Two fails, one partial win. In general, not worth it

For most of my life I have worked independently, though I have been in more or less normal jobs in a couple of occasions. Recently (early 2011) I decided to try to get a job that to show that I am not  a complete misfit. I wanted (as I still do) to work in the field of online collaboration between citizens and institutions - hence the video above. I engaged in four interactions:

  1. a European level government institution, that I approached through the traditional channel of applying for a job
  2. a high-profile, government-backed charity in the UK, also approached through the traditional recruitment channel
  3. a multinational tech company, who got in touch with me on the Internet and asked me to engage in their famously exhausting recruitment procedure
  4. another European level government institution, who knew me through previous work and straight-out offered me a position
Number 1 was a big fail. Basically they do intelligence and language tests. Can you believe it? This essentially means that school has been a nursery, and qualifications are worth nothing. The tests are administrated in a situation of very tight control. The subtext is: "you are here to cheat, but we will prevent you from doing so". Not a great way to start a work relationship. I did pass the test, but by then my motivation had disappeared.

Number 2 was good: a fast, flexible (interviews on Skype) procedure. The people who interviewed me, I think, got what they needed. They did not hire me, I came second. But that is probably OK, they made a call that the other person was a better match.

Number 3 was not so great: good, clever people, but they seemed to oscillate between looking for somebody with my profile and looking for somebody with a totally different profile. Maybe the recruitment panel had internal disagreement. Problem is, they were taking forever to do this (last time I checked the position was still open, 8 full months after they got in touch with me and 5 months after I accepted another offer!). To be fair, they did warn me that the process could be long.

Number 4 worked great.

My take home from the experience: formal recruitment processes seem to be useless for people with non-standard profiles as me. What is your experience?

I fired my boss about 10 years ago…

and have considered myself unemployable ever since.

That might be worth a blog post…

Formal recruitment

I am of two minds on this. And I am noticing a major, major difference from country to country.

In Italy your point is, in my opinion of course, absolutely accurate. There you MUST have a studies/job#1/job#2/promotion/job#3 type of CV. Otherwise, no chance in hell. Mind, once I have been told during a phone call to arrange a face to face interview that “if I had a beard I should shave it straight away or not even bother turning up”. Guess who has two thumbs and didn’t bother turning up? Right, this guy (and I also have long hair, woe is me!)

In the UK I have noticed much more flexibility. Most companies (and I am seeing this as a member of a management team in charge of recruitment) won’t focus on what you have done but on what (you say) you can do. I have recruited a 45-year-old who had been “working on his own projects” for 5 years in a team of 20- to 25-year-old people because he seemed the best fit, and he is. I have been offered the job I am on now (or rather, an entry-level job for this company in which I later progressed) rather than applying for it after having been humiliated by another company that had initially offered me a position before withdrawing their offer because I can’t speak any Russian (mind that there is no reason in my CV to think I can).

I think that, in most countries anyway, it is a matter of the company’s style. If they drive towards innovation, they will be happy with innovators. And you find those anywhere.

Not Italy…

Actually, none of the organizations I mention are Italian!

Well, of course it comes down to culture (“company style” in your words). But culture is only a given in the short run. In the long run, organizational culture is a variable. The interesting question is what drives that variable. The answer “people do, people drive culture” is only in part satisfactory, because it could well be the other way around. As you say, innovators are found anywhere.

But this is speculation. What matters is this: in my experience, taking part in formalized recruitment procedures did not pay off. I would very much like to know what other people think.

The Underdog thinks

This seems to be a valuable experience. To be fair, not your average young person’s recruitment experience… you were already at least in part established.

Il talento non và sprecato…

Ciao Alberto… E’ complicato per ognuno di noi razionalizzare, ma ho letto diverse statistiche per cui l’80% dei posti di lavoro non viene reso noto perchè le aziende si affidano al passaparola o rete relazionale… Inoltre per molte posizioni anche interne alle aziende la barriera è il titolo di studio. Personalmente il problema che ho incontrato è la diffidenza verso il tele-lavoro. Infine sono convinto perchè succede a me, che la professionalità di alto livello non conosce crisi…

Barriers and personal networks

Alessandro, it seems to me (translating for non-Italian speakers) that you are saying that many job offers are informal and go through personal networks. Also, those that do go through formalized recruitment processes sometimes block out promising candidates because they focus on formal requirements (e.g. a degree) or traditional organizational arrangements (e.g. they don’t trust long-distance work). So, it would seem that, in general, formalized recruitment does not work too well in your world either! Would you agree?

My approach to (always new) job

The subject introduces what I’m going to tell about me and the choises I made in my working life, by how I approach it, highlighting some things I want to make you all think about.

