Fitzroyalty

Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

employment incompetence at the City of Moreland

| 13 Comments

I recently applied for a 12 month contract as an Online Communications Officer at the City of Moreland. I wrote a cover letter and a detailed response to the selection criteria and sent these, along with my CV as required, to the council before the closing date.

On Friday 8 February I received a phone call from the Marketing and Communications Manager. He explained that the council had received a far greater number of applications than they expected. He said that because of this the application process was being changed. Applicants would now be required to submit a writing test in the form of a short article by COB Monday 11 February.

In other words, he was either too lazy to read all the applications, or too stupid to determine who would be appropriate to shortlist and interview. So he had decided to waste time and delay the process by changing the rules in the middle of the game.

From my experience on the other side of the table, you can learn a lot about someone by the presentation and writing in their applications, especially when there are numerous selection criteria responses. Such a narrowly defined test will contribute little to the task of selecting candidates as it’s so simple most should be able to do a competent job of it.

I replied to the email sent to me to explain the writing test, which was to write a short article about the increase in households with internet access in the City of Moreland, based on ABS data from 2006-2011, without reference to any other source:

Hi [marketing manager]

Thanks for inviting me to participate in this test. I will not be writing an article according to the brief and I’d like you to consider my justification for why.

An article summarising internet access statistics is boring and pointless. Residents and ratepayers expect relevance and action. These statistics should be used as the basis for an article demonstrating:

  1. that council is aware that most residents and ratepayers have internet access
  2. that council is aware that many residents and ratepayers take it for granted that they can access information and services from council online
  3. that traffic to the council site is increasing (quote some stats from your Google Analytics to support this. I’ve checked the code of your site and you use Google Analytics)
  4. that council is responding to the demand from residents and ratepayers by improving its online presences (website, Twitter, Facebook etc) and expanding its online service offerings. Making banal promises like ‘In future, you will be able to fill in many more Council forms directly through Council’s website’ (http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/home_about-this-site.html) is not enough. You should provide an ETA for that.

If you wish to hire someone who understands online communications and what online audiences want, you should hire me. If you want a traditional PR flunkie who writes articles no one wants to read, hire someone else. If you consider my response too radical, then consider my application for this role to be withdrawn.

I assume that you have little expertise in recruiting online experts. Let me introduce myself as the author of the Melbourne hyperlocal blog Fitzroyalty (http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroyalty).

In 2009 I wrote this article comparing local government websites – http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroyalty/2009/11/17/a-review-of-melbourne-local-government-websites/. I am currently working on a new article undertaking the same comparative analysis to see which local governments have done the most the improve their online presences.

If you would like to discuss some more of my ideas, please offer me an interview. For example, I could tell you why your mobile site is terrible and why you should improve it.

Yours sincerely

The response I received did not acknowledge the issue about the pointlessness of the task or the initiative I had taken:

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your interest in the Online Communications Officer position at the Moreland City Council  but you will not be proceeding in the process. Good luck with your career search.

Regards

Once again an employer has been profligate with my time and shown complete indifference to the inconvenience this has caused. This rudeness is inexcusable.

I respected the employer and didn’t waste their time by submitting a lacklustre half-hearted application. I wrote a thorough professional application that took about two hours to complete. That time was important to me and I would not have invested it in applying if I knew what was to come.

Employers like the City of Moreland do themselves a disservice by rejecting good applicants through their laziness and incompetence. They’ll end up with the most insipid compliant employee rather than the one with the best ideas. Good riddance. I’d rather remain unemployed than work for these morons.

13 comments

  1. I see this time and time again in the IT industry as well, while not asking to write essays, I get asked to complete technical questionnaires that anyone could google the answers to. I take the time to address requirements they ask for in the job description, write a detailed cover letter where most candidates rarely provide a cover letter, and also provide them with cases where I have used requested skills and certifications.
    HR and recruitment agencies have become filled with incompetent people.

  2. You’re obviously right and I’m pretty sure someone as highly opinionated probably wouldn’t have a very good time in local government. Lets be honest Brian you’re coming across as a bit of a self righteous cock. Even if I thought you were right I wouldn’t hire someone to work under me who wasn’t prepared to follow my direction. You’re within your right not to play their games but you’re also within your right to be unemployed. Also if you’re going to call an organisation morons on your website there is no way I’d hire you. I’d be too worried you’d diss my place of work after you left or more worrying that you’d be rude to fellow staff. Good luck with your search I think you probably know what you’re talking about but your not presenting as very pleasant and people don’t want to work with the best people, they want to work with the nicest ones.

