The thing about interviews is that it doesn’t matter which side of the table you’re on, you’ll always learn something new.
This wasn’t my first time interviewing people, but ill the times before have been on a much snaller scale. I haven’t sat besides the Chairman of several different organizations and a host of other excruciatingly well qualified and well respected members of the whole industry. And when you’re considered the ‘authority’, the man more or less solely In charge of the final selection, it doesn’t really help unlatch the pressure valve.
What did help though was that the people I now sat amidst were the same people I had managed, by some strange quirk of fate, to impress enough to land this job.
The first guy I ever interviewed and hired was fired 3 days into the job. The second lasted a month. Then I hired two and together they managed to test my patience for a whopping 4 months. After that I shut down the little IT consultancy thing I had going and became a jobless, hopeless writer.
Not a very good track record, if I do say so myself. But it seems, that somehow, through yet another quirk of fate, my bosses felt that I not only had the ability to select a good employee but was actually better suited to make the call than the whole bunch of them. Bloody Stupid, I say. I maintained my composure like a grown up and only smirked when I got back to my office.
So the moment approached and I periodically peeked out my door at the assembling horde of the nervouse, anxious, desperate candidates and felt the elephants jujistuing in my own stomach. It wasn’t that I was afraid of the candidates, titles bring to you an obscene amount of confidence. I was more concerned about choosing the wrong person, about not knowing what to ask, making a fool of myself in front of the people who decide whether I get a promotion or not. I hadn’t done any homework, how could I? I have never been a teacher, have no idea what it takes to be one except for a really thick hide to put up with the antics of the students like I used to be.
So when the time came to go to the board room, I went out for a smoke instead. Almost called my best friend before I remembered that he’d gone back to the States 2 days ago. Nearly got into the car to head back home but realized well in time that it would be easily the stupidest I’d ever have done. Including trying to have sex in the restroom of a café. It did not help to recall that humiliating chapter of my mostly embarrassing history.
But I pulled in a lung full of Lahore’s dusty, smoggy air and saying Fuck it under my breath, walked back in. Head up, back straight, staring everyone in the eye with a pompous smirk on my mug. Perception control you see, and as soon as I walked into the board room, where the panel of savants sat waiting for me, I knew I’d made an impression.
So the first candidate got called in while I struggled to get to her CV from amongst the pile placed before me.
Luckily, she was so magnificently incompetent that my confidence went up a couple of notches. She trembled so much she could’ve given a hand job without even trying. I didn’t really try to ease her pain any, which in retrospect was mean of me. It was obvious that she had trouble comprehending English as it was and I went on to re-create my best impression of an ameircan Accent. If she wasn’t about to throw up she probably would’ve been impressed. Everyone else apparently was, as pin drop silence ensued as soon as I posed my first question. “How khumfortable are you with MS Applications?”
I asked. And in response got the most frightened vacant stare of all time. It was like whatever blood she had left in her after the massive confidence coronary got drained right out of her. Not only did she go pale, her face collapsed into itself. Cheeks got sucked in and eyes nearly exploded right out of their sockets as a squeaky whimper escaped all her defenses and fell flat before us in surrender.
“Jee sir.” Was her barely audible retort.
I pretended to not know that it was my accent and my chosen language and probably also the words I chose to use that threw her right of the merry-go round, and repeated myself, inflection for inflection, word for word.
This is when she went still as a dead rat. Her face presenting the same expression of abject fear from before, I could almost see the tears rising up beneath her cheeks to her eyes.
One of the other board members repeated what I had said in Urdu but she may aswell not have bothered. After another attempt to elicit a response failed I leaned forward and as gently as I could posed a different question, making sure that I pronounced each word separately and clearly, like talking to a monkey. I don’t know why I was being mean, I realize this only in retrospect and feel a creepy feeling rise up my spine. But in that moment, I honestly didn’t give a damn about the girl’s feelings, or aspirations or hopes that had been dashed by one asshole. In that moment I only felt disappointment. And a bit of restlessness. She had lost the position even before she ever got to the interview because of whatever insecurities had butt fucked her confidence, and inspired the god awful orange and red thing she was wearing. But that, I feel, was no reason to be condescending towards her, which I was. Or mean, which I didn’t think I was, but I was.
Hind sight is 20-20 they say, and utterly useless, I say. So it doesn’t really matter now. But I really wanted to talk to her afterwards and tell her where she had gone wrong. A well qualified, we versed person in the field she was applying for shouldn’t have to suffer so just because of confidence issues, but alas, thanks largely in part to me, she was made to feel probably worse than ever before by me. I hope she hates me less than the person she got her dress sense from.
