08 Nov What to do when dining with a Jive Turkey technology job candidate
Sometimes in this column we write about very unprofessional, clueless or off-the-wall habits among Midwest technology bosses.
While they’re all true stories and authentic trends, we’d hate to leave readers with the notion that it’s only managers who behave outrageously. So you know we’re not biased in our doling out of criticism, here’s a story about a technology job candidate that just left me sputtering.
I was asked to interview a very senior candidate for a Chicago-based technology company.
For such a lofty guy, the interview format would be dinner at a pricey restaurant. I was given the candidate’s office phone number and told that I should make arrangements with his assistant. She was expecting my call. Though I’m not sure she knew the intentions of her boss (to find a new job), of course I wouldn’t bring that up.
So I call this woman and I hear: “Yes, Liz. I’ve been expecting your call. I have put dinner on Jack’s schedule for 8 p.m. tonight at the Pump Room.” (Restaurants and names have been changed for this story.) I clumsily respond: “Um, gee. Tonight at 8 p.m.?”
I had given no indication to anyone of my availability for that day or any other.
That was my first clue. This was a very control-oriented guy. “Well, I was thinking of later in the week, but I guess tonight will work.” Now check this out. She says: “Great! Then I’ll let you make the reservation at the Pump Room.” What? You tell me where and when we’re meeting and you haven’t even made a reservation? What gives?
I say: “Well, I’m on Michigan Avenue on my cell phone and I don’t have a pen, so why don’t you go ahead and make the reservation and tell Jack I’ll meet him there?”
After a frosty silence, she actually said: “Jack asked me to ask you to make the reservation.” So I said: “You do the reservation and call me if it needs to change. Often it’s good to schedule a reservation before committing to a time to meet. I’ll be flexible if the time needs to change.”
I hung up. That was round one. I knew I was in for a spicy evening.
I get to the restaurant. Guess what? Jack is late. He arrives 15 minutes later and we sit down and begin chatting. No matter how senior or junior a candidate may be, I’m a very casual interviewer. It’s all conversation to me.
But Jack really pushes that. We spend lots of time on kids, hobbies, family backgrounds and so on. In fact, it’s really hard to get him to talk about his professional experience. I know he has one. He has a huge resume. If we talked about that, this dinner might feel like an interview.
Jack wouldn’t be into that. Around the time of the entre I finally get him to talk about his work. He has accomplishments. It’s hard to pin him down. He has done this and that. He’s very breezy. I’m not impressed so far. Still, I’m hanging in there.
Around the time the entrees arrive, Jack’s cell phone rings. He answers it. On the other end of the line is his girlfriend. They’re talking about which dress she should wear to the gala event they’re attending the following night. I look at my watch. Nine and then 12 and then 15 minutes go by.
Jack finally gets off the phone. I am making mental notes on my mental notepad. The notes are not kind. We keep talking.
Then, the unbelievable happens (I should have been prepared for it). Jack’s phone rings again. It’s the girlfriend again. “Look,” he says, “Liz and I are over here at the Pump Room. Come over and join us.” I smile.
The mental notepad is wiped clean and I write jive turkey there in large letters. Of course I didn’t write jive turkey, but no one would print what I actually wrote. The girlfriend shows up and the three of us chat about her dress and who knows what else. So much for the interview.
I had a super-short conversation with our CEO the next day. I think the gist of it was “not our guy”. I lost track of ol’ Jack, the so-hip-it-hurts technology job candidate who won’t submit to an actual job interview in any form. I’m sure he did OK with the rest of the empty suits he likes to be around.
Yes, there is a lesson in this.
When Jack took that first cell phone call, I should have smiled and left. Yes, I should have just left the table and left him with the bill (I did that part). By sitting there like a dork through his first 15-minute call, I sent the message that Jack was still the man. That was a learning experience.
I don’t care how much the workplace had changed or how much technology impacts our lives and our decision making. Face to face is still king. Your five senses and your rock-solid sixth sense (your gut) will steer you right most of the time.
I wasn’t five minutes into my dinner with Jack before I saw the turkey ’tude in him. I’m sure it’s happened to you, too. In a formal interview in your office you have to sit there and suffer. You can’t call the interview quits five minutes in. At dinner with the king turkey, you can do it.
So do it! Tell him or her I told you to.
Liz Ryan is the founder of ChicWIT (Chicago Women in Technology) and founder of WorldWIT (World Women in Technology). She can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column Nine2Five, which appears on ePrairie every Friday, is designed to keep you up to date with career trends and advice related to working and managing organizations in the post-bubble technology world. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.