7 min read

Prologue

Monzo is a new UK mobile-only 'digital' bank, which started in 2015 as a prepaid-card issuer. In 2017, it was granted a UK banking license and started issuing current accounts with debit cards in September to a small subset of Monzo users who were early testers. Since then, they've fully launched their current account and closed their pre-paid card scheme.

I found out about Monzo from the XenForo Community - there was a thread going about it, and a member I did some work for had a golden ticket, which I used to register for a pre-paid card (skipping the sign-up queue in the process).

I then ignored this card for a few months, even after getting the upgrade to a current account in December 2017, as I had a very good young persons account with Nationwide, which gave me completely free banking and a free overdraft. When Nationwide took the overdraft away, I switched my student loan payments and direct debits over to my Monzo current account, and started using it for day-to-day banking.

Monzo have an online community forum where their customers can congregate and discuss topics relating to Monzo (and other stuff, in some cases). Being someone that likes online discussion, I signed up, and after switching my day-to-day banking over to Monzo, I became an active member.

Find out about the opening

During the April Monzo open office, I decided, quite randomly, to take a look at job openings at Monzo. There was a weekend customer operations (COps) role open to applications, and after reading the requirements, I thought it suit me quite well - so I decided I was going to apply when I got home.

The Application Process

Initial Application

The initial application process was a basic web-form requesting you upload your CV, and answer some basic screening questions. Having never applied for a job before, I didn't know what they were looking for in these questions, so I tried to keep them humorous, but truthful (even though, in one case, this required me to say that I'd never had the chance to help anyone - which is true!).

I then submitted it, and waited. And then waited some more, as it took three weeks to hear back. However, I received an email from Bobbi Nicholson, saying that they liked my application and were taking me forward to the next stage of the application, which was a written task - I was asked to spend no more than one hour on it.

The Take-Home Task

The written task was split into three tasks. Task one required me to sort ten customer questions into order of urgency, why I chose this order, and then draft an initial response and next steps to each customer query. I found this tricky, but doable. Some of the questions were hard to split with regard to urgency.

Parts two and three were (I believe) directed toward literacy, and the ability to fit in at Monzo.

Task two gave me the following situation:

One of your new colleagues has asked you if they could shadow for a couple of hours as they think your way of handling complex queries is great and would love to learn from you. However, you are responsible for writing the weekly email this week, which would require at least 2 hours of work. On top of that, one of our web services has just gone down and customers are getting in touch as their cards aren't working!

I had to list the things I would need to consider in this situation, and then prioritise them. I then had to detail the steps I would take to resolve the situation.

I quite liked this task, as it was something I could see happening - especially with me as the one asking to shadow someone. I placed a focus on me being able to manage any stress during the rush of getting the email done, assisting an influx of customers, and being able to manage the expectations of the colleague shadowing me. I also focused on the fact that, if I didn't feel that it would be a good idea at that time, I needed to tell my colleague this sensitively, as they may feel that I just don't want them to shadow me.

Task three required me to write a paragraph on my thoughts as to how Monzo could promote accessibility to all of their customers.

My full responses can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BERygSKV3by5CcfPpPK2XjPPVmEIpG7v/view?usp=sharing

Invitation to Interview

Exactly 4 weeks after I submitted the take home task, Bobbi once again emailed me saying that they'd liked me responses and wanted to invite me to an interview at Monzo's Cardiff office.

I replied, saying that was fine, and I booked my train ticket (which Monzo reimbursed).

The Interview

I took a train from London to Cardiff on the 20th June, and walked to the Capital Tower building (where Monzo occupy a floor). I went up, signed in at reception (there was someone in front of me signing in also attending the interview), and then another person came in just after me. After signing in, and waiting a minute, someone from Monzo came and took us upstairs to Monzo's office.

We were given a small tour of the office, and then we sat in a corner and introduced ourselves. A few minutes later, I went into my first 1:1 interview, the technical interview regarding the position I'd applied for.