Next up was a hottie. I know it is wrong on quite a few levels to be checking someone out while you are interviewing her but she had more than just a cute face and puppy dog hazel eyes going for her. She had the ‘how to give an interview’ manual etched in her brain or something. She followed what I was taught at uni to a T. Well dressed, as in, not in orange or in something provocative. Head covered by a duppatta, not hijab, which sent out all the right messages. Confident to almost a fault, good, fuck, great communication skills. She is the first person I have been able to carry out a conversation, a high pressure conversation, mind you, entirely in English with. I would say I was prejudiced because of the hazel eye, I’m a sucker for pretty eyes, but I wasn’t the only one impressed. Everyone was immediately infused with energy due primarily to her attitude. She approached the interview as a meeting, no need for jitters, or nervous laughter. She knew her shit and that gave her an edge that she used to carve herself a soft corner in everyone’s heart. Well, you know, again in retrospect, she wasn’t really a hottie, more like a cutie. With loads of energy, the ability to laugh at her own mistakes, the spirit to bounce back after making a mistake and a passionate, attentive, responsive demeanor. Now, I have known about these traits from the motivational books I used to read when I was the one giving interviews and bombing. I had employed them to some degree but I hadn’t really noticed how much merit they held until I became the onejudging these attributes. Let me tell you, dressing up well, but not over doing it, is VERY important. Probably something you pick up from experience I remember once I was so… umm… Stupid, that I went for an interview in cargos with an untucked shirt. Result? Take a guess. Then once I went decked out in suit and tie for a IT guy’s job… over kill, like totally. It sent the worst possible signals, they thought I would be too expensive for them and for me to plead or to confess that yes I made a major bobo with the tie, was not possible. So, yeah, pay attention to what you wrap yourself up in, sure you aren’t there to audition as a fashionista, but the entry past the door with a face no one’s seen before… what makes the first impression is how you carry yourself. And I don’t care how confident you are no one can carry a bad dress sense.
So she was chosen pretty much unanimously even though we went through another 4 candidates for that particular post but no one quite measured up. The next best candidate lost the tie breaker because of her comparative inability to express herself and a lethargic, slump shouldered behavior. When you’re looking for motivated people who can take pressure on the trot and not break down into tears, as one of the candidates did, your gait says a whole lot more than you probably ever thought.
The cry baby came about during the interviews for another post. Another lady, low on self esteem and therefore on confidence, high on book knowledge but pretty much below sea level in terms of operational capability. I hall claim the blame for making her cry, but honestly, I think she was about to break down in gulps and tears even before she left her home. She arrived atremble. Greeted us with a scary smile that made her look more like a crazed psychopath than a probable trainer. She balked at every question even though it was obvious she knew the answers, could comprehend English but responding in kind was tantamount to asking a nun to strip. She started crying when I asked her the stupidest of question regarding her credentials. See, she had listed a host of computer programs as amongst her are of expertise and me actually having worked with most of them know that even claiming to be good at them all is beyond absurd. So I called her bluff, although I could have worder it better, or you know, foregone the temptation all together, but I didn’t. And after staring at me with more pain in her eyes than a cat whose whiskers been ripped off, she burst out bawling. Needless to say, her cries of anguish leaking past the flimsy wooden door didn’t do much for the confidence of those still waiting.
Thankfully, the next person in was a guy who although didn’t get selected was still pretty damn impressive. Despite his heavily accented English, he was sure of himself, and for good reason. Lesson learnt? Experience makes one hell of a difference. He’d been through the maze, like I had, and so had everybody else on the panel, and knew what it takes to win an audience over. We were quite won over when the bombshell sauntered in.
I swear upon all that’s worth swearing on she wasn’t selected just because of her sexy clothes. Nor for the sensuality she oozed. It was the fact that despite those to usually aggressive tactics, she was jovial and responsive enough to not put any body off, not even the hijab wearing grand ma of the selection panel. Greeted everyone with a smile, made sure that even though every curve was accentuated well by the almost pasted on shirt, the hefty duppata kept vulgarity well and truly out of the equation. She sat like I remember ladies in old movies sitting, with legs held close together and angling out. Hands in lap to minimize gestures that usually amplify a person’s lack of real knowledge about a subject, answered every question with a smile. But let it be known, that despite all the physical aspects that went her way, lack of expertise would have been a deal breaker. I remember wishing desperately for her to get the answers right. And she did, every time. She would make one hell of a poster child for Musharaf’s moderate enlightenment campaign, how many times do you get the looks of a super model coupled with the zeal and intelligence of a normal human being?
All in all, we went through about 30 odd candidates. Selecting 6, four of them women. Luckily all ambitious, goal oriented, intelligent and pretty ones. And profuse praise be to Allah, they shall all be working directly under me. I’m a great big opposer of affairs at the work place, but its nice to know that if one were to ensue, at least the choices available are top notch.
But round two is tomorrow, with 6 more slots to fill and there’s an Msc Psychology short listed amongst the candidates. I can’t wait to see what mask she’ll come wearing. And also what dress.
Work’s gonna be so much more interesting from now on.