Another week, another rejection. So, not the post I was hoping to be writing today!

When I started job-hunting, a friend of mine in the railway industry said that they tended to judge applicants based on what they could do and their experience, not their knowledge of trains.

That makes perfect sense to me. Yes, someone who has been working in that area might have an advantage, but it’s better to have someone who is an accomplished professional than someone who can tell the difference between a Class 142 and Class 1441 – someone who can do both would be good, but you’re employed in public relations, media relations and stakeholder engagement. Those skills come first.

Yesterday I was rejected from a role because “there were other candidates who were able to demonstrate a stronger commitment to X’s charitable mission and objectives”.

I re-read the Job Description. Nothing about demonstrating or practical commitment to their mission and objectives, they wanted a Communications Manager. I can understand that you might not want a Tory working in the Labour Party communications team, or a Manchester United fan working for Leeds, or even a Roman Catholic working at Lambeth Palace, but this one took the biscuit.

“Previous experience of working in X area” – that’s fine too, I can rule you out before wasting time applying.

But this was an organisation whose previous communications had been handled by someone who did communications and events. Not the kind of public relations I do (did) and it looked like they were after.

I’d prepared for that interview like never before. I researched them, their previous work, memorised some of the facts and figures, proposed ways in which the charity could ‘go forward’, how to raise their profile, tap in to their ‘alumni’ and maybe even present the information on their web site differently to reach a different audience – free consultation, it now feels like.

It’s as if they switched off after the first question: “why do you want to work for us?” which is why I hate interviews. They have nothing to do with what you’ve done and what you know, and everything to do with answering random questions to an unspecified standard.

“What number am I thinking of?”

Perhaps it’s because I’m pretty straightforward on most (most) things, but I take Job Descriptions and Person Specifications at face value. The NHS Digital jobs I’ve looked at only have a single page of information to work from, which is why I’m reluctant to apply – I don’t know what they’re looking for. If an advert says I need my own transport, that’s out as well. The role is the role.

But at least the charity completed the whole process in under ten days (and you know how much I like that). It took Aviva ten weeks to finally tell me that they felt I didn’t have enough experience, and thus didn’t meet their requirements – something that they could have told me in the interview!

Half the battle in applying for jobs seems to be my lack of mind-reading skills, in that I can prepare as much as I want to in advance, there will always be some hidden incantation I need to utter to be taken seriously, despite a CV littered with years of experience working on major and minor projects, creating an award-winning voluntary sector media operation from scratch in my spare time, proven language skills and lots of other things as well.

In short, recruiters: it’s not me, it’s you. Tell me what you want beforehand, so I know not to apply.

  1. It’s subtle, but I can tell them apart. Obviously. []