Employee No.9: Chapter 1 - Getting the job
The unprecedented journey of working in a start-up digital bank
Hands shaking, eyes bloodshot, I pinched myself a few times to see if I was dreaming.
The last sentence of my dissertation was written; about to be printed, bound, and handed in… university was over. It’s an emotional time in any 20-something year old’s life, but at the same time exciting. Prior to finishing, I’d spent 9 months worrying, sweating and crying a little, over university assignments; little did I know that as soon as they were finished I would be expected to get a job… or to fly off to Australia to avoid any immediate decision making, like many of my classmates.
When it came to the job search I was in somewhat of a pickle. I’d long imagined moving back to Hertfordshire and taking advantage of having London on my doorstep. I always envisioned there would be many a job that fitted my specification of ‘no ties’.(Un)Fortunately, during my final year at university I met my girlfriend, and, long story short, I didn’t move back to London. So there I was, not long after handing in my dissertation, and muchos tequilas later, thinking about the number of jobs available in the North East compared to the Big Smoke. Luckily, with a certain Guadalajara beverage making it’s way into my liver, I didn’t spend too long worrying.
A pretty mean hangover and a bottle of Lucozade later, my job search began.
I knew finding the right job was going to be difficult. Back at home I had previous experience with some half-decent companies, I had contacts whose Best Friend’s Cousin’s Aunt knew someone. Safe to say, I didn’t have the highest expectations.
As days passed I’d found some relatively satisfactory companies that were hiring, but none that stood out. Luckily, my tutor was a kind man, and would often pass on job adverts that he thought my classmates and I would be suitable for.
As I was scrolling through these emails, noting which ones I liked, I came across one email that contained the word ‘bank’ … “Eurgh! Ties” I thought. However, I was getting desperate so I decided to open the email and read through it.
Turns out, this was no ordinary bank. The word ‘digital’ soon came to my attention, and I liked what I was reading.
With the application came a few questions, so I spent my time doing what I’d spent the last 4 years at university doing, trying to make them laugh. Well, safe to say they were charmed, and invited me along for an interview.
Figuring out what to wear was a struggle. It’s a bank, but it’s a digital start up.
I could mix the two and wear suit trousers and snakeskin shoes, accompanied by a chequered shirt and a beanie hat, but then I ran the risk of looking downright foolish. In the end, I went smart(ish), and avoided, at all costs, wearing a tie. I arrived 20 minutes early, which meant standing outside and procrastinating on various social media channels for 15 minutes. As I prepared to walk in I had no idea what to expect. Above me was what appeared to be an ensemble of large air fresheners, yet it didn’t smell like my Dad’s car. I was shown to a boardroom, situated next to the communal café; I thought if I fluff the interview, at least it looks like I’m getting fed.
This wasn’t to be. I didn’t get fed and I didn’t fluff the interview. I felt good walking out. I did what I always do when leaving an interview; I rang my mother to tell her how it went. I left confident, and rightly so, as a couple of days later I was asked back. This time, I was a little more nervous, clearly they liked me, so this was their opportunity to grill me. I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
I dressed similarly to last time, and I knew not to leave 20 minutes too early.
When I arrived, I was shown to the same boardroom and awaited my interviewers. This time, I was met by a man in shorts. It was a hot day, shorts were ok, but I thought “shorts at a bank?!”. During the first 30 seconds of meeting this short-wearing man, I made a joke that involved the current Wimbledon tournament, to which he chuckled, somewhat sympathetically.
During the next 30 minutes I was left astounded by the marketing knowledge of this short-wearer, and to my luck I was able to return serve (pun most definitely intended), answering all his questions with minimal umms and aahhs.
The final words spoken were “Well, we think we’re going to make you an offer”.
This didn’t fill me with ease. They’ve offered me the job without offering me the job.
As soon as I left the interview I thought I’d do a bit of research on the man dressed like a modern day Pete Sampras. Turns out this man was rather experienced in the financial sector… A little tip I’d give to anyone interviewing at a start-up - maybe just do some research on the CEO, because you never know whether or not he’s going to show up in the interview, and if he does, you certainly don’t want to insult his shorts.
Luckily, the next day I received an email with a formal offer. I assumed that any bad joke I may have made was swept under the carpet, and I was asked to start in just under a week on what was going to be a very exciting journey.