Contents

Misinterpretations

Contents

Those that know, know that one of biggest, burning hatreds is bureaucracy. Being a firm believer in Occam’s razor, I’ve never quite understood why things have to be more complicated than they have to be. I’ve always strived in what I do to make things simpler, make things as simple as possible. No one sits down with an inquisitive child and when asked “why”, starts with quantum theory, subatomic particles and Higgs’ field.

So why then, in this modern world does the human condition have us jumping through hoops? Perhaps it is the human condition as a direct result of human evolution. Everything once started small and onto that was built more and more complexity – our bodies and our society. With each new level of complexity being built on the last, having to co-exist with the old but better it. Perhaps this incremental change paradigm has now reached its ultimate conclusion. Perhaps what we need now is Society 2.0.The reason for what I ponder is that last week I was interviewed. Interviewed for a position I was completely unsure of. A position that I applied for giving a particular set of circumstances, which of course had changed between the time I applied for the post and got to sit down in front of the interviewers.

You shall have to forgive the vagueness of my descriptions, for I do not personally believe that -for lack of a better word – bitching achieves anything. I also do not seek any pity and do not want to come across a victim. I merely wish to discuss my views in a generic thought-experiment sense. That and the professional world is always such a small one that loose lips will always sink ships.

What interests me the most in all of this is that I’ve thought about what I’d write here from the moment I walked out the door and into the sun has changed so drastically through discussion of the process with a friend from old.

The basis of any job application centres around the job description. Put simply, this details everything that the prospective employer desires and expects from the potential employee. So much like any normal, sane individual one tailors the application to address the points raised in the description. If the employer then deems that the candidate meets sufficient criteria to merit further investigation, then the candidate is invited to attend an interview. Typically then the best candidate on the day is selected using suitable through a combination of skills, experience and fit to the organisation.

Why then, advertise a job asking for a particular set of skills when it becomes immediately within the opening minute of the interview that there is no particular interest in what was advertised? This was a situation I faced in the interview.

I sat down in the interview having spent a week researching the organisation, the department, every member of the interview panel and their activities in the previous 5 years. Furthermore, I’d researched members within the department that would be prime for collaboration. I also brought with me technical documentation to highlight my abilities and prove that my plans for achievable. Finally, I’d written a one year plan to encourage new collaborations and get people using the facilities. Basically addressing and going above and beyond everything requested in the job specification.

All of this was brushed aside in the first minute or so of the scheduled half an hour, whereupon the science interview turned into an economics lesson. All notions of my experience, my abilities, my plans were thrown aside. Instead the entire interview centred to one fundamental question. How are you going to make money?

Not just money, I was slowly trickle fed the reality of the situation. Not only would I have to bring money in, I’d have to bring in a lot of money. I’d be expected to bring in sufficient funds to cover my salary, laboratory rental space charges, equipment depreciation, equipment repairs and up-keep (including cryogens). Nothing short of a miracle. Nothing short of of 6 figure sums was written between the lines. All of this being built from the ground.

The kicker being in all of this, that the position would be under threat if it looked like you were making insufficient headway. So, you may not even get the whole year. And good luck trying to get another job with a reference from an employer that sacked you rather than simply letting you run out the one year contract.

But these are all considerations and observations that I’ve made since the interview by reviewing exactly what was said in a greater context. At the time, I was mostly concerned that I’d probably bombed the interview. Maybe, I’d got the wrong end of the stick. Maybe I just completely misunderstood what they were looking for. But, I’d certainly wasted a week of my life in research an planning.

The only positive I took away from the interview was that I nailed a good Q&A at the end. I’d come across in the Student Satisfaction Survey an absolute hammering when it came to IT facilities. When quizzed I was informed that they were spending £8m on their IT system and that it was all changing. But they couldn’t tell me what they were changing from or to. Which is all well and good, but gold plated servers doesn’t make for a better end user experience.

But mostly I assumed I wouldn’t get it. Before the interview, I met an old friend in the interview holding area. His presence somewhat threw me, as I knew when I first applied that I was applying for his job. But I also assumed that he’d moved onto green pastures, hence the opening, as I hadn’t really talked to him in 2 years. In the brief chat we managed I found out, that he’d been volunteering his time and only with the threat of his leaving had they decided to create a post. A pretty sure thing then that he’d get the post and the interviews were only a technicality to keep the HR bods happy.

Post interview, I was given a whirlwind tour of the facilities and building to which the post was attached. To my surprise, I found some nice kit. Some very nice kit. Where clearly a stupid amount of money had been spent. Most of which appeared unused.

All of which left an odd taste in the mouth. Several bad omens. Nothing to quite put my finger on. But all of which when analysed upon the return train, made it quite clear that I was never going to accept the post.

I regret nothing. I relish the chance for experience and I think it is always a good thing to experience things outside of one’s normal little world. It was very useful to see another place. See that you can always kid yourself that things will be better elsewhere, but really, everywhere has it’s problems; but a new place comes with new and different problems.

So whilst glad for an experience, incredibly frustrated by the misinformation presented to gain my attendance. But most of all, do not say that “we’ll be in touch” if you have absolutely no intention of ever doing so. The only way, that I have gathered that I had not got the position was that my current boss has not been asked for a reference and via my network of spies telling me that politics were at play and realistically only one man was ever going to get the post. And it was not even the man that should have inherited it by right.

It all comes across as smoke and mirrors. Post an entirely erroneous job specification, then quiz all interviewees with questions few would have prepared for. Whilst all the time elude to how futile the post is. And not even have the common decency to make the promised telephone call to all of the 4 or so candidates.

It does nothing but spread bad blood. Bad blood and suspicion.