    • I have previous employers I have not written about because there’s nothing to say. Where previous employers or prospective employers have behaved in an unethical or unprofessional manner I have written about the circumstances because I believe the complexities of industrial relations in the information age need to be discussed more.

      People are not used to hearing employees speak up for their rights and their dignity because employees are usually financially vulnerable and highly dependent on maintaining their employment. They consequently put up with whatever humiliation their employer dishes out to keep their job. I am not willing to do that.

      I’m not asking for special treatment. I’m asking for basic professional courtesy. This should not seem unusual and that fact that it does demonstrates that there is a significant problem in current employment practices in the white collar world I work in.

  3. I just hope having a principled stance in the modern world will not lead to every prospective employer who googles you thinking you’re a troublemaker. I enjoy reading your blog and while I rarely disagree with you, your tone or at least how I perceive it online is grumpy and reactionary. You seem to go looking for fights. This might not be the case at all but it’s how I read it. I personally think you’re better off keeping your head down until you get a job then standing up for your rights because before you’re employed your just some dude knocking on a door asking to be let in. You’re “rights” are pretty much non-existent.

    • Self-repression, whereby people are complicit in their own humiliation and abuse due to their fear of the consequences if they are not passive and compliant to the prevailing power structures, is insidious in our culture and it disgusts me. I do not tolerate it and refuse to participate in it.

  4. Well fair enough. I don’t think getting involved in arguments I don’t think are worth my time is self-repression at all. If someone yells at me in the street and I choose to ignore it rather than pick a fight with the person yelling at me am I repressed and humiliated? Perhaps in some peoples eyes. I would say I was the smarter person who choose to spend their time not engaging with people who are of no interest to me. If I thought someone was a moron ignoring them and not engaging is not in my opinion being compliant to a power structure. Best of luck with your job search and I legitimately mean that.

    • Thanks. I think the situation you describe is very different, and in such a situation I may do the same. Employers however have their public reputation to consider. I am a customer as well as potentially an employee, and my experience has consequences.

  5. Speaking as someone who has not had a decent length contract since last June, you must have lots of money saved up if you can fight with prospective employers. I did have some saved up but I had to use it up before I could apply for Newstart.

    I had a dispute with one of my employment agencies as they were sending me to roles that didn’t actually exist (for two weeks work when there was only 2 days), wanting me to make decisions on the spot and telling me to turn up to “definitely a start” roles that had no intention of starting and this was two years go.

  6. I agree with you in this matter, it’s just plain insulting to prospective employees to make them jump through hoops like this. Roll over, fetch, play dead, and maybe we’ll give you a job.

    I do agree with Brian though when he suggest that you would not be comfortable in this work culture. As it seems you do not suffer fools easily. That’s an asset, it just makes it difficult when your forced to deal with them.

  7. I wonder why there are no comments from women on this topic?

  8. As an employee, I applied for many jobs and was disturbed by the trend to increasingly large demands of applicants, especially when most will not even receive a response. It’s hard to stand out and make an impact and the whole written application process is very limited, especially in roles that include customer contact: someone who can write a good letter is not necessarily the same person who is good face to face.

    As an employer, I try to make the process as simple and straightforward as possible but when you receive a large number of applications, you have a hard job to find the right people within it.

    I agree that the goal posts should not be moved during the process. I also question the suitability of the assignment you were given by the council – I would think that they could choose a more interesting and relevant one. I wonder if it was a test, to see how interested you were in the role, would you jump through more hoops? I’m sure it would succeed in losing the less motivated applicants, even whilst attracting your ire.

  9. From a woman job-seeker perspective, I don’t think I would have bothered to respond to the request to do the writing test if I didn’t want to do the test because some latent social conditioning in me would warn me not to ‘make a fuss’.

    I have worked on-and-off on government contracts and I have applied for a lot of government positions (not council/ local government) requiring responses to key selection criteria.

    From a person of no-particular-gender perspective, I move on quickly from things I don’t agree with because I don’t think it is worth the stress dwelling on it. Also, the HR person who changed the requirements during the process does sound like an utter moron.

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