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Unions attack ScotRail for ‘patronising’ train driver job rejection letters

ScotRail has been criticised by railway unions for sending a rejection letter to train driver applicants perceived to have been “shocking and patronising”.

Hundreds of the TOC’s employees were issued rejection letters after applying to take up training posts, suggesting they “start by researching the role of a driver” and that they would need to better understand the skills required if they wanted to apply again in the future.

The standardised letter was sent to internal applicants for jobs advertised last month as part of a nationwide recruitment drive.

It suggested that the applicant should consider the effort they put into the process and how much they wanted the role, and urged them to not underestimate its responsibilities.

Unions criticised the letter for being insulting, with Kevin Lindsay, ASLEF’s Scotland organiser, saying: “This email is as extraordinary as it is insensitive.

“The fact that senior executives in the recruitment team at Abellio ScotRail think this sort of attitude and behaviour is acceptable boggles the mind. And it’s exactly this sort of bullying and dismissive attitude which has led to staff morale plummeting.”

And RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said he had never seen a letter so “bluntly designed as a wholesale kick in the teeth” for an unsuccessful applicant in his 30 years as union official.

“The point about ‘understanding the job’ and ‘underestimating responsibilities’ are an exercise in treating both the internal and external applicants as a bunch of idiots, and Abellio should be ashamed of themselves and should be apologising to each and every one of the 20,000 people who had this insulting communication delivered through their post box.”

He added that, despite the job being decent and offering good pay, applicants who took the time to apply should not be treated with contempt.

But a ScotRail spokesperson said that, given the large number of applications, the operator had to get information out to people as quickly as possible regarding the decision.

But they added: “We appreciate that the letter could have been more personalised and constructive. That is why today we will be sending another letter to the 200 unsuccessful internal candidates offering one-to-one feedback.”

Read the letter in full here:

Subject: Application(s) for Trainee Train Driver

Dear Sir/Madam,

Application(s) for Trainee Train Driver

I refer to the above subject, and regret to advise your application(s) has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Train driving is a very demanding role which requires a certain type of person. It is a role which can be rewarding as well as unforgiving. It also comes with a very good pay package. This makes it very important to look at applications in great detail.

Having reviewed your application(s), I would recommend you read over it and ask yourself the following questions:

- Have I communicated that I understand what it takes to be a train driver, but also that I have the transferable skills?
- Have I demonstrated my enthusiasm, determination and commitment to this role?
- Have I shown that I have put a great deal of thought into this application and given the reader the opportunity to learn about me?
- Does my application demonstrate / reflect the amount of effort I have made to prepare for this role?

For this recruitment campaign, we received over 1,130 internal applications as well as the thousands we receive from external candidates. All internal applications were reviewed by a panel of Driver Managers and compared in terms of their presentation, content, quality and responses to the questions.

The application form is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your desire to besuccessful in becoming a train driver. In this respect, your application was not considered to be of the high standard that we require in terms of either:

- The content of the application form was below the general standard.
- Transferable key skills and abilities were not identified. The form did not clearly demonstrate your understanding of the train driver role or the transferable skills that are required.

The panel felt that the content and/or the transferable skills mentioned in the application form did not fully demonstrate the level of commitment or suitability to this role.

Should you wish to apply in the future, I suggest the following:

- Start by researching the role of driver, gain an understanding of the skills and qualities required and clearly identify how you match these.
- Consider the effort you put into the process and how much you want the role.
- Don't underestimate the role or its responsibilities.
- Where the application form asks for information, ensure that you respond to the question appropriately and directly.

I wish you every success in the future.

Kind Regards,

Recruitment Team
Abellio ScotRail

(Top image c. Alex Drennan)


Keithw   22/10/2015 at 12:38

Seems to me that its rather positive if companies explain why an application failed. Its certainly better than a bland message like 'your application was unsuccessful'

Lee Roy   23/10/2015 at 13:06

Spot on Keith. I would far rather have something constructive like this. Seems like the union has got to moan about something/everything and I am not sure the industry can ever make progress when even well-meaning things like this become an excuse for the RMT to moan. sad times.

Shaunr   23/10/2015 at 14:07

All rejections should be this comprehensive - it's detailed, specific, helpful and constructive which is much better than the usual one liners.

Tim   23/10/2015 at 14:21

Is it constructive, when the exact same letter went to everyone? Hardly seems so.

Ivor   23/10/2015 at 20:38

Many persons think train driving is a cushy number. Just sitting in the cab and following the signals. I would suggest this could be the attitude of many of the unsuccessful applicants. The refusal letter succinctly sets out the requirements of the post and I, for one, would not like to think that any driver did not possess all of them.

Stuartb   02/11/2015 at 03:17

Although I live in the US, I am a big fan of the railways in the UK. Between visits, I like to keep track of your advances. In this situation the stance taken by the union representatives is indefensible and nonproductive. Like airline pilots, train drivers must be able to use the technology at their fingertips, understand the systems involved in his/her particular train as well as the entire network, and make potentially life-or-death decisions on the basis of that knowledge. It's no surprise that many applicants would be lacking in some areas. Receiving a rejection letter is never pleasant, but it can be instructive. A detailed rejection letter that points out weaknesses and areas for further study can only help the recipient. Instead of whinging about the wording of this letter, the union should offer a better alternative. Better still, how about working with management to come up with a letter that helps the applicant address his/her shortcomings. The old, entrenched union vs. management arguments serve nobody in this situation.

Alan   02/11/2015 at 09:03

"A detailed rejection letter that points out weaknesses" But they sent the same letter to everyone. Did they all have the exact same weaknesses?

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