What the secretary thinks
“Another Sales Manager joins the team today and it’s my job to induct him; reports, timesheets, expenses and all the rest of it. I’ve been here almost fifteen years and have seen so many come and go. The regional team is usually around thirty strong, mostly men. They’re all extremely professional mainly due to John Mitchell, Northern Area Manager and my boss, who does all of the interviews. He’s a long-term fixture and really knows his stuff. His now famous last-question-of-the-interview, “tell me about your favourite book”, has spawned a serious pastime at regional office: finding out which book the new arrival chose. We keep a record of them too and place bets, based on their book choice, as to how long they’ll last at the company. It’s only a bit of fun but I have to say we’ve got quite good at it. Take Tim George for instance, who chose Terry Pratchett’s ‘Making Money’; the bets on him ranged from one to four months before he’d cut and run. He only lasted three. John knows nothing of this of course as I think he takes the book thing pretty seriously.”
What the Area Manager thinks
“I’m bloody sick of interviewing inept sales managers. There were twelve in this last batch and most of them a waste of space. I swear Human Remains haven’t a clue. If I have to listen to one more boring CV monologue from out-of-nappies to the man I am now, I’ll hit someone. Sales people just love the sound of their own voices but it’s the ones who believe their own PR that you have to watch: loads of blather, little substance. For my own amusement I came up with the favourite book question mainly to test the bullshit quotient; most of them haven’t a clue what to say and watching them squirm is often the highlight of the interview. They either prattle away how some book influenced them or how the characters help them sell and loads of other worthless rubbish or they look blank as they rack their brains for any book. The office thinks it’s my ‘final decision moment’ but I’ve always decided yes or no long before and I don’t want to spoil their fun.
Andrew Cain was the winner of this particular marathon and I actually think he’ll fit in well. He’s switched on, highly experienced in account management with an excellent track record of closing. He didn’t answer the book question, saying he didn’t read that much and preferred sports. My type of guy: straight-talking, no bullshit. Unlike the reason for this latest round of interviews, one Tim George, who I knew wasn’t quite right from the outset, even more so after twenty painful minutes on the wonders of Terry Pratchett, but I needed a body, and he was the best of a bad bunch. A key account was threatening to walk and as it turned out, three months was enough to secure it, so no skin off my nose when he left.”
What the Sales Manager thinks
“I woke up just before the alarm clock buzzed, showered, wet-shaved (in honour of the new job) ironed a white shirt, changed my mind about the paisley tie I’d picked out, ate toast, three cereal bars and ended up cradling the black cafétière coffee for far too long as I listened to Chris Moyles pontificate on some topic or other.
When I arrived I was shown to a different waiting area from that of the interview. This one had faux leather sofas, a glass table with the usual un-thumbed trade mags and newspapers, off-the-shelf arty pictures, frames of company indenture and public liability insurance; very typical in fact. I waited for twenty minutes.
“Hi, I’m Julie Robinson, the Regional PA,” she shook my hand firmly. I followed her up the stone stairs to the second floor. “This is the regional office and over there are the hot desks; I’ll show you how to book one later”. The office was larger than I expected with hexagonally-arranged workstations in the centre, surrounded by glass-fronted offices. All had silvered name plates. The hot desks were to one side, against a wall with multiple sockets and trails of cable taped to the floor. A table on the right was full of mugs, jars of instant coffee, PG Tips boxes and fruit teas, underneath a fairly clean looking mini-fridge. No sign of a water cooler. Julie took me round and introduced me to the staff. I nodded and smiled and shook hands, made jokes about remembering names, as you do.
Julie was very thorough and I sat there listening to the usual stuff but no drink was offered though and after an hour I was gagging for a coffee. John Mitchell then briefed me for a couple of hours, went over my timetable for the next few weeks and my accounts list. He was concise, a little jaded in his delivery as per the interview, but he was a straight talker, which I appreciated. Still no coffee though.
At lunch-time I went to the cafeteria downstairs. It was small, simply furnished with wooden tables and chairs but without the usual smell of oil and chips. The fare was a bit limited but quite good. Sadly, only instant coffee was available. A couple of other sales manager came over to introduce themselves and joined me for lunch which was unexpected. Pete and Dave have been here about three years and gave me the run-down. They weren’t that cynical which was refreshing and mentioned the big swinging dick in the sales team as one Richard Williamson. It turns out that I’m shadowing Pete for the week and he offered to brief me about the accounts later in the afternoon. The competitiveness I got used to at my last job is noticeably absent which could be a bluff or genuine. I’m leaning towards the latter. Strangely, they both asked me what book I’d cited in the interview and when I looked confused, they told me about the office bets. Since I’m a prolific reader and had in fact lied in the interview because I was a little suspicious about why John had asked the question, I couldn’t answer them, so I just smiled and said nothing. They laughed at this and said that the regional team would find out one way or another. I like the feel of the place already – just need to sort out the coffee situation.”
[An activity from the OU Creative Writing workbook]
Categories: Just Stories