Early Online Publication – 1997ish
I had to do a writing test as part of the interview process – nothing too fancy. The interesting thing was to make it harder they had locked down spell check etc on the desktop. That seemed stupid to me so I found the ‘hidden’ settings and turned it back on.
Got told that was cheating and was dropped from the second stage interviews.
International Library Technology company – 1999ish
This actually went pretty well initially. I was a Library Assistant at UWE at the time and had just been accepted onto a MA in Library Science and the interview seemed impressed by my commitment to the profession and my general nerdiness.
However it somewhat fell apart in the final minutes of the interview when they (a) announced the office was moving – to somewhere I wasn’t sure how to get to as a non-driver (b) they had decided the advertised salary was too generous so would be renegotiating and (c) they were no longer allowing employees to take time to study for Library Science Masters – one of the reasons I’d applied. As the hits kept coming my ability to articulate any answers basically fell away. This was pretty early in my career so I cut myself a break for being a fair weather interviewee but I really did fall apart and the feedback bore that out.
Funnily enough they did come back to me a few months later and ask if I was interested in another role but I was still a bit scarred to be honest!
Education focused arms lengths body – 2007ish
This one was quite the adventure. I’d successfully got through the first interview stage and then was invited to a panel interview. Unfortunately it was scheduled for a day when I was helping run an event in Glasgow. They were totally unwilling to reschedule so in the end I flew down the morning of the interview on the middle day of the conference and then straight back up after to be around for the VIP dinner.
I remember it being a boiling day in mid summer and my taxi dropping me off at the wrong office building but the interview seemed to go well. In fact so well I received a call that evening from one of the interviewers saying they intended to offer me the role.
Then nothing. Nada. Nowt. I was totally ghosted. I chased a bit and eventually got a proforma email saying I was not successful and then my requests for feedback totally fell on deaf ears.
I saw one of the panel at a conference several months later and they literally ran away and hid.
GDS – 2014 the first time I think – 2017 the last time
I’ve applied to GDS on two or three occasions and never got beyond the application stage – when I was at ONS and leading a reasonably high profile project as a Grade 6 (not that that really matters) I was given feedback that I would be better off applying for a more junior Product Management role rather than the Lead Product Management role I had gone for and the tone of the feedback was so dismissive it was a few years before I looked again.
The funny thing is I was later encouraged to apply for the Head of Product role – I think maybe as cover for Neil or Ross? Not sure. There was no chance I was opening myself up to that though!
To be honest it never soured me to the organisation generally – I had/have plenty of friends there and maybe I wouldn’t have moved to London anyway but it was a solid kick to the egos each time.
Well funded start-up / Eco energy company / Financial services company
On occasion over the last few years I have become briefly overwhelmed with two professional desires. To escape public service digital and to get a role predominately based in Bristol.
On two occasions I was actively courted. Took out for lunch and coffees, invited to the office to look around, chased up to see how my application was going. Then tumbleweeds after I sent in my CV. In two of the three applications it became clear through back channels (there was no formal feedback) that the people on the hiring committee who didn’t know me just didn’t know what to make of my CV and whether my lack of P&L responsibility and competitive market product work would be too big a chasm. The start-up in particular had roots in Asia and had no awareness of GDS etc so just saw me as a civil servant who dabbled in digital. Honestly I can kind of understand the problem though it did convince me that escape from the public service universe was not on the cards for me.
The other role didn’t take my application forward because despite liking my experience I didn’t go to a Russell Group university (or even close). 20+ years of experience overruled because I was a lazy teenager.
Digital Director NHS
This ticked the local (it was in Bristol) and the public service clean sweep (I’ve not done NHS yet) but honestly I was surprised to get past the sift. Then it all went pear shaped.
I was asked to prepare a 5 minute video and was given two wildly expansive questions to cover and I completely went into meltdown. Over writing it, over thinking it, under preparing for the video element (which was a shambles). Honestly it was horrible. I sent in the video out of obligation as much as anything and had some nice feedback but I think they were just being polite! Shockingly I did not move to the next stage.
There is another really weird one but I think it is best saved for pubs and DMs as I am not sure whether it was a wind up to this day!