“I really enjoyed that interview.” The rest of the interview panel nodded in agreement. “But they’re not appointable.” The interview panel again nodded in agreement. 

The candidate was enthusiastic, engaging, well prepared and a little bit cheeky. The presentation was one of the most entertaining, original and well informed I have heard in many years of interviewing.  The candidate established an instant rapport with the interview panel and I knew this person would be a big success with councillors and board members. 

If the interview had ended there the job would have been theirs, no question. But the interview didn’t end there. The panel had a few questions.  Nothing I thought that should prove a problem to this candidate based on their presentation. But I was wrong. 

This was a senior management post and the advert had stressed the strategic nature of the post; the job was all about changing people’s lives for the better through strategic partnerships. This exciting and inspiring candidate was unable to make the step up from partnership working to strategic partnership working. Their focus was on the individual. I was willing them to make the connection with the bigger picture but each answer stopped short. Increasingly it became obvious just how “small town” their experience was. 

The questions presented the challenges posed by working in a complex organisation with a large staff group and a large budget, challenges the individual just didn’t recognise. Enthusiasm and charm can’t overcome lack of managerial skills and experience. Enthusiasm can carry you a long way: it certainly helps in engaging with people but it needs to be tempered with a recognition of the constraints as well as the opportunities of working in a political environment.

Sometimes very able people try to hop up a couple of rungs on the career ladder before they’re ready. Sometimes their sheer enthusiasm and engaging personality can help them gain a post they are not yet equipped to deal with. Once in post the lack of experience resulting from being promoted too soon is exposed, their credibility is questioned and their confidence undermined.

So sometimes the best thing that can happen to a candidate is not to be offered the post.


Lobster on the menu

Put a live lobster on in a pot of boiling water and it will jump out. Put a lobster in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the temperature and it will just lie there until cooked. The temperature in the public sector has been slowly rising but most people haven’t yet felt the burn.

Plenty of professionals have given warnings, and common sense tells you budget cuts of 28 per cent are not efficiency savings. They are a fundamental change in what the public sector can do.

The first to feel the impact will be the old, the sick and the poor. Money is a good insulation from the effects of a reduction in state support. Private education, private health insurance, private security, private pension and a private jet. I doubt the “well off” will notice the difference.

It will be a few years down the road before the average person starts to feel the full force of a “stand on your own two feet” government approach. By which time the public sector ethos will have been so diluted as to be unidentifiable, the structures dismantled beyond recognition and our lobster will be well and truly cooked.