I saw a job vacancy today, for Public Health England.
It is essentially a civil servant role, with matching salary scales. I can’t imagine they attract many qualified applicants – it’s around a fifth of what I was earning in London 20 years ago.
But, salary is not top of my list any more, so there might be people like me who want to do something for the public good. It’s in Porton, close enough to be a taxi-ride away, so I thought I’d apply.
I clicked the links and was presemted with what looked like a “standard” NHS application form. The form asked for two referees up-front, before I’d even been successful at interview, which I found weird for starters. I certainly wouldn’t want them to contact people if I hadn’t got the job, so why is there a need for that information at that point in the process?
The other thing that raised an eyebrow was that the form seems to expect real people as referees. What’s so unusual about that, you may ask? Well, many of the banks I worked for in London did not allow employees to give references. All references were issued by the HR departments, and basically were of a legally-neutral form. “This is to confirm that Joe Bloggs worked here as a Street Cleaner between 1st January 2001 and 31st December 2010”, etc. So it basically witheld any opinion on Joe’s performance, lest either Joe or his new employer should decide that the reference was inaccurate.
So the environment that I’m used to seems diammetrically opposite to that of the NHS. I don’t suppose I should be too surprised, since the salaries are diammetrically opposite too, so there are probably very few people who’d apply for both. In development terms, we’ve hit an OR!
It’s even more colvoluted in my case, since I worked at these banks through my own consultancy company. I’d agree a contract with the bank for six months, a year, and at six-months-plus-one, I’d be out of the door, unless something else was agreed. So there’d be no record of Company X employing Fred, say, rather one of Company X entering into an agreement with Fred’s Company Ltd. I guess many HR people would not think to look at those records, especially when many of my key contracts were, say, 1995-2005 – a while ago. Of course, I worked after that, but I wouldn’t necessarily hold these people up as referees. Irrespective of the NHS or not, I’m not sure how that would work.
So I’m currently left stumped by this application form. There is a contact mentioned on the job spec, so I have emailed them to ask. But my wife (a practise nurse) constantly reminds me about how rubbish the software is where she works, and if the NHS has a de facto exclusion of anybody who’s been good enough to work for a bank, then I might have found the reason why.