View Full Version : Interview

August 24th, 2015, 08:16 AM
I was searching for candidates to fill up middle level executive positions in my current company. An advertisement in a national daily was released and there was a deluge of CVs in response to the advertisement. Short listing the CVs was a huge task and somehow completed the job by short listing ten CVs for each position we had.

I need to tell you about me at the time of this incident. I was touching forty with fifteen years doing hardcore business in the industry and I was pretty confident of my knowledge and skills.

I was new to the current organization and I was told that never in the earlier history of the organization all CVs received were screened before short listing the candidates. I was under pressure from several quarters to choose from the specific recommendations and I was almost pulled up for wasting my time. I could guess why it was so and I understood why round pegs in the organization were occupying the square holes. However, I held on to my beliefs and interviews were scheduled. If you ask me why I held on, despite the tremendous pressure, I do not have an answer. For sure it was not my seniority that mattered as there were at least three more senior levels in the organization and more importantly they were involved in exerting the pressure. Somehow, the pressures made me more determined to follow the path of just.

We decided on a three level filtering process and the interviews started. I was the final judge on the suitability of the candidate.

The interviews started. There were different kinds of people with different skills. Most CVs did not match the person, let alone matching the job profile.

On the third day of the interviews something special happened. Did that change me forever? I do not know. I am just describing it.

On rejection at the first level, a person questioned the interviewer about why he was being rejected. Normally, any lame reason would have done the trick to send the person back. But the interviewer expressed his true feelings about the candidate. The interviewer had told him that from both CV perspective and individual perspective, the person was overqualified for the job. The person told the interviewer that rejection was not fair as interviewer himself was not qualified to carry out the task and he should forward the CV to a more qualified person to carry out the evaluation than rejecting the CV. This was a solid reason for a relook and the first level interviewer passed the CV onto second level. Same story repeated at second level too and the CV landed on my desk for the evaluation and interview. The second level interviewer informed me of the status on the intercom before the person was sent in.

I looked at the man as he entered my cabin. This man looked much more older than what he was. His CV mentioned is name as Tom Alter and told me that he was born five years earlier than me. But, person looked at least ten to fifteen years elder to me. The list of degrees he held was impressive and far outweighed my own qualifications.

I smiled at him and shook his hand but he did not return the smile. Surprisingly, his hands were limp and shaky. When he was comfortably seated, he looked around before looking at me and forced a dry smile on his face. I clearly felt that he had a lot of disappointments in his life.

“I want to tell you what I want to do in future than what I have done in the past. My past is already there in your hands fully written as a CV. I hope you understand the truth about the past. It is neither repeatable nor changeable.” he said before I could strike a conversation.

Those words took me by surprise. It should have been my turn to start the conversation. The interviews in the business environments always result in a critical evaluation of the past aka experience even though future results cannot be predicted using that experience. And every prospective employee would do all kinds of window dressing to make the past look glorious. It is quite a different thing that the interviewer can gauge the possible experience of the interviewee through a set of logically cohesive questions suiting the purpose. This person was preempting me from doing the basic evaluation of his experience. All my standard set of questions was being forcibly blocked and with that my thought process went for a toss.

Yet, this person did not say it in a disrespectful way. So, I had to take it in right spirit. Yes. There was a lot of truth in his statements. I had no specific argument against what he had said, although I wished desperately that my past could be changed in certain specific aspects. Then I wondered. Why in the name of hell do I need to change my past? I had no specific answer. My mind was telling me clearly : you could have been a happier person had your past been this particular way. Oh..there it was. If I had the ability to change my past, I would have tried to change in a specific way so that I would become happy today! Still clear cut definition of ‘happy’ was missing. In lose terms I would have had more things, more power, more money and possibly have a careless attitude. I became curious and asked my mind. Why that specific way only? Why not another way? More specifically, what is wrong with the way it is? No answer came from my mind. But there was a sort of lingering dissatisfaction. Since I needed to concentrate on the task at hand, I forcibly pushed it away from my current focus.

I said carefully, composing myself, weighing all the words I uttered “You are so right. The past cannot be changed and there is no specific use in changing it. Perhaps, if by any chance we are able to do it, life might lose one of its charming challenges. However, there is no harm in evaluating the past to respond effectively to the future. That is the major job all of us have in the present.”

