Q&A with Gerri Spiers, the “Interview me now!” sandwich board lady

GerriSpiers

Picture: Jeremy Selwyn

Jobseeker Gerri Spiers is working on becoming the next “billboard hire” – but she’s using a sandwich board. With her CVs in hand, she’s popping up all over London, and most recently, in the Evening Standard! She’s hoping the publicity will land her a job. So how’s the job hunt going? I chatted to Gerri about the tribulations of looking for work…

How old are you? 
51 years young!
What’s your profession/what work are you hoping to get?
A personal and executive assistant with a wealth of experience, both domestic and international. I am hoping to work for a CEO/Chairman of a smaller or larger organisation or as a private PA.
How long have you been jobless?
I left in February and then had a month’s work temping during April – I’ve spent the rest of the time job hunting.
What happened in your last job?
It was a great job but my boss resigned, and although they kept me on for a few months to assist with various projects there was no other work available.

How many jobs have you applied for and in how long?
I would say since January (when I knew I was leaving) I must have applied for over 1000 jobs on the usual websites, directly to companies, and also on LinkedIn.

99% of interviews are directly from companies as agencies WILL NOT put you forward. They say they are not ageist but they are.  If you look at some of their ads they use words like “energetic”, “graduate”, etc.  Plus I have noticed the same job is advertised time and time again, often just to get you to register.

How many rejected you and how many just ignored you?
I would say 90% are just ignored and around 10% are rejections. Even when you ask for feedback from rejections often it is along the lines of either 1) our clients are being extremely specific, b) you don’t have the relevant experience (why would I apply for a job I had no experience in?) c) you are not a graduate or d) over or under qualified.

I had a skype interview last week and was told I did not have enough experience and did not know much about the company.  Which is odd, as in fact I did know a great deal and gave several examples.

You’re now somewhat famous for your sandwich board stunt. What led up to you deciding to do that? How did it feel not being successful in all those applications?
I needed to stand out from the other jobseekers – as a PA I think outside the box to find a solution.

I felt very annoyed/disappointed in being unsuccessful in the applications – you try to not take is personally but it’s hard when yet another company doesn’t even want to interview you.

Tell us about the sandwich board stunt.
As I was not getting anywhere with interviews, I photocopied 1000 letters of introduction and hand delivered them to companies in London (I took around 150 each day to companies around London via the Jubilee Line). I asked the receptionist to hand over the letter (some didn’t want to) and sometimes I went during evenings and weekends just putting them in their letter boxes.
Out of that I got around responses from maybe one in 10, which only offered part time roles (although I stated I was looking for full time work).  These were done in April and I am still getting rejections now. Clearly if they take this long to reply they do need a PA!

I had seen others do stunts like this in the past.  There was a graduate who offered his services for free and said he got around 250 offers. Then there was Adam Pacitti who made a billboard which when I had stuck with me. I thought that was amazing.

So after yet another useless interview I decided I needed a board of my own.  Everyone I spoke to said I was mad but I did it anyway. It cost £90.

When the board arrived I thought, “It’s now or never”.

I had around 50 calls from people saying well done. Around 20 employers called as well, but the majority were just curious.  One or two offered interviews.

I’ve had a lot of media coverage and have made some excellent contacts but still nothing concrete.

I have been going out with the board around now once a week.  So far I have been to London Bridge, Bond Street, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road, Baker Street, Kensington High Street, South Kensington and Paddington. I have so far given out around 40 CVs but again no one calls back.

The feedback I have had from the public has been amazing.  So many mature job seekers are saying well done and thanking me for getting the message out there.

Most of the “joblessness” press goes to young people. How do you feel the situation is better/worse for your generation’s jobless people?

Funnily enough, there was a feature in The Standard about a graduate who had been out with his board for only a few days, and guess what? He got a job!

Our generation is not featured in the media, we are often ignored. Clearly there is a problem.

And now – how’s the job hunt going?

S L O W L Y…..but I’ve got two interviews next week. I’m not giving up.

If you’re out and about in London, keep an eye our for Gerri, and say hello from the entire #Pyjarmy. Gerri, we salute you!

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