Interview Hiccups…

Job Interviews – incidents and observations

Barrs Paints, Birmingham: in Jan 1992 I attended an interview at Barrs, organised by Key Personnel. The agency rang me to say that the company had agreed to offer me a job. After about ten days, I had not been sent any details about the post, so I rang Key Personnel and was told that Barrs were undergoing a restructuring and had suspended all recruitment plans.

In March 1992 I had another call from Key Personnel asking whether I would be interested in a job with Barrs Paints at their other site. I said that I was interested, but that in view of my earlier experience I would prefer to have offers of employment in writing rather than over the phone.
I attended the interview and was told ‘You don’t appear to have any relevant experience; we don’t need anybody here with your background, and we don’t think you would fit into the company.’ Despite this poor match, they offered me the job.
I started work at Barrs in March 1992. On my first day I was taken to the accounts department to sort out my payroll. The chief accountant asked me which paint firm I had been with previously, and was very surprised to learn that I had come straight from University.
One of the other lab workers asked me how long I was going to be working there; he was under the impression that I had been taken on as a temporary placement student.

Duedown Paints, Tamworth: I attended an interview at Duedown and was informed that the company would be able to match my current salary of £X.
I told them I was happy to accept this figure. Then, a week later I had a phone call from the Tech Manager telling me that the firm could not afford to pay me the full salary, and instead would only be able to offer £Y (about 3 percent lower than my current salary).
By this time I had already handed in my notice and some of my colleagues had been made redundant, because Mason Coatings was about to be sold to Akzo Nobel and Kemira.

Chase Industrial Coatings, Widnes: I attended an interview with this company in 2004, organised by Nightwall Recruitment. During the interview I mentioned various aspects of my technical work, and it turned out that I had a lot of relevant experience. When I was saying goodbye, the interviewer said ‘We will be inviting people back in for second interviews in a couple of weeks’ time. If the agency hasn’t been in touch with you by Friday, make sure you give them a call.’
I took this to mean that I was likely to be shortlisted for a second interview. I sent an e-mail to Nightwall saying that I thought the interview had gone very well. Two days later, they sent me a letter telling me that the company would not be progressing my application any further.

Krakow Coatings, Penryn: I attended two interviews with this firm, and was offered the job in December 2009, to start work on 11 Jan 2010. I arrived on my first day in a hire car a few minutes before my boss turned up. I noticed that he did not seem particularly pleased to see me.
After about ten weeks, I was called into the office and informed that my progress had not been satisfactory, and that I showed little enthusiasm for the role, and they felt it best if I left the firm.
When my colleagues asked why I was absent from work, the boss told them that I had been unhappy at work and had decided to leave. He also mentioned that there had been several complaints about my timekeeping and conduct – but nobody had ever mentioned these to me during my time there. 

Lexona, Salford: Immediately after being dismissed from Krakow Coatings, some friends invited me to spend Easter with them, and paid for my air fare to Manchester. So I travelled up, and after the Easter break another friend invited me to spend a few days with him in Blackpool. While there, I had a call from an agency (Nightwall) asking me if I was interested in a temporary lab technician job in Salford. I replied that I had actually moved down to Cornwall and would find it difficult to move back up at short notice.
My friend told me that he actually had a flat available to rent; unfurnished, and in need of decorations and repair, but if I needed it he would let me stay there. So I rang Nightwall and told them that I was interested in the job, and that I could actually move back to Salford if I was offered work there.
Over the next two days I had about half-a-dozen phone conversations with Nightwall during which we discussed the duties and salary for the temporary post. They told me that I was to report to the Lexona site on a particular date, and I was given the idea that this was my start date for a guaranteed placement.
I made my way to Salford on the agreed date and informed the receptionist that I had been sent by the agency to start work in the lab. They asked me to wait, and I gathered from the overheard conversations that my arrival had not been expected.
Eventually I was taken upstairs to the office to meet the staff who were in charge of the technical department. We chatted about my career and experience; eventually they said, ‘Right, we’ll let you know’ and I explained that I had been expecting to start work immediately. They said that it was just a preliminary interview.
I rang Nightwall to tell them what had happened. They said they would speak to Lexona to find out if I was going to be offered a job, and I told them that I couldn’t return to Cornwall because I had been renting a single room on a temporary basis. After a few days, I had a call from Nightwall to confirm that I was indeed going to be offered a post at Lexona, during which time I would be employed by the agency.

