The Seeker Part Six: All the Right Wrong Answers
Nathan didn’t want the job. It sounded good when the recruiter described it over the phone–in his pay range, on the train line, neckties optional–but not so good when he looked at the firm’s sprawling, verbose website.
Page after page of dueling bullet lists and densely packed blather about helping clients make informed decisions in a constantly evolving marketplace by facilitating collaborative engagement that drives improved performance and increased probability of successful outcomes. After 15 minutes on the site, Nathan still didn’t have a clear understanding of what the company actually did.
The state of the website indicated two possible scenarios: either it would be Nathan’s job to wrangle all that vapid verbiage into digestible sentences, or they loved the website and would be impatiently waiting for Nathan to develop the linguistic excess they misguidedly think of as their brand voice. Nathan wanted to avoid both, but the interview had been scheduled, and it was poor professional form to cancel. A candidate not showing up makes the recruiter look bad, and that means no more calls from that recruiter. Nathan decided it was better to show up and politely answer the questions, then let them know afterward that the position wasn’t the right fit.
But sitting in the lobby five minutes before his interview, Nathan grew uncomfortable with the idea of pretending he wanted the job. Why lead them on? It seemed easier to answer in a way that ensured he wouldn’t be their first choice.
“Thanks for coming in, how are you?” the woman named Louise said cheerfully when Nathan had settled into the chair across from her. She was a pants-suit professional, one of those 5-hour energy types who reeked of Sales. Nathan was confident he could quickly sink his own ship.
“Not bad considering I’m up at this ungodly hour.” It was 10:30 in the morning.
“Amen to that,” Louise said with an enthusiasm Nathan didn’t expect. “I love sleeping in. I’d work a noon-to-eight if I could, but that’s how corporate rolls.” She scanned the résumé on the table in front of her. “Your experience is impressive. I see you’ve done a lot of online content work. Is that something you enjoy?”
“To be honest, my résumé has a few exaggerations in that area.” Nathan hoped by admitting to one lie, the entire résumé would be suspect. This would plant a seed of doubt.
Unfortunately, Louise laughed. “Well, I doubt any of us could pass a lie detector test while reading our own résumé. But honestly, I expect a résumé to be like an ad for a summer blockbuster. I’m not going to believe it’s the best film of the year, but it could still turn out to be a good movie.”
Nathan raised his eyebrows. “That’s quite a candidate-friendly attitude. Though in my case, online content is a euphemism for Facebook posts. It just seemed kind of thin to say it that way.”
Louise scribbled something in the margin as she nodded her head. “Well, on the plus side, this job has a social media component, so I’m glad you have experience with social networks.”
“Only Facebook,” Nathan lied.
“Well, full-disclosure, that’s the only platform we use. I mean, how the hell can anyone say anything that matters in a hundred and fifty characters?” She leaned toward the table. “Sorry about the language.”
Nathan replayed her last sentence in his head, trying to figure out what part was offensive. Hell? He saw another opportunity for sabotage. “Shit, I don’t give a damn. Sometimes hell is the right word.”
“Fuckin’ A right.” Louise held her hand up over the table like she wanted to high-five. Nathan fist-bumped her open palm, just to make it awkward. “I tend to swear a lot, and it’s hard to turn it off for interviews. Whew.” She pretended to wipe her brow. “I’m glad to know I can let one slip. So do you have any experience with video scripts?”
Nathan had a sinking feeling that despite his best efforts, the interview was going great. He decided to push it a bit further. “Not really. I mean, I’ve written a couple of porn movies, if that counts.”
Louise’s eyes widened. “Seriously? Wow. I can see why you left it off your résumé. But, off the record, what type of…stage directions do you have to include in the script? I mean, the guy comes to fix the cable, and then there’s 15 minutes of knocking boots. Do you just write ‘they have sex,’ or do you have to…choreograph it in words?”
Nathan smiled. He’d never written a porn script, and couldn’t believe he had to answer a follow-up question about it. “In my limited experience, the actors prefer to improv those scenes.” He had no idea if this was true. “I just try to make the dialog sound somewhat natural. And I make sure his diagnosis of the cable issue is technically plausible.”
“Writing porn seems like a different mindset than writing corporate copy. Is it hard to shift gears?”
Nathan shrugged. “I smoke a lot of weed, so that keeps me creative.” He hoped to raise the specter of a failed a drug screen.
Louise glanced through the glass door as if she was seeing if anyone was listening. “Isn’t it weird that it’s legal now? I just got one of those vape pens from the dispensary. It’s so discreet.” She leaned back in her chair. “But if you get the job, maybe keep that quiet. Some folks around here are still uptight about it.”
Nathan wished he actually wanted this job. This would have been the best interview of his life. But the shadow cast by the buzzword-riddled website still hung over him and he’d run out of ideas for how to sabotage the interview. What else could he do, tell her he’d been charged with murder? He opted to cut to the chase. “Louise, I’m confused. I’ve told you that I’m a lazy, stoned adult film writer who specializes in Facebook. Why are you still interviewing me?”
Louise nodded as if he’d made a valid point. “Well, we’re big on fit around here.” She was quiet for a moment before adding, “Plus, we aren’t interviewing a lot of candidates for this role, so I’ve lowered the bar a bit.” She tapped on Nathan’s résumé. “It’s clear you can do the job. So really, it’s more about the fit.”
“So…a stoner who thinks 10 am is early is a good fit here?”
“Not ideal, no,” she said, shaking her head. “But I need to get someone hired, and if I’m being honest, two other candidates cancelled their interviews.”
Nathan laughed. “I was going to cancel, too. Your website is the stuff copywriters have nightmares about. But I decided just to lie instead.”
Louise gave him a deadpan expression. “I figured that, what with you bringing up weed and porn. But like I said, two other candidates cancelled, so here we are.”
Nathan wasn’t sure what to do, and he was worried that she might still make him an offer. “I was once charged with murder. But I was acquitted.”
“You’re lying, but it wouldn’t matter. We draw the line at serial killer.” After scribbling another note in the margin of his résumé, Louise looked up and said, “That was a joke.” She went back to writing her notes.
Louise put down her pen loudly. “I guess now I hire some overpriced agency to fix that so-called nightmare of a website. Hopefully one that doesn’t have a chicken-shit copywriter.”
Nathan smiled. She probably meant it as a slam, but all he heard was that she wasn’t going to offer him the job.
By day, William Reagan is a mild-mannered marketing copywriter stealthily sneaking clever wordplay into the most corporate of collateral—but at night, he’s a creative mischeivian bent on taking the shortest possible path to profound truths and/or preposterous lies. (Still mild-mannered then, too.)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.