by The Escaped Inmate
There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
I’ve been writing recently about the job hunt in general. Since then, I’ve thought a bit more about the job interview process and its similarity to a first date.
First, the job interview taken from the corporate context and put into the dating context.
The appointment for your interview would be in the evening, rather than during the business day. You’d be expected to dress well, but not necessarily in business attire. Instead of meeting in a strange office building, you’d meet at a nice restaurant. Etiquette would still require you to arrive early, so you’d wait in the bar and have the drink appropriate to the position for which you were applying – anything from a Shirley Temple to an obscure Armagnac. Price would be a consideration, but not because you’d be the one shelling out the simoleons. Nothing too cheap, because that would be beneath you. Nothing too expensive because that would be presumptuous. The interviewer would arrive and you’d be expected to say some witty and flattering things about the interviewer and his/her company. Of course the interviewer would say nice things about you too, and subtly probe your background and hopes for the future. You’d order something that isn’t too messy to eat from the appropriate price segment of the menu. No dessert, though – don’t want to look like a glutton. After dinner, perhaps you’d go dancing. After all, an employee’s socialization can be very important to their success in an organization. If the chemistry wasn’t as good, maybe you’d hit a movie instead, to give you each a chance to think of more ways to impress the other, or to figure out if you’re still interested. At the end of the night when the interviewer says they’ll call you, your heart skips a beat. Even if it doesn’t work out, you have some pleasant memories and reverie over what might have been.
I guess job interviewer would be one of the most highly prized jobs, just for the perks. Of course there’d have to be some serious revision to current ideas about sexual harassment.
Now lets try it the other way around – job interviews for your date.
Once you find someone who’s interested in you, a phone conversation is in order. You are told one or two possible times to meet and if they aren’t convenient for you, that’s too bad. The meeting will be in a rather inconvenient spot and you have to pay for parking. You show up a few minutes early, to make a good impression, only to be stuck waiting in the lobby for twenty minutes, the whole while overhearing half the receptionist’s phone conversation about the person you’re about to meet – you can’t tell if what you’re hearing is positive or not. A frazzled person comes out, half-heartedly apologizes for being late and complains about the hassle of finding qualified applicants. S/he makes a perfunctory offer of coffee, but you know that’s a trap so you decline. When you get to the office, you’re grilled about obscure and embarrassing details of your previous relationships, with special attention to why each one ended and what you might have done differently. The interviewer says you’re probably a finalist, so your hopes start to build. But then the interviewer makes a face when you respond to the question about what kind of a position you hope to be in a few years from now. You’re given the old ‘don’t call us we’ll call you.’ Can’t you just see people lining up for that treatment? Forget overpopulation, humanity might face extinction!
I’ll bypass the obvious punch line about how a date’s anticipated outcome is what ends up happening in an interview if you don’t get the job or, too often, even if you do.
The point isn’t just that a romantic relationship is different than employment – and rightfully so – but that people are prone to treating each other nicely when they want something, while institutions aren’t. The few institutions that really believe all they say about how ‘our people make the difference'(a real ad slogan, by the way), usually are conspicuous since they act accordingly. The overwhelming majority don’t (including at least one that uses the ad slogan ‘our people make the difference’). Institutions are prone to being bullies. They’re big and powerful and can get what they want pretty much anywhere. Since they view employees as fungible, they have no reason to treat them humanely at any stage in the employment relationship.
Those people who don’t treat their romantic partners well often end up alone. Wouldn’t it be nice if those employers who don’t treat their employees well met the same fate?
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1953, pg. 73.