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As a permanent member of the firm’s seven strong interview panel, I see all sorts of strange sights which demonstrate the lengths people will go to when it comes to applying for a job. Today was no exception.

“Who’s next?” One of us starts.
“Mr. Arnold,” a second reads from the schedule on the desk in front of him.
“Who he?” A third will jest in mock indignation.
“He’s here instead of Mrs. Beecham who’s applied for the job: but she sent him instead for the interview,” explains our fourth colleague.
“We’re interviewing someone for the job who didn’t apply?” Asks my fifth conspirator.
“Yes,” affirms our studious sixth.
“So Mr. Arnold is a surrogate Mrs. Beecham?” Say I, in my role as group summer upper.
“Yes,” reply the sextet in unison. “It’s their company that applied. It happens all the time in architects firms. The top dog attends the interview and then gives the job to someone else down the pecking order,” they add in six part harmony.
“Oh,” is my closing remark. We all look at each other to confirm that another invisible bond between us has been silently stitched together.

We magnificent seven continued to sit around the table, tapping our pencils, shuffling the paperwork and longing to be out in the sunshine. The paperwork was especially onerous today: one cv, three forms, six declarations and a statement of intent from each of the twelve candidates meant that we panel members had several reams of paper to carry around under our arms wherever we went. We now had the added challenge of realigning a set of paper work from an invisible, real candidate to a surrogate, unreal candidate. It was going to be a long afternoon.

We’re usually pretty accommodating when it comes to the demands made of us. We understand that if the firm is to get the right person for the right job, then it behoves us all to act with the right degree of sober consideration which ensures that each candidate is given the best possible chance of success. This means diligently asking the questions in the right order, not straying from the script, making notes privately and allocating a suitable score for each of the interview criteria for each candidate using suitably weighted assessment criteria. Quite how we would apply this process to a surrogate candidate who was being interviewed for a job they didn’t want on behalf of someone else who did, was something we yet had to experience.

It’s a tough job as you can probably appreciate but, as we nod to each other daily, someone has to do it and it might as well be us. We have gotten to know what is expected of us to such an extent that the firm decided many years ago that they may as well employ all seven of us as a permanent interview panel which would sit on every conceivable recruitment question the firm faced; whether this be for the post of a lofty ambitious CEO or a lowly ailing zero hours contract apprentice. We have subsequently developed such a level of expertise that we are now able to decide whether or not someone gets a job without fear or favour, safe in the knowledge that our decisions are immune from political interference or, heaven forbid, from the technicals in the firm who think they know what’s best for everyone.

But today, when faced with Mr. Arnold being interviewed for a job which Mrs. Beecham had applied for, we were, I have to admit it, beyond our comfort zone. The knock on the door which told us that the candidate was now ready to be interviewed (Mr Arnold? Mrs Beecham? Who was to know?) was greeted with nervous, sideways glances, coughs and the dropping of pencils on the wooden floor.

“Enter!” I called. We lent back in our chairs, transfixed by who was about to walk through the door.