newsflash: irish government uses cloak-and-dagger methods to recruit poor people for shit jobs

Yesterday, April 22nd 2012, I encountered this job advertisement on

Job Title  : Data Entry Clerks
Job Type  : Permanent / Full-time
Job Description  : We require experienced data entry clerks to work within a government department
The Job Applicant  : Testing will be required as part of the interview process to ensure you can reach this level of typing. You must have at least 2 years previous experience working in a busy clerical role. An ECDL qualification is desirable. Previous customer service experience also required and you must possess a good telephone manner. This is an excellent opportunity to work within a Government Department. This position is contracted from April to November at the moment.
Further Details  : You must be capable of typing at 40 words per minute
Date added : 19/04/2012

It was untypically vague for a civil service post, but a job is a job. Amongst several other similar jobs, I applied for it.

Today I received a call at 13.42 to invite me for an interview for the post. The interview was scheduled for 16.30 today. The woman on the phone was clipped, disinterested and cold. I asked her to be specific about the job, but she glossed over the details – “Data entry for a government body based in the city centre”. She said she was calling from a recruitment agency and gave me the address of the interview, which was in an industrial estate about 30km from my home, and accessible by 2 buses (about 2 hours travel time). I agreed to attend immediately, and then quickly found myself a kind human to give me a lift (a blessed 25 minute journey by car).

I arrived at 16.25. A receptionist asked me to sit in the lobby and wait. I waited with approximately six other applicants. Each applicant looked harried and harassed; all of us vaguely sweaty in our hastily ironed suits. Everyone looked pretty desperate. Eventually the woman who had rung me earlier appeared and handed out application forms to everyone. They were essentially blank CVs, and six pages long. We were told to fill them out and she left. We were guided by the receptionist to a room with empty office desks, so as to more easily fill in the forms. Meanwhile, another batch of applicants was drifting into the reception area.

At 17.10 a woman in a white dress who I had not met before came into the desk-room and without introducing herself handed everyone another sheet of paper which explained that we would each perform a typing test, followed by a short interview. It also mentioned that the posts were shift-work (7.15am – 3.45pm and 3.15pm – 11pm) and that the pay would be €11.46 per hour. I did a quick sum: €401.10 per week, gross. A take home pay of about €330, given my personal tax credits and all civil service taxes and charges. Not the worst: last summer my take home pay was €298. It also explained that the posts were with the Local Government Computer Services Board and that they were being created to process data relating to the household charge.

With a sense of dawning reality I suddenly understood why the job description failed to mention this, and why the original clipped, disinterested woman had shirked my questions on the phone. She had been instructed to! I suddenly felt a little ill. As I object to the household charge in its current form, I began to consider leaving. I paused and decided to play it by ear.

At 17.30, the woman in the white dress came into the desk-room and asked, “Who arrived at reception first?” It happened to be me. I rose and followed her into an office where two other administrators were making multiple frantic phone calls, speaking in loud, irritable voices. She did not introduce herself.

She sat me at a laptop in the middle of the room. The browser was set to She described slowly to me how to work the website and said that my aim was 40 words per minute. (Normally my typing speed is somewhere around 80 wpm.) She said to call her when I was ready.

She returned to her own desk and began making phone calls. As I laboriously typed out a stupid paragraph about astronauts, the phone on my desk rang repeatedly and the three women around me spoke in loud voices, one of them complaining to someone on the phone that she didn’t have access to a computer right now. It was extremely difficult to concentrate. I achieved a score of 63 wpm. Although you are allowed to have, apparently, unlimited attempts, I wanted this over with. I sat for a while and waited until White Dress Woman was finished speaking on the phone. I beckoned and she came over, and oohed and aahed over my score, while I cringed. She invited me to yet another desk, in the very same room, for our “interview”.

I slid my completed application form and a copy of my CV across the table to her. It was at this point that she scanned it to register my name, and told me hers.

She asked me the following question:

“Can you start tomorrow?”

Taken aback, I said, “Yes” meaning that I was available to start tomorrow. Inwardly something was screaming “NO WAY!”

The next question was, “Have you worked for a civil service department before?” (Quick glance at my CV.) “Oh yes, I see you have.”

That was the end of the questioning.

She then told me that I could present tomorrow morning for work, but I needed to be aware that they could not offer me a contract of longer than one month. (At this point, it is worth glancing back up to the original job advertisement under the sections ‘Job Type’ and the last line of ‘The Job Applicant’.)

At this point I said, “No thank you” and promptly left, completely demoralized. As I walked out the door she told me to give her a call if I was ever looking for a more suitable job. Ha!

In a bizarre twist of fate, I had received a phone call just one hour preceding this farce of an interview, offering me a temporary post in the Department of Social Protection (a.k.a. the dole office), starting Monday.

Well. Ain’t it funny how these things go.


6 Responses to newsflash: irish government uses cloak-and-dagger methods to recruit poor people for shit jobs

  1. Dolbert says:

    Urgh, sounds like it would be a horrible environment :( 1 month contract, what a joke…

  2. Miserable! On the upside, I am temporarily employed. Hooray!

  3. Eoin O'Mahony says:

    Might be the Local Government Management Board or the Local Government Computer Services Board. Glad to hear you’ll be working soon though; it will be a chance to stick it to all those workshy fops and blackguards currently avoiding work. All 480,000 of them.

    Oh. wait.

  4. You’ve got it. It’s the Local Government Computer Services Board. Thanks! I’m going to edit the post to reflect that.

    I’m going to use this job as an opportunity to be as empathic and understanding as possible to the folks coming in. I have never been treated with any kind of warmth in a dole office – I recognise that I only have my own local place to go by and I’m sure there are plenty of lovely dole office staff around the country – but the atmosphere in those places is generally one of stress, anxiety and guilt. I mean, it’s fucked up. What have I got to feel guilty about?

    Look out, Generic Dole Office. This temp is about to touch you with her glove of love.

  5. Eoin O'Mahony says:

    I would never want be the recipient of a “jar full of love” as sung.


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