Saturday, October 25, 2014

Is this the HR department?

"Is this the HR department?"
Four perfect hairstyles pivot like turrets and lock on. I have a brief Fembot moment, shake it off with a shudder, then my eyebrows stand on end as the power of their assessment radar sweeps over me. It takes them less than three seconds to determine that I am a) not their manager, b) not bearing chocolate, and c) probably going to ask them to do work. Consequently the answer comes as no surprise:


I glance at the "This is the HR department" sign stuck to the door, look back to them. Pretty brunette is already back on her iPhone. Pretty redhead is turning the volume back up on James Blunt. Token unattractive mousey one  looks confused at her colleagues' behaviour; she's new so the last traces of respect for human dignity are yet to be performance-managed out of her by the HR trainers. She's no good to me, so I look to pretty blonde one. Her eyes are glazed; she's already forgotten I'm here, and is letting her social autopilot handle the remains of the interaction.  She is halfway to forming a 'we value your business, please come back later' smile when I strike.

"I need to talk about a recruiting issue.."

The eyes refocus. We've done this dance before. Last time it ended in a bloody stalemate: her email address being forwarded to the "Bikers for Bitches" dating website, and the comments on my last performance review suddenly developing a nasty case of Tourette's just before it hit the CEO's desk. Open warfare has since cooled to 'wary respect'. But every time we talk it's still like juggling mouse traps.
She does the 'go on' gesture, glances at a spare chair. I sit, maintaining eye contact.
"My new sys admin ," I begin. "The ad went in two months ago. I was hoping to have someone by now.
Rolled eyes. "Yes, there were some problems with the ad."
"Mmm, I remember. My draft said 'This role reports to the IT supervisor.' When it went online, it said 'This role reports to a conceited buffoon.'"
Mock surprise. "Really? I wonder how that happened."
"Probably the same way the bit that said 'Server experience will be well-regarded' was changed to 'Lizard training skills will be well-regarded.'"
"That was autocorrect."
"Uh huh..."
She briefly loses interest, looks back to her computer. One screen shows an online store selling shoes so tall they'd require planning permission. The other is Facebook, where a succession of high-angle selfies are uploading to a new album entitled '#YOLO'." The conversation resumes as a picture appears of a pretty brunette vomiting into a hat.
"You've had ten applicants for the role."
My turn to do surprise. "Ten? It said two hundred when I looked last week!"
"Oh, they were all unsuitable. I've taken the liberty of screening them. And shortlisting them. And choosing the successful candidate. She starts next Monday."
Things were happening a bit quick. "Um...does she, uh..."
"She's perfect. You'll love her. Thanks, now excuse me, I need..."
"Okay, hold it. Who..."
A resume comes at me at speed. There's a photo on the front. She's gorgeous. Made up. Dressed fashionably. None of these words have ever been used about a sys admin.
"She looks..."
I glance up at pretty blonde. "...familiar."
A shrug. "She has a familiar face."
"She looks like you."
"I have a familiar face."
"Is this your sister?"
A snort. "Ridiculous."
I glance at the cover. "She's got the same last name."
"I have a common name."
"Common in Budapest perhaps. I'd need four Scrabble sets to get this many ys and zs."
"Are you being racist?"
"Far from it. Some of my best friends are called..." I glance at her screen as another photo uploads. "Hey, isn't that her?"
A flurry of clicks. "No."
"That was her. What was she doing to that stripper?"
"He was a dancer."
"A dancer? He was in her lap. That makes him a..."
"Look, is any of this relevant?"
"Not to whether she can provide IT support. All she was supporting in that photo was that stripper's..."
"She can do the IT. I checked."
Eyebrow twitch. "Oh yes? How's her SQL?"
"Her SAN and VMWare experience?"
"Her GTA V skills?"
"Even better." Narrowed eyes. "Wait, is that a computer thing?"
"Sort of." I flick open the resume. Comic Sans font. I die a little inside. "It says here she last worked as a PA."
Indignant voice. "In a computer company."
"And that means she can manage six hundred desktops and eighty servers?"
She gives me a weird sideways glance. "About as much as a one-year programming diploma means you can supervise her."

