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Ombudsman targets jobseekers’ complaints

Poor communication between the Bermuda Government and applicants for civil servant posts were targeted by the Ombudsman in her most recent report.

According to the 2015 Annual Report, the Ombudsman wrote that her office received a complaint from an applicant who had never been hired for a civil servant position despite a university education and “hundreds” of applications over a period of years.

The report stated: “He had been unsuccessful for all and further claimed to have received limited, if any, feedback on his applications. Now nearing retirement age, the professional, who had a university education, wanted to find out why he had been unsuccessful on every attempt.”

The applicant stated that he wrote to the Permanent Secretary, who referred him to two government officers, but he received no response from either after two years.

The report said that after being contacted by the Ombudsman’s Office, the post-holders agreed to meet with the applicant to advise him about the hiring process and why he might have been unsuccessful.

“What seemed to be a simple matter of unresponsiveness was actually an opportunity to provide answers to questions that had troubled the professional for a long time,” the Ombudsman wrote in her report. “It provided insight into how initiative may be taken to assist persons who are actively seeking positions within Government. It also provided an example of how an easy problem to remedy may lead to a significant outcome for the complainant.

“By addressing unresponsiveness, our office was able to provide an avenue for the professional to gain closure.”

In a separate incident, a jobseeker complained that he had been told he had won a government position and submitted two professional references upon request.

However, despite several further e-mails about the next step, he received no response. He later discovered that the position had been filled by someone else.

“When we reached out to the authority, it acknowledged that its officers had overlooked the job seeker’s e-mail address initially — mistaking it for spam — but that the job seeker’s references had been received and considered,” the report stated.

“The authority asserted it had not informed the job seeker that he was the successful candidate but rather that he was shortlisted as a recommended candidate. The authority also acknowledged that the shortlisted candidates had not been notified that their applications had been unsuccessful — an aberration from its procedure.

“As a result of our inquiries, the authority voluntarily apologised to the jobseeker for the collective oversights and formally informed him that the position had been filled. Additionally, the authority implemented new procedures to prevent an applicant from confusing being shortlisted with being chosen for a post.”

The report concluded that the authorities must make sure to use clear and unambiguous language and be mindful to avoid miscommunication and failures to respond.

“In this case, the authority could have reduced the likelihood of this complaint arising had its officers responded to the complainant’s e-mails in a timely manner.”