It's been an interesting few months on Planet HMRC, especially for yours truly. After many years of service, mostly marked by an almost complete lack of personal ambition, I had begun to accept that I would spend forty-five years at the same grade I had entered at, and that this would be fine.
After all, the salary isn't bad, all things considered, I still enjoy what I do, and I'm still motivated by the vaguely altruistic sense that, by doing my job well, I put something back into society. And, in an environment where Civil Service numbers are in decline, opportunities were likely to be few and far between anyway.
That was true until the dawning of the Coalition, and young Danny Alexander's enhanced funding of HMRC compliance work. Suddenly, we needed more compliance staff, and this, combined with the Department's slightly troubling age profile, meant that we'd actually need to recruit, and promote, to fill the gaps. After years of career stagnation, especially for those younger and more ambitious than I, this was going to be an opportunity not to be missed.
Eventually, it was announced that an internal scheme for promotion to Higher Executive Officer level would take place in late Summer and, having discussed the matter with Ros, I returned from our summer holiday determined to compete. I honed my competence examples so as to squeeze in the maximum amount of scoring content within the permitted word limits, discussed them with my manager, and pressed 'send' on my application on the very last day. That left the online test...
I'd only ever done one recruitment test over the years, when I sat my direct entrant examination in 1987. Yes, I was good then, but things have changed - psychometric testing is in vogue - and you just don't know. And, given that your online test score would decide whether or not your application would even be read, there was a bit of pressure to get it right.
As it turned out, the test was a mixture of logic exercises and judgement exercises. Luckily, I've been keen on logic problems for years, so they weren't too bad. The judgement exercises, on the other hand, were something of a blow. As a liberal, I tend not to extremes of view on the best solution in a situation where people are involved, and found myself wanting more information than was on offer. But, with only thirty minutes on the clock, there was no time for agonising, so I gave it my best shot.
The waiting began... Firstly, what was my test score? As it turned out, not bad, as I achieved a score in the 95th percentile, giving me, on the face of it, a pretty good chance of getting to the next stage. However, as the next stage depended on the range of scores in your chosen locations, it guaranteed very little.
Two weeks later, I received an e-mail at 8.30 on a Friday evening, telling me that my score was good enough to ensure that my application would be considered, and that they would be considering three times as many candidates as there were vacancies. With four hundred vacancies, that left a very high potential casualty rate to survive.
Time passed, September turned to October, and I was beginning to get twitchy. Given that the application would be reviewed by two random strangers, who might not understand what I had written, I feared the worst. But, eventually, came the word, that I had met the minimum score requirement to be eligible for a job offer. The catch? Without knowing how many people had made the cut, there was no guarantee that I would get a job offer, and might end up on a reserve list with no guarantee of success at the end of it.
However, I would know within a week, I was assured. The week passed with no news until, on the Thursday, it was announced that more time was required, and that the results would be delayed for another week. I wasn't handling this well, although having set fairly low expectations, i.e. that I would fail at every stage, hope was beginning to stir by this time.
Last week passed by with agonising slowness, and increasing twitchiness on my part until, yesterday, my manager wandered over with a grin and asked, "Haven't you read your e-mail?". I hadn't. So I did.
And so, it is with much surprise, and an unexpected degree of pleasure, that I can now say that, at some point in late November or early December, I will officially be promoted to my new grade, based in Ipswich. I don't know what the job will be yet, as they haven't told me, and won't be doing so for another three weeks. And, there will be challenges, with potential professional training to be taken and passed, and a whole new set of skills to learn.
But don't worry, I'll still be the faintly bemused bureaucrat that the world knows, and is relatively comfortable with...