Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Work Rant: People who can't do Forms...

I’m coming to the end of my job – I finish this Friday in fact. For those that don’t know, I’ve been temping part time (2 hours a day) this month in the university offices in Wellington Square. My job’s basically been putting new student data in the records and printing off their Bod (student) cards.

There are three of us temps helping the permanent staff because it’s obviously their busy period – with over 3,000 new undergraduates starting in October, not to mention graduates, academics and visitors.

What’s quite worrying is how we were picked. We were given a simply test where we had 10 students’ names – deliberately horrible foreign ones – and had to enter them on a spreadsheet. That’s all, but apparently several more applicants were turned down for the job making five or six mistakes on that simple test – and these are all Oxford postgrads!

Mind you, having seen how inept some people are with forms, I’m not too surprised. I think we should make filling the form in correctly part of the entrance test – it’s not that difficult. Undergraduates even get their forms pre-printed, all they have to do is check the details, amend if necessary, and sign it.

In one college, I got three people (out of just over 100) who failed to sign it.

Another one that really annoys me is we don’t always have people’s full names. The form clearly says ‘all names in full’ so if we only have John Smith people should add middle names (if any). Some of them don’t do this, but then sign it John P. Smith. If I had my way, I’d send those forms back as incorrect… Even worse is when we have an initial, but they don’t supply the name. There was one guy who we only had a first initial for – D. Douglas, or whatever it was.

Normally we do have names, and people just have to correct if necessary. A quirk of the system means only the first ten letters are printed – so we miss the last letter of Christopher, Bartholomew, etc. In these cases, people have to add the missing letter and we update the record. Of course though, we can’t predict the strange spellings we get (Abegael, Alys, Cristoph, etc) so we have to assume (a) that people can spell their own names and (b) that forms they’ve sent are right. Even when it looks wrong, e.g. Miss Ffrench. If you don’t correct your own name, we can’t do it for you…

And then there are people who send in passport photos with headphones, hats and even in one case ski goggles! Or those who put a staple right through their face – that ends up on their cards, of course…

I’m sure a lot of our dates of birth are wrong, because Americans will write it 02/18/78 (for example). That’s obvious, but if they’re born in the first twelve days of a month it isn’t… Our undergrad forms purposely have DD/MMM/YY, e.g. 03 MAR 86. And we get people who write 03/005/86!

Ok, paperwork’s pretty horrible, but these are simple forms, and it amazes me how supposedly clever people make such a meal of it…

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