Olympic Volunteering Interview

I was invited along this morning to a “Games Maker” selection event, i.e. an interview session for volunteers for the Olympic Games in London next year. Should I be accepted, I’ll be in a Security team, which sounds like it means standing at Stratford Station pointing people through the shopping mall to the Olympic Park, or possibly telling people to stand in line for the park entrance screening – hmm.

Anyway, the interview process itself was quite unlike any I’ve had before – some of the quirks can be explained by the fact that LOCOG are apparently needing to interview over 100,000 people.

The interviews were on the 19th floor of a skyscraper in Canary Wharf – chosen presumably because of the stunning view north to the Olympic Park, which is looking encouragingly complete these days. I guess some interviewees have found the drop from the 19th floor a bit much, because we were asked if we wanted an interview “pod” away from the windows…

The process is timetabled to take 90 minutes, but I was in and out in just over 65 minutes – although I did arrive a little late. On arriving in the interview area, you are welcomed by a person at a desk, given a wristband (red, white or blue) indicating your interview time, and a programme. Then a second desk checks your passport and takes your photo. On both desks there was a large box of sweets, which at the time seemed a little odd – however Cadbury is one of the major sponsors of the volunteering program (along with McDonalds) and I really should have been a little more boldand nabbed the rather nice Creme Egg “Twisted” chocs that were in abundance.

Stage three is an exhibition – a map, some panels and screens – best of all is the aforementioned view to the park. Then there’s a short film to watch, where Seb, Tanni and Eddie Izzard, + a Cadburys guy, encourage you to be motivated for the interview itself. Despite the efficiency and formality of the whole process, Eddie’s section is actually quite funny – “We don’t want you to be just talking about cheese – now if this was an interview for a cheese competition, you’d be sorted.” Finally, the interview itself – the interviewer read strictly from a script – when I failed to understand the final question, he simply read it out several times! He also was glancing around quite a lot which was a bit disconcerting. To be fair to the interviewer, he was under quite strict time pressure, and also I think he himself was a Games Maker, i.e. volunteer. He was also an extremely polite and nice person, which is presumably why he had landed that role.

Finally you end up back with your fellow interviewees in a small room with a board on it where you are encouraged to write a “thought” on a whiteboard. Apparently the whiteboard fills up and is wiped each week – which considering there must have been a thousand comments on it, makes you realise just how many people are going through the process. There was also a small Olympic shop, although no one in my group went in it. I already have my British Team mug thanks to the John Lewis Olympic Shop in Stratford City.

…and that was it! Very organised, very slickly run, very slightly overbearing, but considering the numbers of people involved, about as good as it could be. My fellow interviewees probably represented the average demographic of London, with an average age probably mid/late 30s, mainly professionals and about half women.

I have no idea if I’ll be accepted. I wanted to phrase all my answers to the questions in relation to my volunteering and organising of various orienteering races, but the interviewer tended to steer me towards classic work-based scenarios. I guess I will find out in a few weeks. It sounds like I won’t be the one handing the towel to Usain Bolt, but you might see me with an Olympic map, pointing people in various, hopefully correct, directions.


  1. Thanks for your notes – they were helpful – my interview is next week. So good luck and see you in 2012 at Stratford Station?

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