I keep telling people how efficient certain parts of the public sector are. And it’s true. No matter how much the Sindo would have you believe that every public servant is evil or incompetent or thieving or inefficient or lazy or… well, you get the picture – sometimes, quite often, in fact, we do stuff well.
With reducing resources, in adverse circumstances, and with a concerted campaign to demean and belittle us, and make us guilty for daring to get paid for doing our jobs – really, we do manage to be efficient. And having friends at all levels of the private sector, I know that we are often more efficient than the private sector.
But not always.
I’d heard about an interesting vacancy advertised on PublicJobs so I go to have a look. Or, well, I try to.
First, I can’t get the site to do anything. My browser has frozen. No, wait now. It’s the site. They’ve put up a popup warning me about (SHOCK! HORROR!) the danger of cookies, and how their cookies aren’t really dangerous. It’s just that the popup blends in so well with the site that you don’t actually notice it.
Close that popup and we hit problem number two – you can do nothing unless you’re logged in. You can’t even download the application form. So you have to register with the site so you can log in.
Oh, look – you have to create a Username. Which can’t be your email address. That’s… quaint. Security questions? Yes, the same security questions most sites ask for. At least they could phrase it differently – “What’s your pornstar name?” so they can get your first pet’s name and mother’s maiden name in one question.
We get there eventually. We get the form downloaded. We get told we need Adobe version 7 (no, we need Adobe reader, there’s a difference) but that’s ok.
Then we find out that to apply for a senior position in the Irish civil/public service you get exactly the same application form as you would when applying for the most junior post.
“Give below, in date order (starting with your current employer), full particulars of all employment (including any periods of unemployment) between the date of leaving school or college and the present date. No period between these dates should be unaccounted for.”
For real? I’m applying for a fairly senior post. You make it clear people need relevant experience. You’re not getting people fresh out of college here. But you want to know everything they’ve done since they left secondary school or college?
In my case, that’s well over twenty years. I do not see how filling out boxes about a FÁS course I did in the 1980s, some months I spent unemployed back then, or a couple of years spent working in a clothes shop can be of any benefit to you or to me. In fact, even finding the relevant dates will be a pain in the ass – and will involve me taking up the valuable time of other public servants as I try to find this information during working hours. “Hello – I was unemployed twenty-something years ago for a couple of months – if I give you my PPS number, can you get me the dates? And would there be anything about a FÁS course on there too? Thanks, I’ll hold…”
Private sector people – middle-to-senior management job. You’d be looking at what, last ten years only? Add in other, older stuff if it directly supports the application?
The sad thing is this is pretty much exactly the same application form they were using five or six years ago,. the last time I filled one of these out. So in six years, there’s been not one person in the Public Appointments Service who has said “You know, this is bullshit. At this level, the interview boards always skip the early stuff – let’s save everyone’s time and resources and just ask…”
Mind you, last time, I thought to myself “I’m scanning this, just in case…” and had a hard drive crash. So yeah, there is a benefit to bureaucracy, and doing things in triplicate…