So as you may or not know I left Italy after some troubles with my previous employer Linguarama. I meant to give full details in a blog post about it but to be honest I’ve been way to busy. Here’s a partial explanation as to why…

When I arrived back in Scotland from Italy in June I had already applied to 24 Summer Camp jobs, of which 7 had offered me a teaching post. After going through that bout of Skype of interviews, I had started applying to jobs on mass as well as sending an application for a PGDE post graduate course to become a secondary school English teacher.

A month and a job interview diary book later and I had still not heard anything back from any of the jobs that I had been applying to since the end of May. It being July now I was due to start my Summer Camp job in Eastbourne on the 4th. The employer shall remain nameless for the moment but frankly, despite having worked in customer service, at chip-shops taking shit from drunks and having cleaned toilets in my lifetime (it’s a custom to clean up after yourself in Japan in some workplaces), it was the worst job experience of my life to date.

At the summer school we were expected to teach 6 hours of classes a day (standard), do additional activities with kids like taking them on day trips to London or spend 3 hours a day monitoring them playing football and other games and lesson plan with 3 computers and 1 photocopier between 22 teachers, 2 of which had Internet access but could not print and the one that could print having no access. Teachers reading this will know exactly how reliant we are on photocopiers for printing copies for students if not the Internet so no resources is a massive problem! So much so that people have written books on the subject of teaching without resources for TEFL teachers in countries without any.

Most of the teachers arrived home at 8pm after starting the day at work at around 8am if they weren’t doing activities. If we were on activities, home time was closer to 10pm. At one point the photocopier ran out of toner and we almost had an Arab Spring in the staff room when it was found out that those in charge didn’t have a replacement, nor any other sense of competence or faculties about them.

So 5 days in to my 4 week temporary job hell and I get a phone call from a company whom I’ve named to some of you already but won’t name here just to cover my back. This company is a well-known Glasgow tourist attraction. I had applied to them back in June and they wanted to give me a group interview with 12 others, of which 3-4 would get the job. You can imagine me delight but also the turmoil going on in my head. Do I stay or do I go? What if the job centre finds out I quit a temporary job to go for a permanent one? What if I don’t get it? What if I don’t go for it and end up spending 3 more weeks in this shitty Summer camp?

After getting advice from new friends I had met down in Eastbourne (Thanks Eli, seriously!) and from my family, i decided to make the leap of faith and try for this demonstrator job in the tourist attraction.

Part of that decision was made on the basis that I could call in sick to the Summer Camp job and maybe head back down if it was feasible so that i didn’t lose the job. The other part that tipped the balance for me to return to Glasgow was being told by 2 people in the tourist attraction’s recruitment team that all the applicants were equal and that none of the candidates stood out amongst the others. I explained to them both in two separate phone calls that if I was considered a peripheral candidate in anyway that I would cut my losses and not bother attending the interview. In short, I was candid as fuck with them and, having chatted with 2 of them, I thought that they had been pretty straight forward with me. The prospect of working with such straightforward and open-minded people was exciting already.

So I took a train back up to Scotland the night before the interview, prep’d myself and made a quick presentation that I had to give in front of this group and went into Glasgow the next day with a fire in my belly and the knowledge that if I got this job, I wouldn’t have to go back down to that Summer Camp hell-hole.

If I could replicate the performance I gave for that job interview for every job interview I would. I was in an hour early, time enough for me to get coffee’d up and practice my presentation which involved a demonstration of how a a balloon doesn’t burst when it has water in it and the science behind it – sounds dry, it was a lot of fun – inspired completely by this:

I showed up to see most of the other interviewees ready to head in to the group interview and greeted a few of them after an awkward 5 second silence where no one really wanted to talk to one another. The one guy without a suit or shirt and tie on decided to talk to me and I discovered that he was in a similar situation to me, having travelled up from England. Nice guy, but I figured if you can’t show up dressed to work, you ain’t getting the job son.

We then got asked in and were told a little bit about the company. At this point 2 more people arrive in late. Bam, that’s a total of 3 competitors who aren’t getting the job. 9 of us in contention including myself. HELLZ YEAH, BOY!

The staff do zero warm-up or presenting beyond a little bit about the company before we are asked to give our demonstrations in front of one another. We are given a strict 2 minute time limit on the presentation and are warned of 30 seconds to go if there are any issues. Everyone seems nervous as a result of no warm-up – good, good, less competition for the post, and I’ve practiced my presentation so I know I can do it well.

My presentation involves both a naked candle flame and some water. I am told that flames aren’t allowed in the building and there is no tap present in the room. I explain myself and they tell me that as long as I demonstrate what’s going on, I should be fine.

