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Neil Robertson

They can't even spell 'British' properly on the ad either: "Britsh Council Behaviours"? Whatever happened to Ms Moneypenny? Outsourced probably to an offshore tax haven!


Hi David
I was going to respond to your previous blog until I read this one. It spookily relates to the same BC issue of competencies in job applications (internal or external).
In the previous blog, Pokeman wrote that the BC take on "senior staff with little or no management training, intelligence or foresight in how to run a public funded body". Actually, as long as any applicants know how to play the BC recruitment game, they have an equal chance of getting the job.
The document 'British Council Behaviours' is set out as are (potential) staff competencies for appraisals and applications. If I were going after this post, I would go through each statement carefully and come up with a scenario to describe how I fit with each statement. I would then take the notes with me to the interview or have them there for the telephone conference interview (the BC likes these) and, as if by magic (because the questions are ALWAYS based on the competencies), I would be able to answer their questions confidently without hesitation, deviation or repetition.
The BC doesn't believe in getting references from previous employers (at least for teaching centres) and use this method as they think it works better. This is not a joke.


Jane - I apologise for responding to this so slowly, too much distracted. But yes it's clearly a question of knowing the right formula for this employer rather than knowing what you are doing. In an organisation where officers switch roles from one thing to another, actual expertise is at a discount. And it shows.


Ah, yes, the competencies. Level 1; Ability to walk; Ability to breath. Level 2; Ability to do both things at once.

A couple of years ago, faced with the winter doldrums that hits freelance EFL people, and against my better judgement, I applied to teach on a short business course with the BC in Morocco. The application process was a nightmare of incompetence and non-returned calls on their side, ending with them telling me all the jobs had gone. But I did - eventually, after saying I was going to complain - get a phone interview with a couple of random BC guys – one of whom appeared to have been fortuitously passing through the office at the time.

First question -

"Can you tell us what the present perfect is?"

[pause for my astonished intake of breath]

"Um... OK, yes, I can if that's what you want, but have you read my application?"

"Yes, of course we have".

"So you're aware that apart from four years working as a Contract Officer for the BC in Manchester in the early 90s, I've been involved in EFL since 1982?"


"And that I've got a Trinity Dip?"

"Yes, yes".

"And an MEd in ELT?"

"Indeed. Could you tell us what the present perfect is now, please? And can we have some examples of teaching concept questions as well, please?"

So I told them what the pp was – in some detail - and wrenched my brain back nearly 30 years to my CTEFLA and what a ‘concept question’ actually was. Then I asked

"OK. Now this job is teaching business students in Morocco - would you like to hear about my relevant experience teaching business English, and working with Arabic-speaking students at Tertiary level?"

"No, thank you".

By now I'd realised that wild horses wouldn't drag me into working for the BC again. I told the interviewers that the interview had been fatuous, and surely we could have taken it for read that a masters qualified teacher with several decades teaching experience could answer questions clearly designed to test the basic teaching knowledge of recent CELTA graduates. I also said we should have cut to the chase and talked about my actual qualifications and experience for this specific job, and that I hadn't really had a chance to tell them what I had to offer them.

"We're sorry, but the rules are we have to ask everyone the same questions".

There you are then. I suppose I went in with a bit of a 'sod-it' attitude, but I was hugely fed-up by the time we got round to the interview - apart from anything else filling in BC applications takes days out of time when one could be earning. The whole experience left a very bitter taste in my mouth - as, frankly, every contact I've ever had with the BC has. But that's how the rules are with the BC: everything must ultimately be reduced to a ‘competency’ and much of their activity is down to mechanistic codification in an attempt to tame a troubling and complex outside world. I see they're looking for people for this year's course in Morocco at the moment - I won't be applying.


I would love to read this document, but unfortunately or coincidentally the link to the BC website is...

British council website temporarily unavailable
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In the meantime your questions and enquiries can be sent to [email protected]

We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

While we are working to restore the website, you can still access our English Learning opportunities at http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en

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