Friday, October 11, 2013

The working life: The skype interview with the jerk

I've been interviewing potential teachers in Grand Fenwick. We have opened an office there and one of our products is adult education. We could fly instructors from the US to Grand Fenwick, but that would negate any cost benefit we might get from using Fenwickian instructors - Fenwick being a World Bank developing economy country, costs are lower there - and the US instructors do not speak Fenwick. Although our course materials are in English, I want the instructors to be native Fenwick speakers so they can talk to the students in a language the students are comfortable in. I am fluent in Spanish, but if I had to learn organic chemistry in Spanish, I would be quite challenged.

(I would be quite challenged to learn organic chemistry in English, as well. Here's what I know about organic chemistry: H and O. There. That's it.)

I got about 30 applicants. The guy in the GF office and I arranged skype interviews with all of them except two. The first submitted an incomplete application and never responded to my request for additional information.

The second, in response to my very specific question, "Tell me about your experience in adult education," wrote, "All I can say is, 'I can train!'"

My sympathies to recruiters everywhere.

How hard is it to answer a direct question? Many people did nothing more than copy and paste some sections from their resumes into that section, which was fine. The main reason I asked specific questions, even about items that should have appeared on the resume, was that I did not want to have to comb through resumes, in all their different formats, to find the information I wanted.

By the way, I do not need to know that you are "sociable and good looking." That is not information that needs to be on your resume, although it is amusing.

So this guy - let's call him "Slick" - tells me that he "can train!" but offers no evidence to substantiate that claim.

I decide I am not interested in talking to someone who so blatantly ignores my instructions, so I write a "no!" on his application and put it in the back of the pile.

Three months later, I decide that perhaps I should at least interview him - that maybe there was something lost in translation between Fenwick and English. So I send him an email asking for an interview. We arrange a date. I instruct him to prepare a ten-minute presentation on the topic of his choice. I want to see if he can teach. I don't care what he tries to teach me - it could be how to change a tire - I just want to know if he can teach.

You can tell a lot in just a ten-minute presentation about someone's teaching ability. I was surprised at how easy it is to tell if someone is a good teacher or a bad teacher. The top instructors I have talked to are university professors. It is coincidence, I suppose, that they got their PhDs in the US, although that probably accounts for their English fluency.

My Fenwick colleague, Ping, and I get Slick on skype.

Twenty seconds into the call, Slick's cellphone rings.

He takes the call.

He gets off the call and explains that he is very busy. I suggest that we reschedule for a better time. He tells me there won't be a better time.

We start talking. His phone rings. Again.

"Would you please turn off the ringer?" I ask.

He refuses.

His phone rings again. And again. "I am supposed to be on a conference call," he explains.

"Let's reschedule," I say.

No, no, no, he insists.

Fine. Whatever.

At this point, I am putting stuff on facebook about the interview. My friend Amy asks why I am continuing the interview. "Because I want more material," I tell her. I am already pretty sure I will not be hiring this guy.

I ask Slick a question. He interrupts me before I have finished. I am astonished.

The second time he interrupts, I say sharply, "I am still talking."

He still does not shut up.

I send an email to Ping. "No way!!!!!! We are not hiring this guy!"

His phone rings again. Ping asks, "Please turn off the ringer." Slick complies. I guess the trick is you have to be male to have your requests honored.

We hear a shouts through the window in Slick's room. "What's that?" I ask.

Slick rolls his eyes. "It is a salesman," he says. "This is not the United States." His tone drips with great disdain for my US-ness, my lack of understanding of life  in a developing country.

I roll my eyes back, only he can't see me, as I am not on video. (He is.) I bite back my comment that I lived in Chile for two years and regularly heard vendors outside of my office window offering everything from firewood to onions. I realize I don't care to justify myself to Slick.

I ask, "Do you have any feedback from students about your effectiveness as a teacher?"

He rolls his eyes again. (Hint to job hunters: Do not roll your eyes.)

"I am being sent to give training in India. Is that enough feedback for you?"

I take a deep breath. "I mean, do you have any numbers? What is your average rating on the post-course evaluation?"

He doesn't know.

I ask him to give Ping and me a short teaching demonstration.

He sighs. Deeply. "About what?"

"As I said in my email, where I explained what you would be doing in this interview, about any subject. Any subject at all."

He sighs again. "Fine."

He proceeds to lecture us about something - I don't remember what. Another vendor calls through the window.

I tell him, "Thanks. We'll let you know."

I hang up on him. I keep Ping on the line.

"Is there any chance you want to talk me out of my opinion that we would not touch this guy with a ten-foot pole?" I ask.

Ping laughs. "Oh no. He was horrible."

I had thought it would bother me to write a rejection note, but I took great pleasure in telling Slick that we would not be needing his services.

1 comment:

webb said...

Making the candidates teach something is a great idea. We used to do it when hiring Health Educators. Will never remember the PhD student who couldn't put together an entire grammatical sentence and whose handouts were full of typos. When we didn't hire her, she called and wanted to know why.

It took me half your post to remember where Grand Fenwick actually is. Hope you get a trip there - wink, wink!