Maybe 3-4 people go over the time limit but continue their presentation regardless. There’s a sense of “get on with it and get this over with” in the room by the time I set up my presentation. I am called to the front but no one tells me when to start so I wait for the guy before me to tidy up his presentation before I take to the stage. I’ve literally started speaking and have my things on the desk by the time they call 30 seconds but other people went over so I don’t let it phase me.

I take a volunteer, get a few laughs by referring to everyone in the room as kids and get a nice round of applause rather than the polite ones that have been going around. My hands are only shaking slightly, which is a good sign as are the brief smiling faces replacing the previously nervous ones when I finish. However, I did go over time – a bit of a worry but I think the results, the quality of the presentation, was worth it.

We then go to do some classic tower building with kinnex… cliche and sad that people actually interview this way but I figured if I show I’m a team-player that’s what this exercise is all about. I take the time to introduce myself to the other candidates and we all shake hands unlike the other teams. I ask people how familliar they are with kinex after saying that I have never used them in my life and we find out who are the experts in our team and who aren’t which sets a tone to defer to them;  had this not been established I guess that there might have been awkward moments where we would have argued amongst ourselves. We then establish that using a triangular/honeycomb structure is best for the base and get to working. Our tower looks to be the tallest at the end and once that is established to be the case, I ensure we high-five once we win. After having only just met, our team is established, our tower is the tallest and I felt like I really contributed to that success.

We are then asked to go look at some of the exhibits on our own and write a piece about how we would demonstrate them to a family. I get into teacher mode and write up a detailed lesson plan on exactly how I would do things and get excited at this stage at the prospects of aceing this interview. I take the time to chat to some of the staff, which I see none of the other interviewers doing and ask them what the difficulties and best bits of the job are while the other interviewees go for coffee breaks and finish up their writing pieces. I felt that if I got the job, getting to know those who had been in the job longer was a good move over chilling out for coffee.

Then comes the solo-interview where I am asked exactly two questions in the following manner: “Why do you want to work for the [company] and what would you bring to the role?” I answer by going into details on why the company would be good for me, explaining that I had heard Neil Oliver visits the place, which got some smiles and nods, and then went on to explain why I was a good fit for the company including my background as a teacher and someone who has spent their life learning, which the interviewers themselves said was one of the largest challenges to the role: the sheer amount you have to learn.

I was confident with my answers and in the 10 minute scheduled session, they were finished with me after 5. It seemed that after two questions and some questions of my own, they had made up their mind about the post. Maybe this recruitment business isn’t so difficult after all…

The company told me they would get back to me either on the day or the day after, meaning that I could go back down to Eastbourne or not depending on their answer as I was still calling in sick at that point.

Instead they took a day longer than suggested to reply to me, meaning that I would have had to give a sick line to Summer Camp. As that simply wasn’t possible, I opted to resign instead, confident I had the job, while falling back on my uni application and job searching if I didn’t, which as it turns out, was the case.

I asked for feedback and got this reply:

“Thanks for your application.  The candidates were of a very high standard with national and international applicants, making the process competitive.

 Your demonstration was very engaging – we were particularly impressed with your stage presence and the confidence you showed working with your volunteer.  However, your presentation ran over time considerably which was disappointing.

 Whilst your background has relevance to the role of Science Communicator, you were competing against candidates who were able to provide evidence of a stronger foundation in science.

Your interview session was positive and your confidence and enthusiasm came across strongly.  However, we felt that you focussed on what the role could do for you -developing  you and building your CV.  We would have preferred to hear more about what you could bring to [the company].”

Considering how the interview was run, with no clear timing on the presentation and the fact that I was told all candidates were equal beforehand when they actually had a more science-focussed candidate in mind the whole time, not to mention that I answered both questions fully since they were put to me at the same, yet they seemed to take it as me focussing on myself, just makes me furious.

I remain angry at a process that wasn’t entirely clear and gave me false hope when they simply could have told me not to bother. To pick holes in the timing of my presentation when there were people who were late, didn’t show up in proper attire and were also late in their presentations is galling. To have picked someone with more of a science background rather than just weeding me out at the pre-interview stage is really, really shady to me.

In the end I quit some pay for a really shitty job that would have ended in 3 weeks time or so but would have still been money in the bank. I risked losing benefits with the job centre too, though thankfully they understood my quandary. All in, I am now disenchanted with the company, one that I was really excited to work for despite the measly pay and am at the point of considering giving this over to the Daily Record or some shit just to see what they do with it.

All in, I’m not really sure what to do. I have complained but really all I can do is move on. Writing this and getting it out there has helped me do that though.

What’s the worst job hunt experience you’ve had?

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