The Interview

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He sat in the lobby, rubbing his palms against the tops of his legs. His hands were dry, cracking and red; nervously, he glanced about to see the closest bathroom. Not seeing one, he quickly produced a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer, applies some and winces as he rubs it in thoroughly to his hands. Everyone seems busy in their daily grind, ants moving in and out of tunnels, they weave in and out of their cubicles. It is quiet, people only seem to acknowledge one another with sideways glances, none congregating about the water cooler.

He picks up his leather briefcase and removes a spiral-bound notebook. Flipping through it he skims across company information, mission statements, and questions he has for the interviewer. He feels prepared and a smile creeps across his face. He slips the notebook back into the case and sets it back between his feet. His shoes are like mirrors. Four minutes to go, according to the cheap wall clock. He flattens out the visitor badge sticker, that has already begun to curl, on his lapel, which reads ‘DOEL, JOHNATHAN’ in all block letters.

A Jake Blues, John Belushi looking man rounds the corner, carrying a folded manila folder, that rests atop his generous midsection. Dark suit, dark tie, mutton chops…all he is missing is the fedora. Johnathan immediately rises.

“Mr. Pierce, so good to meet you.”

Slightly startled, Pierce thrusts out his hand in greeting, but a pause on Johnathan’s part brings about the slightest micro-expression of indignation and concern, which doesn’t go unnoticed. Johnathan reciprocates, with a friendly, wide, tooth exposing smile.

“Sorry…flu season.”

“My office is this way,” Pierce says, his attention brought back to the folder’s contents.

They make their way along the narrow aisles between the cubicles, Pierce still flipping through application materials. Johnathan is glancing about, identifying people by memory from their LinkedIn profile pictures, mouthing their names almost imperceptibly, while discretely sanitizing his hands, once again..

Pierce turns left into an open door, with Johnathan trailing right behind. The office has a window that offers a view of the vast parking area and in the distance a liquor and adult book store combo sits at a crossroads. A cactus, turning brown from neglect, sits on the sill. A few scant family photos sit about in frames on the desk and on the waist-high bookcase, that holds three-ringed binders full of procedures and mandated trainings. A binder, with the title “Cultural Sensitivity,” written in sharpie, looks slightly pulled out from the rest. His wife, in the pictures, is very cute, but she and Pierce seem to lean away from one another in all but the oldest pictures.

“It says here that you have your Project Management Professional certification…?”

“Yes, though I have to admit that the ink is still dry on that one. I have done a few projects in advance of getting the certification, though. Mostly I’ve been involved in conducting hiring events, software upgrades and implementing a new inventory tracking system, which required assigning lot numbers to all sub-components and finished goods.”

“Very nice. Now I attempted to check on a couple of your older workplaces, that you had listed, but was unable to get a hold of anyone to verify…”

“Yes. I know exactly which ones you’re referring to. Jamesway went out of business less than a year after I left and that private insurer was bought out by a national level company and they purged their records after seven years, which was like two years ago.”

“Oh…okay. Now it says that you have a fairly active volunteering background. Is that correct?”

“Oh yes! I’m glad you brought that up, as I was wondering if there are times that I need to lend a hand at the local animal shelter, if I can make up the time on the weekend? Animals are very near and dear to my heart.”

“Wow…same here! I actually volunteer at a nearby, no-kill shelter. I’m surprised I haven’t seen you there!”

“Hey…I’ll have to look that place up, if I get the position, as I’ll probably be moving to this area. I’m sure I’ll still drop in on the old gang from time to time, though.”

Pierce flips back and forth through the file, a slight smile on his face, his head nodding slightly, “Well…I don’t have any more questions, everything seems in order, and if we proceed we’ll do reference checks and get you in for a pre-employment physical and drug testing. Do you have any questions for me?”

“Actually, I have a couple. My first set of questions are about the culture here. How would you describe it, how does personal development fit in, and do you have a plan for every employee?” he leaned back in his seat and adjusted his body positioning to mirror that of Pierce.

“Good questions! I guess you could say that we fall in the adhocracy spectrum, perhaps leaning toward a clan culture. We definitely believe in empowerment and an…ask forgiveness later, rather than seek permission now…spirit of innovation. As for a plan…for each employee? We definitely have career ladders and succession planning, but really we write blank checks for employees and their personal development. It’s probably our best retention tool.”

“Fantastic! I will definitely take advantage of that…if hired. My only other question is, just how did a phenomenal position like this become open? I mean, this is really a dream job for the right person.”

“Well, the gentleman that had the position before passed away suddenly. He had only been with us for three years. We are all still reeling from it. It was actually good timing on your part, having submitted an application when you did, as you are our first interview and, off the record, might save us a lot of time filtering through other applications and interviews, as promising as you are. Plus, you applied before he passed, so you’re not one of those obituary vultures.”

“Oh, wow…I’m glad to hear that—off the record—and hope that I can fill his shoes and hit the ground running. Yeah, I never understood the practice of trolling the obits for job opportunities…just seemed so…so opportunistic. I pride myself in being proactive. Anyway, I can’t wait to wrap my arms around the position, work on my cross-functionality and get some cohesion with the group. I’m really not big on sand-boxing or hoarding knowledge. Oh…Frank’s passing must be why everyone seems so despondent. They all must be grieving the loss.”

“I’m sure there is some of that, but I think that there is quite a bit of guilt, as well. Frank was probably the only square peg in the place. Almost everyone out there wished at one point or other that Frank would move on, yeah…move on is probably the best way to put it. Strangely enough, he was big on pointing out when someone was stepping in his sandbox, and he always kept his cards close to chest. It’ll be a breath of fresh air having someone in this position who believes as you do. As the rest of us do.”

“Well, Mr. Pierce—”

“—You can call me Roger, ” he says with a broad smile.

“Well, Roger, I don’t have any more questions at this time, though if any come up between now and when you get through checking references, I will surely call you.”

“Awesome! You’ll be hearing from me by the end of next week, either way,” he says with a wink.

Johnathan makes his way out of the building, stopping momentarily at the reception desk, to give thanks for assistance. He walks out, crosses the parking lot, and gets inside his car. He closes his eyes and smiles.

* * *

Johnathan sits at a bar and orders a drink. Glancing over at the guy sitting next to him he notices a company issued, name tag on his lapel. Axiom Industries. QUARRY, ROGER. He orders Roger a drink.

* * *

Johnathan walks into the same bar and gives Roger a wave as he takes off his coat and hangs it on a rack. He signals the bartender with two fingers and points back and forth between himself and Roger.

* * *

Johnathan is assisting a very drunk George up the stone stairs that lead to George’s colonial, which sits at the end of a cul-de-sac. He reaches into George’s pocket and pulls out his keys, flips through them to find the right one, but hesitates. He looks at George. He wipes the keys off with his scarf, presses the keys into George’s hand, then shakes them loose onto the entryway. Holding George by the lapels, he backs him to the edge of the stone stairway.

“Thanks, George.”

He lets go.

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