Uh oh.

She's checked my file. Frankly, she's right; I would never hire me. But there's no way I'm telling her that. She thinks Java code is the language they speak in Jakarta. Anyway, getting rid of me would mean way too many skeletons emerging from way too many closets, and a severance package that would halve the company's share price.
Nonetheless, aggression needs to be answered in kind. I glance at her screen. "That's a lot of browser tabs you've got open."
Big eyes. "Browser whats?"
Oops. Slightly simpler aggression perhaps. "Web pages. Lots of web pages. Actually, I've noticed an uptick in your Internet use lately. And there were some...interesting websites in there."
I haven't. And if I had, there probably weren't. But say that to anyone and I guarantee they'll start sweating.
She only blushes slightly. I'm impressed. Pretty, confident and composed; I'd have asked her out long ago, if it weren't for her personality.
"I use a lot of websites," she says primly. "For assessing candidates."
"Assessing candidates?" I look at her screen. "That's Facebook!"
Withering look. "It's an essential pre-screening tool."
My eyebrows raise in retaliation. "You're uploading photos."
"You learn a lot about a candidate from..."
"Of a dance party."
"Candidates' leisure activities are..."
 "That's a picture of you. You seem to be wearing..." I peer closer, "...two rugby players."
Not a flicker. She's good. Maybe I "Isn't it a breach of some...IT policy thing to look at my screen?"
"Nope. Isn't it a breach of some...HR policy to pimp your sister to the company?"
Narrowed eyes. "What are you implying?"
"Mostly that I don't want your sister groping around in my network ."
Faint shrug. "All the other candidates withdrew."
"What? When?"
"When one of the pre-screening questions we asked them was 'Do you mind working for a convicted criminal?'"
She smiles faintly, looks back to Facebook as it rolls over to a picture of her flashing gang signs in front of a bored-looking bouncer. I lean back, cross my arms.
"So it's her or nothing."
"Looks like it." Click, picture of...I look away quickly. Regardless of circumstances, I never, ever want to see the colour of a colleague's underwear. Time to move things along.
"You like your sister?"
A snort. "Of course."
"Pleased to hear it. You trust her?"
Shrug. "Sure."
I nod. "Good, good. She know your Facebook password?"
The smile fades. "Of course not."
"She got access to your email?"
Frowning now. "No...what does that..."
"If your home computer broke, would you trust her to fix it?"
I have her attention. Facebook's gone with a click; she turns toward me, says nothing. I check my phone, let her sweat a moment.
"Can't see it being a problem," I say, scrolling old emails. "If she's as good as you say, she should have no problem fixing your work computer. Right?"
'Well, she..."
"And once I give her admin rights on our network, there's NO chance she'll eavesdrop on your email? Or remote to your computer while you're Facebooking?"
She actually pales. "You can do that?"
"Yup. Not that I would of course; I respect you as a colleague too much. And I can't imagine your..." I glance at the date of birth on the resume "...younger sister holds a grudge for anything you did to her growing up."
Pursed lips. "Look. Maybe..." She reaches for the resume. I lean back, browse the contents. Six months as PA for an 'Adult entertainment company executive'. Nice. Time to seal the deal. "I'm starting to think she'll fit in pretty well."
A grimace. "There...uh..."
A pause. I actually hear her teeth grind. "There might be a few candidates we haven't contacted. Would. You. Like. To see their resumes?" The words come out like bullets, ricocheting off the walls.
I toss Miss Adult Shop back on her desk, stand up. "That'd be great!" On a whim I decide to push my luck. "And hey, I'm pretty busy this week; maybe you could write up my interview notes when I'm done with them?"
Warning glance. "Sorry. Bit busy myself; performance reviews are coming up. And you know how tricky those comments can be."
Our eyes lock. The world ages around us, In the silence I hear unattractive mousey one whimper. We nod imperceptibly, then both speak at once.
"Send me those resumes."
"I'll send you those resumes."
The stormclouds retreat. I smile, feeling more alive that I have for a long time. "Always a pleasure doing business. You busy Saturday?"
"I said 'looking forward to seeing those resumes!'"

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