Neoborane, Irlam: I attended an interview with Neoborane in September 2015, and very shortly afterwards I had a phone call from the agency to say that I was going to be offered the job. The following day I had another phone call from the agency (SRG) saying that they would be making me an offer of £Z; how did that sound?
I replied that I was already earning more than that, so I wasn’t interested in moving to a new job for less money. He seemed quite annoyed at this, and asked if I would be interested in a slightly higher figure with a possible review after three months. This puzzled me; surely a recruiter would push their candidate for the highest salary, in order to earn the best commission?
I said ‘If they send me a written offer of employment I will make the appropriate response. I’m not interested in having phone discussions where people can disagree later about what was actually said.’
After I had handed in my notice at work, I tried to get in touch with the personnel department at Neoborane and found that nobody there was able to help with my enquiries. I also had an e-mail from the HR officer asking me to give details of my references (which I had already done ten days earlier).
And when I applied to a flat agency to rent this property, they insisted on me having an independent financial reference check. The financial check was badly delayed because the reference agency thought that I would be living in Manchester but commuting to Nottingham (which was the address of Neoborane head office).
I had made clear on the form (using the tick box provided) that my workplace was not the same as the Head Office address given.
After about two months, it became apparent to my manager that I was struggling to complete the range of tasks and we arranged to have a review meeting. This did not go well, and we arranged to have another review meeting a week later. This second meeting was attended by the HR officer, and we agreed that it would be best if I was to leave the firm. 

Linepark, Rawtenstall: on 10 Aug I attended an interview (informal chat) with Tony H. He didn’t get back to me for about three weeks, so I rang him on 5 Sep and left a message. He called me back at about 5.45 to tell me that they were not going to recruit any more staff because of financial  constraints. Then on 29 Oct I met up with some ex-workmates and learned that one of them was due to start a new job at Linemark very shortly. How odd….  

 

 

 

 

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2001: A Paint Odyssey

Journal Entry, 21 Jan 2001:

What a guru-oo-woo-woovy weekend! Fri night polished off a bottle of Penfold’s white and spilt half a glass. No, I didn’t lick the carpet.
Sat morn (after much delay)got train to Derby, wandered round, went to Cobber’s for brekky, then hopped on train to Leics.
Went to Dover Castle (where it all began in 1983) and then had haircut. Rang S and P. Caught bus to theirs, had huge spag bol, got taxi to Half Time Orange.
As soon as we went in Lyn spotted me and dashed over. She was looking great, cropped blond hair, chic glasses, black outfit. Stu came along – he had never seen Karaoke before. (Note: this was Lyn’s fiftieth birthday party, and I went to her fortieth party at a pub in Oxford back in 1991)
At about 11.30 we tried to ring for a taxi but were told none available until 1.45 so we walked to a taxi office and got one in 20 mins.
While at S and P’s saw a hilarious British Comedy called ‘Saving Grace’. Also read half a book about spiritualist/psychic stuff by John Edwards.
Woke up to find snow. Got train back okay, someone else writing out an A4 diary while travelling.
At Lyn’s party saw Caroline – still in Oxford. I showed them my driving licence – ‘God, Tim, you look like Charles Manson!’

Journal Entry, 22 Jan 2001:

Last night phone call from Michael in Germany – he moves house on the 17th.
Today at work we were in the lab when Jack Fletcher turned up with a four-foot tall moulding made of PE, and asked Pete if we had any suitable paint. PG cheerfully says ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got some chlorinated primers from Eastman. And of course (suddenly registering my presence) we’ve got an expert on everything to do with painting plastic.’
On Friday Pete asked me to overcoat some matt black panels, which I’ve done. He has totally forgotten about these as well.
(Quote from George W Bush: ‘An increasing amount of our imports is coming from overseas.’)

Journal Entry, 23 Jan 2001:

Our darling leader turned up at lunchtime and announced that we would be needed for stocktaking down the warehouse on Thursday. Then I was asked to make a sample of green paint from a computer prediction (snort!).
Torrential rain on way home: reminded me of that time in Balsall Heath when Stoney Lane was knee-deep in sewage after floods. And the deluge in Oxford which saw water coming up through the drains in the corridor.

Journal Entry, 24 Jan 2001:

Pete G asked me to spray an assortment of matt black panels at 60 microns. Then he asked me to overcoat some other matt blacks – no reason given. Then he asked me to make up some RAL 6016 green from a computer prediction (which I did today). So far he hasn’t asked about progress on any of these things.
Peter Mandelson, NI secretary, has resigned from the cabinet for the second time – last one was two years ago over his house-buying loan. This time it was regarding an application for British Passports for those Asian millionaires who donated funds to the Millennium Dome.
Went down to Victoria Wines (Chablis and a decent bottle of German white) and on the way passed Wilnecote Parish Hall. Every other building is festooned with slogans, phone numbers, lights, trade names etc. But this anonymous villa has nothing. Sinister.

