The Job Interview

I recently applied for a new job. A first since LB died. Over five years of campaigning, hearings and time off. Illness. Work derailed.

The end of death investigatory processes neatly dovetailed with Tom (our youngest) going to university in September.

Unexpectedly home alone space. Time. Time to work. And a relevant job. Timing and fit.

What fit though? Troublesome sweary ranter, thorn in the side of NHS bodies/big charities, determined activist outsider. Or an informed, critical academic?

I dusted off my CV with eyes firmly clamped closed in places. LB sitting squarely at the centre of it all. I can’t ‘weigh up’ his death against the Research Exercise Framework (REF). Academic marker of apparent ‘excellence’.

One referee in discussion about my application said:

I don’t know whether to focus on your CV being robust despite what has happened. Or think about what you could have achieved…

No. I don’t know. How the fuck could any one know?

Does academia have space for activism? [Not really]. How does fit work in practice? Conventional compassionate leave doesn’t fit with our experience. It’s not a one off chunk of time to grieve. More barbaric, drawn out processes – police investigation, GMC and NMC hearings, inquest and HSE investigation – involving consistent and repeated dragging back down and compounding horror.

Six years ago I had a reasonably bouncy, bright academic future.

I was shortlisted. I prepared carefully and thoroughly. The two nights before the interview involved terrible (and unusual) nightmares and long periods of wakefulness. The night before I ‘experienced’ an earthquake on an apparent Italian island in such graphic detail I woke feeling I could write a substantive list of what to do and not to do in the event of such a catastrophe. Grimly devastating.

The interview process involved a lengthy presentation to departmental staff in the morning and interview in the afternoon. The presentation seemed to go alright. Warmth and interest from potential colleagues. Entering the same room three hours later I felt ok until the first question. The room was suddenly boiling hot and felt like it was shifting. I couldn’t think. I began to stare fixedly out of a window that was opened and then shut because it was too noisy. My answers incoherent or worse until gently coaxed by panel members to produce something resembling sense.

Then it was over.

I left making cheerful and appropriate noises. I rang Rich to say I didn’t think it had gone well and caught the train home. At Crewe out of the blue Sooty tears kicked in and continued to Oxford. I wasn’t ‘crying’. More leaking seeping fluid at a rate that was impossible to mop. I just let them roll.

That night and the next day I felt utterly shite. Traumatised. Revisiting my answers which became worse in my mind. I felt intense sadness wondering if the MPTS cross-examination was going to haunt me forever. Were the ‘investigatory’ processes going to become more devastatingly damaging than LB’s death? [Howl]

Over the weekend with visits from the kids and others I largely forgot about The Interview. The experience occasionally revisited with a mix of groaning, humiliation and laughter.

This morning I spent some time photographing plants in the beautiful late autumn light. Peaceful, reflective activity. Capturing cheeky kickass and forthright daisies and astonishing colours.

I didn’t get the job. I didn’t make a strong enough case for the fit between my research and the post.

8 thoughts on “The Job Interview

  1. What is it about Crewe station that always induces tears? I’ve been hit there myself, and with less cause.

    Anyone who doesn’t give you a job isn’t worth working for.


  2. It’s really hard.

    First job I applied for after my sister died I was interviewed by a person who I’d worked for before. I thought this would help, but she proceeded to tell me that she couldn’t remember anything I’d done for her. At the time, I thought it was some strange ploy – now think probably true – but independently upsetting.

    Anyway, in the end, I had to describe some aspects of my personal experience, burst into tears and didn’t get the job. Never really solved the work problem since. After these experiences, you are inevitably a different person and one that’s seen organisation(s) as very flawed indeed.

    Then it’s hard to see where that person fits in terms of working for any other organisation.

    All the very best x

  3. Interviews are so stressful they wake up all sorts of other feelings and hurts. They’re about rejection or the threat of rejection, which draws in, for the interviewee, a questioning of your own self worth & the worth of all your experience.
    However the interview panel is often just looking for the person who will best fit in with their team. If you don’t get the job, it’s wasn’t the job for you.
    Don’t beat yourself up. There’s a job that will fit you, as you’ll dovetail in with the role and make best use of your skills. This is just a step on the way, all be it a painful one.

  4. Sara Your honest and forthright approach to life, with all of its vicissitudes, has illuminated the lives of many who learned from your campaign for justice for LB. including me. Take heart that you have struck a light in a dark area of state sanctioned inhumanity. You fearlessly led by example, albeit at great personal cost. For this I salute you. Karen

  5. Weary mother is right – you probably, “Scared the shit out of them.” CRASH feels for you, having been sacked whilst in hospital in 1986: the resultant high profile publicity in specialist media and the local press was deliberate (the Japanese don’t like ‘losing face’) but it makes prospective employers nervous: see

    However, with your knowledge, experience and (most importantly) fortitude and determination you will find your niche.

  6. Sara – in view of this post, are you still receiving email at the address I have for you? If not, please email me – I need your help. I remember ‘your’ Coroner criticised Sloven for late disclosure of evidence. At an Inquest this week, it was not until the fourth day that evidence arose that Sloven had withheld key evidence from the Coroner, its own Counsel and the family’s Counsel. It threw doubt on earlier evidence given in Court. I wonder if you have a copy of ‘your’ Coroner’s complaint to SH, which I will forward to Counsel for the family in the current Inquest.

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