I just completed the hiring process to fill an administrative position. No mater how many years I have been in business, I can’t seem to embrace this activity as anything but hopeless.
I understand the process from an academic standpoint, but when the humans get involved, things seem to go sideways. After the résumés come in, I have to sort them out. Okay, so how do you do that? It wouldn’t be so bad if there were only a few to look at, but when we placed an ad to fill the position, I started to feel like Harry Potter being invited to Hogwarts. The résumés came in by regular mail. They came by email. They were hand-delivered. They came over the fax, and they just kept coming. They would have come over the transom if we had one.
So I started with education, and everyone had too much of it. Administrative jobs just don’t need a full college degree, but maybe it does indicate the ability to finish what you start. Most of these degrees are in the “would you like fries with that” disciplines, which makes you wonder what they were thinking in the first place. I understand that you are in love with pre-Revolutionary French literature, but didn’t it occur to you that there wasn’t a big demand for it in the marketplace?
So I moved on to skills and noticed immediately that everyone has excellent phone skills. Not just good or decent phone skills, but excellent. How would you know, and what does it mean? Was there a class I missed? Near as I can tell, it’s a rating you give to yourself. If that’s not true, then there must be a test. If you can answer the phone and tell people where you are and who you are, you get a C. If you can remember who called and what they wanted, you get a B. If you can forward the call to the proper person, you get a B+, but you only get excellent if you can conference call six phones lines at once, and I don’t know anyone who can do that.
Why does it matter anyway? We live in an era of mass communication, but nobody answers the phone. Modern phone systems can do everything except answer your question. You can press 1 or 2 or 3 or 4, but there is no button on my phone for “I want to talk to a human who has some clue about what it is I’m trying to get accomplished.” Just today I had occasion to call an embassy in Washington, D.C.. It was 11:00 a.m. I needed to talk to someone in the visa section. After pushing the appropriate number for the visa office, I got (what else) a message that said, “Our normal office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and we cannot come to the phone.” Why not? It’s NORMAL working hours isn’t it?
Okay, I have a cell phone, but in my defense, I hardly ever use it, and I never take it to the golf course. It will text message, email, cruise the web, and a dozen other things that I don’t care about. I do, on a rare occasion, call someone I want to talk to. Or rather, communicate with. Silly me, I thought that was what phones were for. For the life of me, I cannot understand how it can be that everywhere I go, everyone seems to be talking on the phone to someone and not talking to the person who they are with. Why don’t you just go see the person you are talking to? Clearly you don’t want to talk to the person who is standing right beside you, so why are you there? We are quickly becoming a society of people who are obsessed with staying in touch, but don’t have anything to say that is worth listening to. Maybe, if they would hang up and do their jobs, someone would have answered at the visa section of the embassy.
Back to the hiring process.
Then the interviews began, and just like always, I had made up my mind in about 30 seconds and spent the rest of the time trying to justify the decision I had already made. I’m sorry that I am a flawed human being, but if you show up at my door with three tattoos, five earrings, and a pierced navel that I can actually see, it isn’t likely that I am going to have a good first impression, and my flaws are so deep that I’m not going to be able to get past it. Unless, of course, you can shoot 72 from the back tees of a 7,400 yard golf course—in the rain!
So basically, we go through the process of advertising the position, reviewing the résumés, and interviewing the applicants so that we can get an impression of the people themselves. We have nothing more than that, and we have to ask ourselves the most relevant question. Would I play a round of golf with this person or invite them to my house for dinner?
I’d give you my cell phone number, but I’m not going to answer it anyway.
Steve Cornibert (firstname.lastname@example.org) sits in his C-Suite wondering about the power you suck from napping, the productive clout of caffeine, and why regulators have not outlawed February’s impertinent delay of spring.