3 HOURS of my time! How long does it take to write "Degree confers GBC with BPS" once? (10 seconds, I just checked!!) And once written it doesn't need repeating.

I genuinely sympathise with people struggling to get appropriate experience who start out keen and enthusiastic and end up "ground down" by the process. But a little more attention to detail is always going to help rather than hinder.

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Spatch » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:46 pm

Although I do agree with what qualifieds have posted above, I do think it's unfair to expect candidates to know what we know. Of course we know what goes into a good AP application form because we are on the other side of that table, and have already been through the various barriers and checkpoints to get to a position where we are selecting. In many ways we, as a profession, created this problem. There is very little authoritative guidance and we can write as much as we want in lectures or pockets of the internet, it can never really reach everyone.

As frustrating as it is for us, your average candidate has probably never really written anything as specific as we would request for an AP post. The vast majority of jobs undergrads/fresh grads would most likely have held would have been in unskilled or semi skilled labour/ retail/ entry level roles, where their CV approach would have probably sufficed. Careers services at university have no idea to advise about AP posts, and neither do most academics -people don't know what they don't know and things only become obvious once you are aware of them. Yeah, sure you could make the point about grammar, typos, checking etc, but anyone writing anything under duress and potentially overwhelmed by one of the few opening slots in their field is going to focus on content rather than what they consider small details. In fact I would think it would be strange if the majority weren't like that.

I think as the world becomes more and more individualised, and people become alienated from each other, it will engender solipsism. We see it clinically, when people demand appointments after a service shuts or complain that a clinician only works on particular days. I don't think I fight it anymore, and have come to accept it's actually part of the game now. I figure we are here to educate as much as select. I hope that today's car crash of an application becomes the seed of a really good one for a different post at a different time.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Geishawife » Tue Aug 07, 2018 6:21 pm

I see what you're saying, Spatch, but I have to take issue on a couple of points. I agree, most applicants will be unlikely to have written as specific a thing as an AP application. That does not, however, justify not paying attention to what they are applying for. If I advertise for an assistant in an Older Adult service, I do not want to read an application that tells me how perfect the candidate is for a service for people with a learning disability, people with a diagnosis of PD or the early intervention in psychosis team! Last time I advertised for an assistant I got several applications saying precisely that! I'm afraid I can't write that off as being due to people not knowing what to write or pressure of time. Similarly, whilst I agree that under duress people might not pay as much attention to detail re spelling etc, and I would willingly overlook a few typos or spelling errors, to receive applications that are riddled with them, repeatedly use non-words or repeatedly spell words such as psychology or dementia wrong, goes beyond acceptable. You say these could be considered small details, but, to me at least, a good standard of written English is no such thing. It is an important aspect of what we do to communicate effectively and poor written language skills on an application will mean that person will not make the cut. If that's too harsh, I have yet to regret using it as part of my approach to selection.

I agree 100% that careers services are woefully inadquate in preparing graduates for such applications and maybe we as a profession need to be far more proactive about this. Yes, we are there to educate as well as select and anything we can do to further the education side of things is to be welcomed. I will stand by my earlier point, that I have always manged to create a short-list for interview so, somehow, some applicants are getting it right despite facing the same pressures as those who get it woefully wrong. I'm not sure how we get enough information "out there" to educate people about the "right" way, but would welcome any initiatives that could encourage it.

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by hawke » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:06 pm

I wonder if this contributes to the lack of diversity in psychology? These soft skills are exactly the kind of thing a grammar/private school and Russell group University teach you. It must be hard(er) to catch a break if no one has ever taught you how to write a good covering letter / personal statement.

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Victoriomantic » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:36 pm

I'm not sure about that... I went to a rubbish state school and got taught covering letter/personal statement and also had 2 lectures on it at a (top, admittedly) non-Russell university.

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by hawke » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:56 pm

Victoriomantic wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:36 pm
I'm not sure about that... I went to a rubbish state school and got taught covering letter/personal statement and also had 2 lectures on it at a (top, admittedly) non-Russell university.
Fair enough, I have to admit I was basing my assumption on personal experience and an over-reliance on the Guardian as my source of news. So purely wondering aloud!

