Role of personal contacts in professional progression

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Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby BettySiaf » Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:45 pm

Hello all! I will soon be working in UK as a Trainee CAAP and I aspire to continue working in UK after my graduation. I would like to address a generic question about the work reality in our professional field mainly to the psychologists that already have considerable work experience in United Kingdom (and to all professionals who hold relevant posts such as hca, sw, pwp, AP and RA).
Which of the following would you consider the norm regarding transparency in employee selection?

1) Psychologists etc. find a job through transparent and fair procedures which focus on selecting the best candidate for a job vacancy that was created in order to ameliorate the service.
2) Personal contacts may offer advantage to a candidate, but only if s/he is already adequate for a job.
3) Personal contacts can substitute the lacking qualifications, competences and/or experience of a candidate who may then be appointed to a post although more adequate candidates might had applied for that post.
4) A combination of the above or another situation...

My personal experience regarding selection procedures so far has indicated that, at least in NHS, they focus on whether or not you can do the job regardless of any other characteristic or any personal contacts. However, I've heard of different opinions too, such as that you would not be appointed as an RA by a University unless a professor has known you personally.

The reason I start this conversation is because the work reality I come from more or less falls under option 3 as described above. Not only personal contacts can boost a person to the point that s/he takes a post instead of someone more adequate for the job, but also posts are created in order to be occupied by specific persons regardless of the need for the post or the adequacy of the person. Obviously this does not apply to 100% of the cases, but unfortunately it is a common phenomenon whose real proportions I understood only several years after my graduation.

As you may suspect, one of the main reasons I wish to establish a career in the UK is the fact that I believe it offers better employment opportunities in terms of transparency and fairness. But I also understand that there might be a lot of gray area when it comes to transparency... :roll: So I would really appreciate it if you could offer your insight regarding the subject!

My aim here is to gather the opinions of those who have work experience in the field and are in position to judge the system from different angles. It would be interesting if colleagues elaborated on their opinions and offered their UK perspective on the subject (a perspective I will have only after working some years in UK). I wouldn't like anyone to perceive this post as an attempt to expose possible weaknesses of the UK healthcare system and work culture but rather as an attempt to get more familiar with it.

Thank you! :)
We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde
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Re: Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby BlueCat » Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:51 am

It's interesting to think about how things are in other places. My experience of the NHS is firmly in option one, and my limited experience of third sector also fits into option one. I would imagine that many of the bigger private employers fall here too. However, within the private sector, I would suggest that option two ans occasionally option three play a part.
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Re: Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby BettySiaf » Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:47 pm

@BlueCat

Thank you for your answer! You are right, it is interesting and revealing to see the differences with other countries...
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Re: Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby Spatch » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:37 am

I think there is a huge amount of variability depending on what job, what context and what level you are talking about, so I will go for Option 4.

From my experience, most jobs in the NHS within the clinical teams are fairly transparent and open to the best candidate. For your average Band 7-8, the hiring manger is going to be more interested in whether you can do the job and fit with the team rather than who you know. They also probably care less about broader reputation in favour of do you tick the job description (e.g. extremely unlikely scenario, but Aaron Beck the father of CBT, would be automatically excluded from many Band 7 psychology jobs because he doesn't have HCPC registration, regardless of how important he is).

However, there are some management level senior gigs that will depend on your contacts, reputation and who you know rather than a candidate's raw ability. For instance, I would regard myself as someone who is very able, but I know that I am unlikely to ever be sitting on an Executive Board for an NHS Mental Health Trust. Those appointments tend not to be dished out to the rank and file regardless of ability and aptitude.

In my experience in private working things can become grayer, as reputation plays more of a role than basic ability. A lot of work is obtained by word of mouth, and like many small businesses and entrepreneural situations you are more likely to find the psychologists other half doing their accounts or their friend's daughter doing data entry/assisting. I am not sure how you could ever get around this.

I have also come across roles being specifically set out for candidates who a service want to keep, but that's often for people who are already within the system, so it is a little bit different. Its less a case of "we know your dad" and more of "you'be been an RA with us on our last project, we'd like to keep you on so lets think of a way in our next funding application..." Happens more in universities and research than the NHS in my experience, but I could be wrong about that.
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Re: Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby BlueCat » Thu Nov 17, 2016 8:38 pm

Spatch wrote:I have also come across roles being specifically set out for candidates who a service want to keep, but that's often for people who are already within the system, so it is a little bit different. Its less a case of "we know your dad" and more of "you'be been an RA with us on our last project, we'd like to keep you on so lets think of a way in our next funding application..." Happens more in universities and research than the NHS in my experience, but I could be wrong about that.


Even then, the post would probably be advertised publically, and if someone who blew that candidate out of the water was interviewed , the better candidate would probably be appointed.
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Re: Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby Ruthie » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:32 pm

BlueCat wrote:
Spatch wrote:I have also come across roles being specifically set out for candidates who a service want to keep, but that's often for people who are already within the system, so it is a little bit different. Its less a case of "we know your dad" and more of "you'be been an RA with us on our last project, we'd like to keep you on so lets think of a way in our next funding application..." Happens more in universities and research than the NHS in my experience, but I could be wrong about that.


Even then, the post would probably be advertised publically, and if someone who blew that candidate out of the water was interviewed , the better candidate would probably be appointed.


I've certainly come across what Spatch is saying. Examples include when a senior post about to become vacant (e.g. someone retiring), that it isn't unusual for someone in the wings to be supported to prepare themselves for that role and perhaps taking on certain responsibilities towards that. It would be advertised and it would be possible for someone to perform better than that candidate (and I certainly know of one incidence where that happened where the person acting into a role was trumped by another internal candidate and it caused a bit of a minor furore).

I think can be quite tough to compete with internal candidates - for instance I was asked at an interview what my vision would be for the service. I was completely external and although I had spoken with the appointing manager prior to the interview and could certainly give some thoughts that were very relevant to the question, I think it would be quite challenging to compete with an internal candidate being asked the same question.

So... whilst I do think NHS appointments tend to be pretty fair and square, I also think internal candidates can have certain advantages. That said... every single post I've ever been offered has been as an external candidate.

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Re: Role of personal contacts in professional progression

Postby BettySiaf » Mon Dec 26, 2016 7:28 pm

I certainly can empathize with what Spatch describes as "ticking the box". Based on my experience, I can say that the differences in the selection process tend to be greater when we compare academic psychology and applied psychology... From your responses I understand that there is a gray area! :P
I would like to thank everyone for their contribution to the post and apologize for taking so long to respond! :oops:
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