Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The interview: Spreadsheet

Read Time: 3.5 minutes

A client shared this with me (details changed to protect my client’s privacy). I was struck by the raw emotion of the experience.

A Google Doc holds my future.

The email said, “A self-introduction will be required.” When I read stuff like this, I automatically go into ‘run for the hills’ mode. I know how this goes. I’d been through far too many of these.

My future, or lack of it, is all on someone else’s spreadsheet.

She let me into the video while still typing. Smiled and said, “Good morning, Chris.”

I note the shot of Manhattan she has chosen as her background. Watch out, she’s on a power trip, slips through my thoughts.

Back to the spreadsheet: how I appear in the doc is more important than how I appear in life. A fucking spreadsheet. I shudder.

A spreadsheet holding interview videos, and my trial assignment, links to past work and all sorts of social media, some dominated with corporate bullshit, some deeply personal.

I managed to respond, “Thanks for taking the time to talk; I appreciate it.”

Who knows what the corporate HR people will dig up from my past. Some drunken party or worse. I was young once. That’s how I got to be older.

Then the hopeful thought flitted through, “Nobody has any secrets anymore.” Hopeful in that my recorded transgressions couldn’t be any worse than most. Right?

I hear my wife returning and hope she remembers my interview.

I need this job.

“Chris, I want you to know that your work has gotten much attention in our office. It’s unusual.”

I felt the chill go down my back to what I imagined was where my tail would be if I were a different kind of mammal. Knowing that’s the absolutely wrong mindset for being interviewed. I know it, but I’m fucking stuck with it.

I notice that the usual blurring edge between her and the skyscraper image behind isn’t there. Is she really sitting in front of a giant window with all of Manhattan behind?

“Thank you so much.” I pause for a minute, then go on with. “What was it exactly that caused the attention?”

A bit of pounding is starting in my ears now. Gotta get the gig. Gotta get the gig. I’m stressed.

I could see her typing. I hope I hadn’t spaced too long, and she’d noted it.

Shit, I can’t do that. I never could type notes while conversing.

I await the next question, hoping my boyish charm will save me. Then I remember I hate the word charm.

I snap back into the moment; what’d I miss?

She’s smiling at me. “Chris, your work on that culture piece just blew everyone away here in the Boulder office.”

Well, that settles that. She’s not in Brooklyn. Then I wish she’d put the Rockies behind her.

She paused, then, “It’s the way you get into people’s inner lives and balance it with place, I think.”

I felt my face redden and smile at the same time.

“Chris, we want to know how you do that.”

Now, I’m pulled both ways. Proud that they like my work. Just sure it was too weird to get the gig. What to say? A compliment in return? A little-known secret to success? Is she saying she likes it to let me down gently? I could see that she cared for my feelings, but…

I blurt out, “Culture is one of those words that has had its meaning striped away by…”

I trail off, knowing I’ve insulted her for using the word culture.

I try to smile. “Sorry, sorry, I can see I’m blowing this.”

“No, Chris, you’ve been selected for further consideration.”

Back to the spreadsheet. Shit, “selected for further consideration.” Boy, that’s corporate speak. What am I doing here?

Gotta get this gig.

So, I try, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how I do that. It just happens. Sometimes I get tuned in by reading someone else’s work, or it can be overhearing a conversation while waiting for coffee, or something clicks when I’m on a run.”

“I know I can’t teach it if that’s what you are looking for.”

Now, I’m sure my honesty is killing me.

“But Chris, you are teaching at the U. I spoke to your chair. She gave you high marks. Are you sure you can’t teach it?

I’m not sure of anything at this point. I hope the spreadsheet puzzle breaks in my favor.

The interview goes the entire thirty minutes. I feel pretty good about that after the call and settle into the worst part: The waiting.

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