Telling Madison Recruitment to go f*** themselves: Census 2018

Trudging off to University on a mid December weekend doesn’t come with all that many highlights. Sweaty, tired and a bit jaded was a pretty fair assessment of myself and the other three PhD students that had sacrificed the beach (ok, probably Netflix) to keep toiling away on their thesis.

As midday neared we headed to our favourite haunt on ANZAC parade for a Thai cheap eat. In between mouthfuls of mee goreng, another high pressure topic cropped up – we’re all broke and don’t have any summer work.

I’m totally f**ked, said one of my friends, an exceptionally bright student trying to survive in Auckland on a budget of $300 a week. I think we’re all f**ked, says another. Back in the office I made a few calls to try grease the wheels of anyone who could hook us up with some work. ‘Nothing much’ was the general response, unless I wanted to ditch the PhD and take a permanent gig in the public service. But I did get a tip off, there would be some work leading into the upcoming census.

Armed with Google I did some hunting and found that Statistics New Zealand were outsourcing census work to Madison Recruitment. Sure enough, Madison’s website had a link to the job listing for the role of ‘Temporary Field Officer’ (read: door knocker / survey collector). I applied and got a phone call shortly thereafter; hooray!

Seven weeks on, this is why I’ll never apply for a job at Madison Recruitment again:

Reason 1: Hiring as if they’re choosing the next CEO of Fonterra

The Madison recruitment process for becoming a ‘Temporary Field Officer’ was as follows:

    1. Send resume & cover letter.
    1. Provide references.
    1. Agree to police check.
    1. Complete phone interview.
    1. Complete online literacy test.
    1. Complete online numeracy test.
    1. Attend an in-person group role playing game (yup, that shitty one they’ve all used for 20+ years where your plane crashes in the Amazon and have to choose which items to take).
    2. Attend an in-person individual role play game (two scenarios).

Reason 2: Less flexibility than a rugby player at their first yoga session

Every applicant needed to provide evidence that they have a drivers licence – which was a little odd because Madison weren’t providing temporary field officers with company vehicles. Instead, Madison expected that you’d not only have a licence, but that you would use your own vehicle and be willing to have it insured for commercial purposes. I guess I’ll just have to stomach any premium increases if it means I’m gonna score some work.

“But what about one of my friends? She lives nearby, doesn’t drive but we could work in the same area no problem” I said. “Sorry, we’re screening out anyone without a driver’s licence” replies the consultant. “What if I pick her up and drop her off in my own time?”. “Sorry, you must have a driver’s licence”, clearly unmoved by my offering up of tangible solutions to their unnecessarily restrictive hiring practices.

Reason 3: They’re cheap assholes that mold workplace training into the recruitment process.

I really should have submitted a timesheet for the hour already worked. After all, Madison get you to sign their generic and virtually obligation-free temporary employment agreement before you even come in for the role play assessment, that is, a month before they even made me a job offer. And before you even begin the role play assessments you’re watching youtube videos regarding the ‘Madison way’, trying on uniforms for size and having it reinforced to you in person that Madison is your employer – unless they wish to dispense with you, in which case, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, peasant.

Reason 4: Treating relationships with your employees like they’re the sucker from Offspring’s  “Self Esteem”

Four weeks after applying, three weeks after the phone interview and reference check and one week after the role play assessments, I get contacted by a consultant in Wellington asking if I would be interested in starting a week earlier than originally discussed. She said that Madison Recruitment felt that ‘I was someone who showed resilience in the interview process’ and ‘perhaps I would be useful working with some of the more difficult to reach members of the public’.

It sounded good to me, an extra week of work. So I checked a few things and then sent confirmation via email, I also asked if that meant I could be confident I had secured employment, to which I was advised that they would be in touch be the end of the month.

On January 31st, seven weeks after applying, five weeks after the phone interview and reference check and three weeks after the role play assessments I get a phone call advising that I am no longer required until after census day and that I would instead be placed on a part paid stand-by role until then. As a requirement of this new role I would need to keep my schedule clear provided they needed my services the following day.

“Now I know I’m being used

That’s okay because I like the abuse

I know she’s playing with me

That’s okay ’cause I’ve got no self-esteem”

All this BS for a temporary role paying the princely sum of $20.20 per hour – that the employer can terminate at any time without penalty to themselves.

