The perfect Countryside Ranger applicant – is there one?
What an intriguing question!
Even after 33 years as a Countryside Ranger, recruiting annually for 28 of these, I’m like a fly in a field full of cowpats trying to pin down my thoughts.
You, the perfect applicant will have studied the recruitment pack. All of it. Carefully.
Your application form will allow the recruitment panel to tick off the essential and desirable requirements in fairly short order. Occasionally, an applicant will succeed with the very challenging task of understanding and articulating concisely the value of the experience they do have, without claiming “extensive knowledge” after six weeks of a work experience placement.
This is so important; your interview panel, by and large, have “seen it, done it, T-shirt, book and film rights”. They understand that you need to piece together a cohesive case based on the experience you do have. Be aware you are only a question or two away from your “extensive knowledge” being completely unravelled. You, the perfect applicant, understand that and present a case where you can speak comfortably about all the experience you bring.
Have you applied for “a job” or have you applied for “THE job”? There is an important difference which can tip the outcome of the interview in your favour.
Always apply for “THE Job”. You, the perfect applicant, are so excited by the prospect of working at this location, and, in a sentence or two, say what you feel it will add to your c.v. At interview make the opportunity to highlight the projects or events run by your prospective employer that you find interesting. All this information is but a few clicks away, it would be negligent not to have done so. The perfect applicant does not say “I’ve never even thought about visiting (your location) until I arrived for the interview today.”
Spelling, punctuation, grammer. The tools of an able communicator. The perfect applicant uses the facilities of modern computing to avoid embarrassing errors.
Double check your application for errors, and seek advice if it is not your strong point.
(I can scarce continue knowing that a deliberate typo is lurking…but I must. )
You, the perfect applicant, also possess a talent or specialist interest not immediately related to your job function. From chainsaw carving to flower arranging, you can bring a new dimension to the role and one that has great potential to add to the service delivery of your employer.
Most of all, you, the perfect applicant, can demonstrate the soft skills that so many struggle with. Soft skills are often overlooked, even at interview, where pressures of time and a formulaic approach can depersonalise candidates to their detriment.
What are soft skills?
For me they are the ability to engage with people from all walks of life, an open and friendly personality which is valid whether these people are colleagues or customers, Lords or layabouts. Soft skills help you appreciate and meet the expectations of both your employer and your customers. This can be acquired - retail work, hospitality industry, community projects, care homes and volunteering, all provide opportunities for you to develop and hone these skills.
Your role as a Countryside Ranger may be somewhere from the mountain tops, to the seashore; from remote and isolated, to urban and populous. Wherever you work the quality of your soft skills are a universal essential in the success of your role. Neglect them at your peril.
As a recruiter it is incumbent on you to provide the opportunity for the applicant to shine. Your own soft skills are essential in achieving that. We’ve all heard of hostile interviewers, cases where point scoring between colleagues relegates the candidate to an unwitting pawn. I can recall an interview I had many years ago where one of the interview panel was doodling on his notepad. I watched as he drew an elaborate gravestone inscribed with “R.I.P.” I didn’t get the job.
Lead by example, set the standard you expect, the perfect applicant will emerge and the challenge of getting through the recruitment process will reward you both handsomely.
Chair, Scottish Countryside Rangers Association, www.scra-online.co.uk
George Potts retired from the post of Senior Countryside Ranger with Dundee City Council in 2016. Throughout his career he recruited Countryside Ranger staff with an annual seasonal intake and for a number of Urban Ranger projects with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a historic park restoration and European funding for community regeneration. George always provided support for staff in these temporary positions to submit successful applications for other jobs. He believes he may have read more than 2000 application forms!!