Down The Exxon Lane- 6

Things you must never do during a job interview

I traveled from Peshawar to Karachi for my first job interview with a large multinational engaged in manufacturing and marketing fertilizer. I had applied for a marketing job.

Having recently returned from the US with a Master’s degree in Soil Chemistry, I was hopeful about my interview — yet a bit nervous.

The company’s head office was located diagonally across the Metropole Hotel, on Victoria Road, Karachi, where I reported at the appointed time.

They processed me through the Human Resources department (they called it Employee Relations then, or ER for short) where, among other things, they gave me a long, multiple-choice test — some kind of aptitude test, I was told. They didn’t tell me the result but I felt I had done okay.

While with the ER, I had picked up a thin rubber band from a table somewhere and, absent-mindedly, wound it around my fingers and kept twiddling with it. The interview jitters had set in, I guess.

Having finished with the ER, I was ushered into the office of the Marketing boss, Tony Ward. A large man in his late 50s, with grey hair and a short mustache, Tony Ward was a British from Yorkshire with the proverbial stiff upper lip and a slight stammer that made him sound a little stern. He sat behind a large desk looking at some papers, probably my CV and ER’s comments, which must have reached him before I did.

He looked up from the papers, and with a nod of his head pointed to the empty chair across his desk. I sat down, twiddling the rubber band around my fingers, and waiting for him to start talking. Finally, he delivered his first question: “How old are you?”

“I’ll be 25 in two months”, I answered.

“When you are my age”, he said keeping a straight face, “you won’t be that eager to add a year to yours.” It was the British humor, I thought.

“You studied at Colorado”, he went on, “what was Colorado known for?”

I couldn’t figure out what exactly he wanted to know about Colorado. Its history, geography, culture? Or nightlife? I thought for a second and then offered a half-hearted answer: “It was known as Colorful Colorado. That’s what was mentioned on the license plates of the cars.”

“I’m not interested in the color”, Mr. Ward stammered, “I am talking about agriculture.”

I twiddled the rubber band furiously and thought about the crops I had seen while traveling around Colorado, and started naming them.

While I named the crops — wheat, corn, alfalfa, etc. — the rubber band in my hand, stretched to its limit, left my fingers, and, like an arrow, headed towards Mr. Ward, and landed on his chest!

It didn’t do any damage to Mr. Ward or his white shirt, but it did surprise him. He glanced at his shirt and then at me, rather intensely, blinked once or twice, and proceeded with the interview as if nothing unusual had happened. Obviously, he was a polite man despite his stern demeanor. But I, thoroughly embarrassed, felt like rolling under his desk and staying there.

Moral of the story: Don’t play with rubber bands during an interview.

Postscript: I got the job!