Thanks. We'll let you know;Career development

8th October 1999 at 01:00
Keen for a new start in a different job? A badly conducted interview could put you off the idea.

Dear Headteacher, You may not remember me, but a few months ago I was interviewed for the post of head of English at your comprehensive school.

Your deputy assured the unsuccessful candidates that you would be contacting us by phone to debrief us by the following night. I still have not heard from you, and no longer particularly wish to do so. But I thought you might benefit from some feedback about your school and its interviewing and people-management skills.

Let us be charitable and put aside the haste with which you proceeded with the process, according little status to what appeared an important post.

I suppose I should have realised the enterprise was doomed from the moment you came in just before the interviews to tell us one of the governors was concerned we had not recorded GCSE and GCE grades on our application forms. There was something slightly unreal about four seasoned professionals racking their brains to remember what grade they had managed in GCE chemistry or CSE geography 20 to 35 years ago. I was nonplussed, wondering how these would be weighed against my PhD.

In your pre-interview briefing you assured us questions would be open-ended, and urged us to be frank. But some questions were far from open. On the issue of how to deal with a struggling colleague, for example, despite my outlining several practical strategies, the chairman twice repeated "And what else?" before divulging the one point he had wanted to hear. From subsequent conversation with fellow interviewees I discovered this had been their experience too.

You also failed to convey any particular interest in hearing what we had to say. Other candidates confirmed my experience of being constantly reminded that your time was limited, and I still have visions of the chairman glancing frequently at his watch.

The lack of manners, tact and planning pervaded other aspects of the interview. You would surely have known that the lesson bell and the consequent noise of children beneath the open window was going to occur a couple of minutes into my interview. Was it beyond your wit to have delayed the start?

Even more disconcerting was the sight of the chairman passing you notes while I was addressing questions from the other two panel members.

If one of the candidates had not been internal, I doubt we would have been offered coffee. I do not recall any biscuits, and the trolley of sandwiches that was so tantalisingly wheeled in as we were awaiting the verdict was certainly not for us. We were despatched without so much as the offer of a travel-claim form.

This is not sour grapes, but dismay at seeing that our profession not only lacks any equitable and coherent career structure but is not even capable of getting the little things right. It is a few years since I have been for an interview at a school but I had hoped that as we stand on the brink of a new millennium we might be treated more professionally and with more consideration than in the Seventies, when I was dragged many miles to be kept waiting all day for a 10-minute job interview.

I am sure you believe your school and the way it is run to be wonderful. But you should beware complacency, and consider the impression that small details can make.

I am sincere when I say I am glad not to have been offered the job. I can also honestly say I could not recommend anyone else to apply for a job at your school. If prospective staff are treated in this way, one can only wonder about the fate of the poor souls who already work there.

The author teaches in Birmingham and wishes to remain anonymous

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