This, I thought, was equal response to the vague statement. It was meant to draw him back to what I wanted to do next.

“Well, you seem to be an intelligent person. However, you have a lot of inaccuracies in thinking with respect to the ideas you have. I would like to know what will you be achieving by analyzing my past?”

It looked as if my interview was being taken and a question was asked to me where I had no particular answer other than some unsatisfactory vague response. Since I was the interviewer, I decided to show my authority by asking a question. Still, I wanted to handle this person respectfully. So with laborious effort, I uttered “In the given scenario, I am expected to be a match maker between the prospective candidate and the job we have at hand. The effort can lead to a failed match. Considering your seniority and experience profile, getting to know your past in a better way is the right option at this point. Shall we go ahead?”

“You seem to have developed strong tendencies and beliefs in cause and effect theory. From whatever angle you want to inspect my experience profile is suitable for the job you have right now. I strongly suggest that you do away with your beliefs in cause and effect and change them to anticipation of new possibilities to be discovered in the future. Cause and effect theory will be of much lesser use in doing that.”

“Just a minute.” I said and immersed myself into reading his CV. The jobs and descriptions listed by him were in line with our requirements, in fact a near perfect fit, except for the age profile we had in our minds. Educational qualifications were on the higher end and that was reason why my lower level might have classified him as over qualified. When I finished reading his CV, I looked back at him from the perspective of getting to know why he was wanting to shift into this job as he was having an almost perfect job already.

As if he read my mind he said “After reading my CV, you very well are likely to ask me as to why I want to change from a perfect job I am currently having. The answer to that question will be provided over time. Right now, whatever is happening with respect to my current job is not correctly represented in the CV.”

I was in for a shock. This was the first ever case where candidate pointed out misrepresentation in his CV even before I asked a question about his experience profile. Before I recovered from the shock, he said “Cause and effect theory you have wedded to results in a conclusion that I am most suitable person for the current job held by me as I am doing very well and I should not look for a change. To tell you frankly, even when you see a bright future for me where I am, I intuitively anticipate major changes in the industry and there is a need for making major changes to my job profile. You, by virtue of the situation, are holding a higher position in the same industry segment. Perhaps, this is an eye opener for you to be prepared for events beyond cause and effect predictability.”

By virtue of complete involvement in day-to-day affairs, I had not concentrated on distant future. While in intermediate term the industry predictions were pointing to a stable environment. I was impressed by his ability to think much forward than I could think.

Beyond this we concentrated on discussing about the job at hand and in less than ten minutes I decided to make him an offer. Being a good candidate I had to make him an offer which he should not be in a position to reject. I made the best offer that was possible from my side, which far exceeded what he was currently getting.

To my surprise again, he declined to accept the offer. He asked me several questions in the in guise of evaluating the offer. At the end he decided to conclude. He said “I am sorry. I have to decline your offer in spite of the offer being the best you can offer. I appreciate that fact immensely. Whatever you are proposing lacks intuitiveness and is a call for disastrous future. Your conditioned mind is telling you to believe in something which does not have an intrinsic stability. Somehow, I feel that it was your interview, not mine. Remember one thing well. You are sowing the seeds of changing your past right now.”

He got up from his seat, shook my hand with a sweet smile, which made him look five years younger to me. Then he left. I did not hear about him after that.

Twelve years have passed by. I became a witness to great upheavals in my own life and industry segment. I saw ups and downs all through. The sequence of events was such that I ended up losing my job a year back. The savings were meager and I am about to reach a flash point in my financial career. Somehow I do not feel scared at all. Due to the bitterness left from the last job, I had decided to retire completely in spite of slippery financial state. Added to that, my skills are more or less dated. At least I thought so. Although, I attended some interviews, I was discarded as over qualified or too old for the job.

In the last three months I stopped all attempts at obtaining a job.

All of a sudden, yesterday, I received an interview call from reputable company which provided services in a totally unrelated field of my expertise. It was a big surprise. I had not applied for a job in this company. When I mentioned the same thing to the caller, I was informed about the desire of the CEO to meet me after he happened to pick my CV from a job portal.

I had nothing much to hope, yet I went to the interview at the appointed time.

A surprise was awaiting me there.