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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by lingua_franca » Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:18 am

hawke wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:06 pm
I wonder if this contributes to the lack of diversity in psychology? These soft skills are exactly the kind of thing a grammar/private school and Russell group University teach you. It must be hard(er) to catch a break if no one has ever taught you how to write a good covering letter / personal statement.
I taught in a low-ranked uni in an area with a lot of socioeconomic problems. Most of my students were local and hadn't had the greatest of educational opportunities growing up, and it showed in how they wrote. I offered extra sessions in my office hours to teach them skills for different things - the difference between an essay and a research report, how to strike an appropriate tone for the particular document they were writing (including cover letters) etc. - and I tried to embed these things in class as far as I could. I was stunned by how few students took me up on those offers of extra support. I once went for eight weeks without one student seeking me out in office hours. My busiest times were always after grades had been released and students wanted to complain about low marks. They honestly seemed to feel that they were paying for their timetabled lecture hours, that everything should be incorporated into those hours, and me encouraging them to seek support outside of class was an encroachment on their time rather than something actively designed to help them. It was incredibly frustrating. I don't think this attitude is restricted to low-ranked post-92 unis either - more established academic colleagues at the research-intensive RG where I hold my postdoc have complained that since top-up fees were introduced students have started to perceive themselves as customers buying a product, and the result is this sense of entitlement. I don't want to argue from anecdote, but it does seem to be quite a pervasive problem at the moment.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by Spatch » Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:11 am

You say these could be considered small details, but, to me at least, a good standard of written English is no such thing. It is an important aspect of what we do to communicate effectively and poor written language skills on an application will mean that person will not make the cut. If that's too harsh, I have yet to regret using it as part of my approach to selection.
I don't think they are small details, and obviously I do value good forms when selecting, but due to how frequent and pervasive this seems to be it suggests that there is something systematic that is going wrong, and I would like to understand it. In some ways the "bad" forms make my job easier to select the good candidates, but I am also aware of how inadequate this form of screening actually is -IMO it is to staff selection pretty much what tinder is to dating.

For me it's sad to think we are still using a early 20th century means of selection/assessment when as psychologists (who place great stock on assessment as a core function) we probably should have come up with a better system by now. Maybe thats where some of these thoughts stem from?
It was incredibly frustrating. I don't think this attitude is restricted to low-ranked post-92 unis either - more established academic colleagues at the research-intensive RG where I hold my postdoc have complained that since top-up fees were introduced students have started to perceive themselves as customers buying a product, and the result is this sense of entitlement.
Maybe this does come into it. Applying for a job maybe the first time for many that they are not in a student-centric system or "consumer" role, and it's hard to shift out of the mindset that it is not about their needs or expediency, but rather the buyer's/employer. That would make sense to me.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by miriam » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:10 am

For the record, I went to a comprehensive and a non Russell group university, so that isn't where I set my norms either.

But I do genuinely believe that the person's approach to the job shows in their application. Lots of mistakes suggests a person who is sloppy in their work and doesn't proof-read. Poor grammar and layout will mean I need to do a lot more work to get their reports up to scratch. Not following the directions of how to apply, will mean I have to work harder to explain expectations in the workplace. A consumer mindset in which they think I'll be lucky to have them and they can fire off any old generic CV means someone who doesn't see the post as an opportunity, or recognise that in a competitive climate this is a chance to learn and grow. It may not be literal in every individual case, but its the best steer I've got.
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Re: Shocking true confessions - My Selection Hell

Post by sking1310 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:53 pm

As someone who is very much struggling to get an Assistant Psychologist or equivalent. I understand that shortlisting can be arduous and there are probably many applicants that have only taken 5 minutes to submit a generic application, but among those applicants there are many that are trying really hard (like me) gaining experience trying to check all the boxes whilst trying to find the golden way to write an application that someone will actually pay attention to it. The recent posts just increase my dispair of just how little respect or understanding there is of graduates like me who have been working hard on tiny wages for years after graduation with very little guidance and resources to help them reach the shortlist for a job. I graduated 3 years ago and I have held honorary research assistant posts, senior healthcare assistant posts, 9 month maternity cover as an assistant psychologist which left me without a job as it ended suddenly and I am now an assistant psychological wellbeing practitioner. I value all of my experience, and I feel at the moment I am trying very hard to fulfill all of the specific points you have covered in this thread on my applications but after very little luck getting a job that will actually help me to progress I am at a loss. Without feedback on an application when not shortlisted how is anyone ever to know what they are doing wrong. Please just think if what you’re putting is going to be constructive and encouraging for graduates or is going to tear them down even more in the current climate.

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