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:
- that council is aware that most residents and ratepayers have internet access
- that council is aware that many residents and ratepayers take it for granted that they can access information and services from council online
- 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)
- 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://fitzroyalty.net).
In 2009 I wrote this article comparing local government websites – http://fitzroyalty.net/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.
The response I received did not acknowledge the issue about the pointlessness of the task or the initiative I had taken:
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.
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.