When - after the upper school - I had to answer to the big question ‘what are you going to do in your life?’ I absolutely had no idea. That’s why I spend some time as baby-sitter. Then I started making thougths of zero population growth and I understood I had to make a choise. But I was not ready yet. Well, I reckressly waited fot the fist university course with the absolutely unheard name so, I said to myself, it will surely open some new perspectives. (That name is Geographical Information Systems and I even didn’t knew what’s a computer…it was 1994).

The last year by the University I had to decide for an internship (please note: I was the only one among 30 students who decided for a location in a different city then the Uni’s one). During this period, a consultant suggested me to collaborate with a team who was working on one of the first projects funded by EU in Italy…the team was searching for one candidate with my profile, but even didn’t know where to look for.

I obviously accepted, but: what about my english? No problem - I said to myself - that’s simply a new opportunity. And it really was, as I HAD TO relate with many people around Europe (please note: I really thing that for italian people the languages unknowledge is still a big gap!). And it was so satisfying to me that the decision - at the end of the project - to engage for a new opportunity around Europe. I searched for institutions operating in my field (please note: it was 1999 and Internet in Italy was not so popular as now) and I selected three, respectively based in London, Paris and Munich.

Well Luisa, I said to myself, once again a new challange: who would have answered first ? (translation: you maybe need to study french and german too. I did).

After a couple of months I working as researcher (half in english, half in germn of course :wink: by the militar university in Munich, experiencing in many projects even co-funded by the EU. A great experience.

After a few time I decided to go back to Italy, as I was contacted by many people as they could not find someone with my profile (please note: once again, the question was to find someone with knowledges in Gis, english and able to travel)

Then I starded working for projects concerning the e-government scenario and few years lately I applied for a public selection by a local administration searching for someone with my profile (please note: I was the only one candidate…)

At the moment I am still working there, but I am still studying too for a specialization.

As Alberto, mine is an unusual-profile.

Acting in the perspective to recognize it makes my mind open to unformal recruitment processes, but with the confidence that what I’m going to do next will encrease the base I move with by approaching any new job.

ps. Thank you Alberto to give people the opportunity to share experiences in this blog. I’m quiet sure that it won’t be easy to ‘read’ the inputs without contextualising them!

Luisa: more than a comment!

(I’m writing in Italian because I am making a technical point, rather than a conversational one)

Luisa, questa storia è assolutamente grandiosa. Ci sono diversi spunti su cui mi interesserebbe molto provare a sollecitare la comunità di Edgeryders. Il principale è “scegliere una laurea con un nome assurdo, perché si tratterà di uno spazio libero”. Geniale!

Ti andrebbe di riproporla come mission report? In questo modo io e i miei collaboratori possiamo renderla più visibile e diventa più semplice convogliare un po’ di commenti. La missione giusta potrebbe essere Quest for paid work. Mi fai sapere?

Volentieri! La vedo anche come buona occasione per capire meglio come funziona questo ambiente, quindi nel darti la mia piena disponibilità, ti chiedo di indirizzarmi nei passi da seguire.

Grazie, L.

Ecco come puoi fare

Sono un po’ indeciso, perché ci sono almeno tre missioni in cui la tua esperienza potrebbe stare. Direi dio tenere “The quest”. Ecco come fare:

  1. vai qui:
  2. leggiti il testo, magari ti dà qualche idea per limare un po' la storia.
  3. clicca sul tasto "do this mission mow" a sinistra. Si aprirà una pagina di editing.
  4. copia, incolla ed eventualmente modifica il testo che hai scritto nel commento. Puoi anche aggiungere immagini se vuoi.
  5. sotto alla finestra principale di editing trovi un campo "tags". Scrivi lì i tags (le parole chiave) da associarealla tua storia.
  6. scendi con il cursore fino a trovare una serie di tab verticali che cominciano con "Menu settings". Clicca sulla parola "Groups". Si apre una finestra in cui puoi scegliere dove archiviare la tua missione. Clicca su "The quest for paid work".
  7. in fondo alla pagina a sinistra trovi il tasto "Save". Cliccalo, e hai finito.
Qui c'è un video con le istruzioni, se vuoi:

What the process says about the employer

Alberto - the brevity of your “In general not worth it” valuation made me smile :slight_smile: I very much share that view, being one more of the “non-standard profile” people, and it’s encouraging to see people like you doing away in such brevity with the employers’ best efforts in assessing people.

I’d add that the formal assessment process can be quite a humiliating experience; like the intelligence and language tests they performed on you. I’ve sworn to myself to never go to a so-called “assessment center” …

Also, the recruitment process reveals much about the company’s culture (again relating to your “intelligence and language tests” experience). In one instance, I had to cancel my application because the application process revealed a culture that felt too constraining and rigid to desire working there [more about that].