Now while I can appreciate that a young consultant, probably still shaking off an #awesome #laneway isn’t exactly au fait with what constitutes ethical hiring practices, surely there’s at least one employment lawyer at Madison Recruitment who knows better. It also begs the question that if a straight white dude with a car, licence, computer, references and a Masters degree is having difficulty scoring a temp job at New Zealand’s largest recruitment company, what chance have most other people got? That is, what chance has anyone on the dole got scoring a job that requires ringing doorbells and handing out forms?  

No Madison Recruitment, go f**k yourselves.

11 thoughts on “Telling Madison Recruitment to go f*** themselves: Census 2018

  1. I’m suddenly aware why as a district supervisor (with a completed PhD) in the 2013 census I’ve received no alerts to the fact that Stats NZ is recruiting for the 2018 census.

  2. Lol when I applied for a job stacking the bread at supermarkets after having been self employed for 30 years and of the older gen I was extremely bemused by the serious drilling and role playing used by the two teenagers that interviewed me
    I didn’t get the job but i did get the census job earthquake year and you needed a car to keep all the forms in if you were getting paid hourly they’d be paying you to go home and refresh your bag and forms
    but in my year we were paid a set fee for each stage completed.

  3. Could completely relate to this!!
    I saw the field officer job advertised, applied, had very quick initial contact from Madison and thought “Great, they’re onto it”. Completed the lengthy application form, computer tests, telephone interviews and waited.
    After a couple of weeks I was told I had an interview in another couple of weeks. Was told the interview would be held at a particular institution which has a campus which is spread out over several streets so I deliberately emailed to check which part of the campus it would be held in. I was told it would be in the main building and not to arrive any earlier than 5 minutes prior to the interview time.
    When I arrived at said time there was a sign telling me to go to another part of the complex but no map or anyone around to tell me where that was. Ended up being on another street 5 minutes away. Because of this I arrived stressed. Everybody else (but one ) was there already because they either ignored the 5 minute rule or knew the campus enough to run to the correct area. After an interview involving group role play while at least 8 consultants watched on and made notes on clipboards and individual role plays we were told we would be informed of the outcome on a particular date.
    This date came and went so a few days after I left a message asking to be contacted. This was ignored. A couple of days following this I emailed and said I was no longer interested in the work. A week following this email I was contacted to say I would be told the results of my application in another week. I had to send another message – no longer interested!!!!
    During the course of this saga I dealt with no less than 9 different consultants, always somebody different in contact and if I emailed somebody a completely different person would respond.
    Will never ever ever apply for a job with Madison recruitment again.

    1. Thanks for your comment, sorry you had to go through this nonsense too.

      I added this blog to reddit just over a week ago although I think the story is now getting passed around Facebook because i’ve had a flurry of emails in the past couple of days from people explaining a very similar set of circumstances.

      Hopefully the new Government will take a closer look at how this project in managed in future!

  4. Oh and they were very rude and pushy with one of my referees because she didn’t complete my referee form on the same day that they sent it to her.

  5. Hi this is so familiar! I live in Dunedin and had the identical experience and when they rang to offer me, hold your breath, 2 field officer positions, I turned them down because it all seemed like a train wreck in the making. I just had no faith in Madison as recruiters or employers. The main emphasis throughout was our lack of rights as employees.

    I’m in my 60s and I’ve held professional jobs plus been a union organiser and the whole thing just felt dodgy. I was a few days into working on the 2010 Census when the Christchurch earthquake happened and the Census was called off. We got paid for the whole thing regardless. And I would expect nothing less from a government department.

    For anyone who has similar misgivings about the Census staffing being contracted out to a multinational recruitment agency, I suggest you email James Shaw who is the Minister for the Census. Clearly this was all set in motion before the election, but let’s hope it’s the last time it happens.

    I worked on the 2017 election on special votes in advance and on election day, and it was very professional, not an employment agency in sight.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Suzanne.

      “The main emphasis throughout was our lack of rights as employees.”

      Yes, this was my frustration too. Feel free to share it with your people in the unions and a very good idea re: James Shaw.


      1. The whole recruitment processes sounds totally inappropriate and absurd. Given this new government commitment to fairer working conditions it’s also totally out of whack. Doesn’t give you a lot of confidence that Madison have the capability to do a decent job of the census either…

      2. To be fair, would have been a deal cut before Labour were elected – if they’re still in power come 2023 I am expecting better!

        Thanks for sharing.

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