Moment I entered the reception area of the company, I was ushered in to the CEO’s chamber. Tom Alter was there waiting for me in the CEO’s chair. I was shocked to see him there. Before I recovered from the shock, Tom shook my hand and congratulated for being appointed as CEO of his company beyond his retirement planned for the next month. I was too shocked at the turn of the events and I fumbled. “But, I was called in for an interview.”

Tom smiled and said “We had your interview twelve years back!”

August 24th, 2015, 01:33 PM
Hi Roger

This is certainly an interesting piece. I like your description of a sort of time paradox, the conversation about the value of the past versus the present is intriguing, and I also really like the strong voice your main character has that's consistent throughout the entire piece.

However, I won't lie, I found this piece very difficult to get through. You have a lot of clutter in every paragraph, sentences which could be done in 5 words seem to be done in 20, and are then repeated. Being something of a rambler, I know the temptation there is to really hammer home an idea or theory. However, it completely jams the flow of a story when we are told the same thing repeatedly, and can make it a little frustrating. The fact that the vocabulary is very limited only compounds this issue, where there are some sentences which use the exact same word almost in sequence. A particular example of this would be talking about the 'organisation' in the beginning paragraphs.

Speaking of the 'organisation', I feel it is important to add a definite detail about the organisation, perhaps a name, or some idea as to what the company does. This is also true for when you talk about the 'business' your character does. It is somewhat bizarre as a reader to be presented a character who is an expert in a field, but then not be told what that field is. Business is an absolutely massive area, broken up into hundreds of different sectors, and it doesn't seem natural for someone to say 'I do business'. I'm not saying you need to go into any great detail about his job, but giving us some idea would be reassuring (even if it's just a throw away comment, like 'the financial market had been particularly strong this year' or what-not)

Another aspect of the piece which makes it quite hard to get a grip on is the fact that we have very little idea of any physical space. We know the interview happens in an office, and that there is at least one chair in that office, but beyond that we have nothing. As such the entire conversation, which is fairly up in the air as it is, has nothing concrete for the reader to latch on to. Before anything can happen in your piece, it is vitally important that you know exactly where it is happening, and then you can show the reader that environment, either before, or during the action of the scene.

This is important because the environment of any scene can have huge effects on the action. For example, telling someone 'There are dead people here' has a very different effect if your characters are in a graveyard versus, say, a nursery. Beyond that though, the environment is also a wonderful opportunity for you to show us what sort of character your protagonist is, without the need to tell us anything. The office space is often one of the most personal spots for a person. As such any detail of the office you give us will reflect immediately upon your character. Is the office messy? Are there any pictures on the desk? What sort of desk, is it large and imposing, or is it small and discreet? All these details could tell us mountains about your character without breaking your flow or rhythm ^^.

The final thing I want say actually relates to the flow of the piece. It is very important that when you get to the action part of a scene (in this case, the actual interview) that you don't interrupt it with character introspection. An example of this would be immediately after:

“I want to tell you what I want to do in future than what I have done in the past. My past is already there in your hands fully written as a CV. I hope you understand the truth about the past. It is neither repeatable nor changeable.” he said before I could strike a conversation.

It then takes three paragraph for your character to respond. This immediately kills any pace, and gives the impression that your character is sat there, silent, for a good few minutes lost in his own reverie (Very JD style from scrubs). For such intense introspection, like you have written, it has to be after the interview is done, and your character is alone with his thoughts. However, if you want to show how the words from Mr Alder have affected him without breaking the pace, you have to physically show us. Humans have a huge range of body movements and tells that giveaway our thoughts, have your character furrow his brow, shuffle some papers, maybe clear his throat or scratch the back of his head. Whatever it is, you must show us your character's discomfort, and then later expand upon it, rather than just telling us in the middle of the action.

Sorry this is so long, it's because I really do think this piece has a lot of potential, and if you decide to redraft it, I really hope you put it back up here for us to see.

All the best

August 24th, 2015, 02:40 PM
Hello MousePot,

Your analysis is extremely encouraging. This is a first draft of the story and there are many loose ends both in narration and details which can help in building consistent mental picture.

I introspected a lot before pushing the piece up here. However, my internal push won because thing I wanted to publish which you termed as 'time warp' in my own words.

There will be a redraft for sure.