This interview was tricky. The interviewer delved into the responses on my take-home task, and asked me to justify them. I was then asked questions about how I would resolve them, and what might be some consequences of doing certain things with regard to them.

I was really nervous during this interview, and I had an unfortunate habit of waffling :( In my defense, it was my first ever formal job interview.

After finishing that interview, I moved on to a second 1:1 interview with the Office Manager. This interview was much more relaxed, and was about seeing how I worked and how I learn and use feedback.

Unfortunately, during that second 1:1 interview, near the end, the fire alarm went off... so we had to evacuate :( It was at this point (when everyone was outside) that I learned that another group of 4 interviewees had arrived.

Everyone was offered a coffee (or other beverage) from the Costa across the road from the office. We were all outside for around 20 minutes, before being allowed back into the building.

We then got taken for a group interview. I was in a group with 3 other people, one person from my original group (who came at the same time as me), and 2 other people I had yet to meet (except outside during the evacuation).

The group interview involved each group member being given a customer complaint/query. We then had to, as a group, discuss our customer query, and organise by priority. We then had to discuss what out actions might be, when dealing with said customer queries. Three Monzo staff members were in the same room, making notes as we were doing the group work.

After presenting out decisions with regards to priority and first steps, we were asked various questions by two of the Monzo staff members.

I thought the group task went really well. My other group members had good suggestions, and everyone listened to the suggestions of the other group members.

The Response

After finishing the group interview, I was done, and left Monzo's office. I spent a couple of hours in Cardiff before getting the train home.

I got an email from Bobbi on Friday (22nd) stating that they would not be making me an offer to join the team. The feedback I received from that email stated the following:

While everyone enjoyed getting to know you better, and you gave some really well-considered answers during the interviews, the team didn't feel you'd be the right fit for Customer Operations at Monzo. Specifically, all the interviewers thought you came across as thoughtful and showed a good approach to logically solving problems. However, they felt you were less strong in showing awareness of the needs of customers and making sure these were always considered in decision making. They also felt your skills and experience might be better suited to a more technical role in the future.

I replied, asking for a bit more detail, and I got this response a week later:

Strengths relating to the job criteria:

  • Knowledge of Monzo was very good. Active community member and very engaged with Monzo's mission;
  • Good understanding of processes and procedures, and why these are important;
  • Good knowledge of banking in general;
  • Came across as friendly, polite and respectful.

Areas of development relating to the job criteria:

  • Couldn't always clearly explain ideas and approaches to problems. Sometimes answers weren't concise;
  • Sometimes thinking came across as inflexible, and very aligned to the rules or procedures in place rather than balancing this with the individual needs of the customer;
  • Interests seemed more strongly related to technology and engineering rather than customer support. We're looking for people who will be happy in this role long-term and it seemed like there might be other roles that would be a better fit and more in line with their interests.

The second email also stated an interesting fact, that the average acceptance rate for the COp role was 4%, and roughly 8% of applicants get invited for on-site interviews. While this does me only half of interviewees will, on average, get the job, it does still sting slightly :(

Conclusions

I don't disagree with the feedback given, however I feel that I came across that way due to the nerves I was wracked with, given that it was my first interview ever. I feel that if I had tried to calm down a bit before the interview, it may have gone very differently.

With regards to inflexible thinking, I can see where they were coming from, but I also think that everyone is inflexible, until their thinking is made flexible. I can identify key questions where I believe they got this idea from - and they were the questions I found hardest to answer, as I've always been led to believe in life that consistency is key. I guess Monzo believe otherwise :)

I do disagree with the suggestion that I wouldn't be interested in the role long-term, however. I fully intended to keep the role for at the very least until I finished university, of which I still have two full years to complete, and even once I had finished university, I would've stayed until the very last minute, as finding a job may not be the easiest thing in the world. I don't disagree that my interests are much more strongly related to technology and engineering rather than customer support, but part-time jobs for software engineers just don't exist - hence why I applied for this job - I would've enjoyed it. Alas, it wasn't to be :(

Liam Williams

Liam Williams

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London, England, UK