A Knight’s Tale (56: How I Became A Team Leader)

As soon as I had served the two years I owed post-secondment to Kingston Social Services Department, where there were no available team leader posts, I sought promotion elsewhere.

I answered an advertisement from the Labour controlled London Borough of Southwark. To work there I would need to be a Trade Union member. This seemed acceptable because, after all, they did negotiate salaries for staff. In a further post I was to learn that members in management positions were less equal that others.

I was called to interview in a huge room where I faced a semi-circle of what must have been a dozen committee members and the Director of Social Services. Each interrogator had a set of questions before them. These would be read out in turn with neither response nor exploration of my answers.

About halfway round the arc a gentleman, hesitatingly, recited the question previously put to me. Thinking this must surely be a test for me, I replied: “I’ve just answered that one”. The only response was an embarrassed silence as the baton was collected by the next person to his right.

The far end of the spectrum to my right was now out of my sight while looking at the next questioner. That the two elderly women occupying those relevant seats had been talking between themselves throughout the process was already disconcerting. Could this have been another test of my mettle? I turned to them and said that I could not concentrate on the questions while their conversation was distracting me. I learned later that one of these ladies held a very important political position.

I don’t remember any more details of this event, except that Ruth Nothman, the Director, telephoned me the next day and explained that I had not been given the post, but that she wanted me to have it. There would therefore be a further interview to which I would be invited. She advised me not to upset the panel.

The next meeting took place in front of a platform at the front of what seemed to be an auditorium. My only real memory of this event was that, as I was presented with the one question that I don’t think I could have answered satisfactorily a woman, reminiscent of Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle, entered stage left pushing a tea trolley. Everything stopped for tea. I wasn’t offered a cup but was given valuable minutes in which to ponder my response. To my relief the inquisitors must have forgotten where we were because they moved on.

I got the job.


      1. The fact that those who interview well don’t necessarily meet the expectations and requirements of the job effectively makes the process even more fraught with pitfalls.

  1. Ruth Nothman must have appreciated your honest and direct responses! I would have done the same, and had you back for that second interview. It was obvious you were not a “Yes” man, as we call them here, but someone who stood up for what they believed.

  2. EEK! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ and Congrats! ๐Ÿ™‚ Those interviews are nerve-wracking.
    HA! Father Tedโ€™s Mrs. Doyle…I snort-laughed! We’ve watched that sitcom on Britbox…hmm…or Acorn TV…one of them! ๐Ÿ˜€ If I was sitting in an interview and someone like Mrs. Doyle walked in…I would probably laugh…and then get asked to leave. HA! ๐Ÿ˜€
    (((HUGS))) ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. That first interview seems like such an Alice in Wonderland experience. So bizarre. I’m glad “Mrs. Doyle” saved the day for you with the second interview. ?

  4. I never watched Father Ted, so I pictured Mrs Overall one of Victoria Woodโ€™s characters instead!
    Iโ€™m please you got the job.

  5. Wonderful! It beggars belief how things are done. I like to think this type of thing wouldn’t happen now but … ? Great story, Derrick, and you finally got the promotion you clearly merited ?

  6. cheers to “saved by the tea” ending here – loved that
    and it shows what having favor with someone can lead to – and having favor with Ruth made things happen – and so did you of course

      1. ๐Ÿ™‚ and side note – I was looking around to get a few images for the interview post – and would like to post it sometime in November – but no hurry and we have time :P)

  7. An intimidating procedure, to be sure, but the advice not to upset the panel was priceless. It reminded me of my interview with a dean for a faculty position (let’s leave the institution unnamed). I was advised to shorten my skirt. Sharon Stone I am not, so I didn’t. I got the position.

    1. Your experience was priceless, too, Dolly. When Jackie passed her driving test first time a male neighbour asked her how short was her skirt, and she replied: “Not as short as the examiner’s”

    1. There is one to come later where I did it on purpose because it was obvious that I was the one external candidate to cover a shoe-in internal appointment. Thanks a lot, Widders

  8. My first ever interview was with a panel of 18 academics at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. I was ony twenty, and terrified! They expected me to derive mathematical equations on a blackboard as they all watched and commented. I didn’t get that scholarship…..

  9. Derrick this is a super story and well told. “Don’t upset the inquisitors” indeed. People have such delicate sensibilities. You should have been lauded in the first interview for having the conviction to speak your mind politely and in the relevant moment. People who can’t bear to be revealed as merely human are so annoying to me. “Get over yourself!” I’m glad you got the job and were saved by the tea!!

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