Journal Entry, 25 Jan 2001:

Stocktaking today with Steve, and Pete G and Graham J were both down the warehouse counting tins. Surely Technical Manager and MD have better things to do with their time.
The warehouse is full of (literally) thousands of pounds worth of varnish and polishing materials. The only persons on duty are Gaz and Mems. There are no security cameras anywhere. There are no lockable aisles to keep secure the desirable goodies – aerosols and Briwax etc.
Returned from warehouse to lab at lunchtime. Pete G was there, didn’t ask me anything about work – apparently he’s on holiday next week and yet has not checked on what I’m doing. He mentioned something to Brian about Jack F and his plastic mouldings. No questions to me. (Note: this was a bout four weeks before the firm was sold to Spencer Coatings, and I was made redundant in breach of the then-prevailing TUPE legislation.)

 

 

 

 

Window Widow

 

Window Widow

He lost his job in ‘eighty-six
And watched the gathered triumphs
Begin to crumble in the glare of looming poverty.
The outside world is nice and safe behind
Its wall of glass. Briefly misted in small patches of despair
His soul begins to starve upon itself.

She tries to keep the home together; his nucleus is
Terribly unstable. Things went
From bad to worse, he lost his way
Walking through the park
Got drunk one night and tried to stab a queer; the knife
Was limp and wouldn’t hit the mark.

He builds a careful drama from
The stream of day-to-day events; the only time
He comes to life is when he’s watching her enact the scenes
Contrived by his diseased imagination.

He watches mute; she pauses to allow a car to pass,
And makes her way along the narrow street.
And though she doesn’t know it, she’s a star.

 

 

 

 

Collaborations!

I was wandering around YouTube the other night, looking at various conspiracy theory lectures, clips from Hollywood movies, and computer-generated landscapes. And then I started watching the pop videos, having a good old wallow in Eighties nostalgia.

I gradually realised that YouTube was giving me a menu of suggested items, based on what I had been previously enjoying. There were any number of unexpected duets: Elton John with Prince; Dave Gilmour with Tom Jones; and Miss Piggy with Ozzy Osbourne. Some of these were fascinating, others annoying; but it occurred to me that creative artists seem to thrive in each other’s’ company, and often we can find a song lifted to new heights by a star cameo. Joe Cocker turned a jolly Beatles song into a blues monster, and when Dame Shirley Bassey told us to ‘Get This Party Started’ you just knew she meant business. ‘Life on Mars?’ is a clever, charming ballad; but Rick Wakeman’s piano gives it a new depth and grandeur.

And I sometimes wonder if the scientific field would benefit from the sharing of ideas by skilled workers. During my career I have noticed that many firms are reluctant to share ideas in any way. This appears in the ‘We’ve Always Done it This Way’ syndrome, where new ideas are unwelcome (as one manager liked to put it, ‘You’re not here to think, you’re here to work!’)

As well as being resistant to any incoming ideas, firms are often highly protective of their own intellectual property – quite understandable, when you think of the untold millions that are spent on developing new medicines. Contracts of employment will prohibit staff from having any unauthorised contact with workers from rival companies – or even discussing their work with people from neighbouring departments.

One is reminded of Richard Carpenter; when his sister Karen was on the brink of a successful solo career, he persuaded the record company that she had stolen some of the vocal techniques they had developed together and therefore should not have been allowed to release her new album.

If firms are so convinced that their own procedures are superior (to anything carried out by the heathens on the other side of the mountain) then surely all job adverts would specify ‘No Experience Necessary’. But they don’t.

The ‘ideas’ within many firms – formulations, procedures, designs – can be corrupted during the process of transmission. The personnel who carry out tasks will want to maintain a certain level of job security, and so they will avoid revealing how some procedures are carried out. It is even possible that some workers may attempt to hinder their colleagues’ career progress by discreet sabotage.

And I can’t help wondering if industrial firms could benefit from allowing their staff to take part in collaborative ventures, to allow them to be exposed to new ideas.

 

Profexxional, Foul    16.03.05

And meanwhile, here at Sterling Tech
My days are full but nothing is achieved;
My nights, it seems, are all hard spent
In search of that elusive element
That occupies the absent space between
Nitrogen and Oxygen, at once a substance
Vital and inert, a whispered message
From an exiled kingdom.
Caught between the light dark squares
Of the everlasting field
Waits for the facts to be exposed
Here in some abandoned Trafford Park.

In ten years’ time, what will you see
When you survey this avenue of doom
A hollow building, broken glass,
And memories of a firm that thought
Commercial triumph not too highly bought
To justify the massacre of souls
Whose suffering will far outlast the joy
Of making things that no-one really needs
In a yet-to-be discovered Trafford Park.