= Do you want the short or the long answer Mel?
– Let’s start with the short answer first
= She was CRAP!
– But she had more than 10 years experience as PA to a major retailer CEO, how can she be crap?
= She is not what I call “highly motivated” Mel!
– David, this is the 6th short listed candidate I have sent you. Either you are changing your mind all the time or the employment agency and I are not getting what you are after
= Let’s put it this way Mel, I am not changing my mind and you guys in HR need to listen to me more carefully.
– We have been doing nothing but listen to you. Let us review the situation here shall we? First candidate – Sue Elmer, 32 years old, university graduate, single, totally dedicated, loves marketing, worked for German car manufacturer for 7 years and British Bank for 4 years.
= Sue Elmer was built like a German Tank and had the sense of humour of a British Bank Manager
– Second candidate – Dee Walker, 40 years old woman who ran her own business for 12 years and could manage an entire army let alone your office
= She could service an entire army too! This woman was dressed like a hooker Mel! I am a liberal person but a see through blouse without a bra at an interview is a first in my experience.
– Candidate Number Three – June Smithson, many years of experience, highly intelligent, self assured and great sense of humour.
= I admit, Mrs Smithson had many years experience behind her, but not many ahead of her, how old was she? She must be over 65 years old
– Candidate Four – Sandra Urquhart, late twenties, efficient, quiet and only one previous job, so we can be sure she is the loyal type.
= And a bloody bag of nerves. I swear she lost 5kg in sweat in the 1 hour she was with me. If she works for me I will have to have her on saline drip all the time to stop her from dehydrating under the stress of the job
– Oh you do exaggerate David!
= Exaggerate? We are still drying the chair she sat on!
– Very funny! Okay, Fifth candidate who came on Monday – Sarah Staunton, she was not about to retire, half naked, sweaty or built like a tank. She was pleasant, bright, experienced and full of enthusiasm.
= And she was indiscreet. She is the worst gossip I have ever come across. She was telling me about the funny business going on with her current employer, from company business activities, to board room fights and even sexual indiscretions of staff; I can’t have her announce who is screwing whom to other members of staff by the water cooler!
– Well, that’s that then! You have gone through all six short listed candidates. The last three months of search and interviewing have come to nothing. What do you want to do, carry on with temps for the time being?
= Mel, I had enough of temps, especially this last one, she actually has personal hygiene issues, someone at the agency needs to tell her to wash more often, like once a month will help. After today, I do not want to see her again, even if I have to answer my own phone and keep my own diary.
– Okay, I will speak to the agency and get them to send someone who uses deodorants more often.
= Thank you. Are you telling me there are no other candidates on the horizon?
– Not as far as I know, not until next week or the week after.
= WHAT? Mel, please! I need a PA and I need one very soon, why is it so difficult?
– David, you are a fussy and picky person, there is no avoiding this fact. Even with all the care I took in short listing the six candidates, we still failed to satisfy you so, this time, I am going to interview them personally before sending them up to you.
= I am not fussy, I just want someone who is efficient, hard working, enthusiastic, discreet, great looking and can put me under her control, that’s not much to ask for, is it?
– Are you looking for a PA or a wife David?
= Ah now Mel, we are friends but; this is not fair!
– Just kidding David, Christ, take it easy now!
= I am sorry, it has been a long week and I am getting snowed under with stuff and that temp from hell is making lots of mistakes. Right now she is actually subtracting value instead of adding it.
– Okay, I promise to give this matter my fullest attention next week okay? What are you doing for lunch today, shall we go to “Bistro Italiano” for pasta, I need some carbs today.
= Okay. But don’t you have anyone else I can interview today? I have a fairly free afternoon today.
– David, it is 12:30 on a Friday, I can’t organise an interview for you with a random candidate because you have a “fairly free afternoon”!
= Why not? I thought you were the kick-ass Mrs Super Efficient HR Lady who can arrange anything at the drop of a hat!
– Don’t start that charm angle with me David; it will not work!
= I will buy you lunch and include a good bottle of wine to go with it. If you like I will come round to your place tonight and be your devoted slave! How about that?
– David! Someone might hear you for Christ sake!
= Nope. I am in my office with the door shut. Don’t tell me you have me on speakerphone!
– NO I DO NOT! Anyway, I will take up your offer of lunch and wine but not the slave part thank you very much!
= Why not?
– I told you already, I had enough of casual affairs.
= Mel, you are a lovely human being and I love you very much but, I cannot commit to another relation so soon after my last experience.
– I understand. I hope you understand my viewpoint too.
= Totally. So, back to my PA
– Yes, back to that. The agency sent me details of a candidate yesterday who looked good on paper but I doubt if she will meet your exacting standards
= What makes you say that?
– She is inexperienced, Academic, ambitious and asking for way too much money. Her personal statement is so arrogant as to be funny.
= Like what?
– I don’t remember her exact words but she said something like: I truly believe I am meant for greater things in this world and I intend to achieve them before I am thirty.
= Wow! Has anyone in your department interviewed her?
– No, and I wasn’t planning on doing that.
= Can I see her?
= This candidate
– I think you will be wasting your time but; I will arrange it first thing on Monday
= Can you arrange it for this afternoon?
– David, you can’t be serious!
= I am serious! Say 4:00 this afternoon. I should be done by 5:00 and I will have time to go home shower and drive round to your place if you are still up for a bit of fun and games
– You don’t know the meaning of the word “NO” do you?
– I am not arranging an interview with this arrogant little bitch and I am not seeing you tonight or any other night for that matter. Get a porn video or something.
= But I miss your company Mel!
– Well, you are just going to keep on missing my company then! You had your chance to make an honest woman out of me but you wan your freedom, fine by me.
= Okay, what about the interview with this candidate?
– David, for the love of God, it is nearly 1:00 on Friday afternoon and even if I contact the agency and they agree to contact her, she would be crazy, desperate for a job or both to agree to come at such short notice!
= Won’t you at least try? For me! Please! Pretty please!
– Oh God! Okay, I will try but; don’t be surprised if the answer is NO from either the agency or the girl. I still think you are wasting your time.
David hung up and smiled to himself. Mel is a good friend and perhaps she was right that he missed his chance with her. In her mid thirties, very intelligent, funny, hard working, not the most beautiful woman ever but, she was very attractive and great company to be with.
David was the Head of Marketing of a publishing company and together with the other heads of departments such as Editing, Publishing, Finance, IT and HR, they reported to the Managing Director as the Executive Board. David was very well liked and respected but, despite having the abilities and intelligence to get the top seat, he did not stand a chance because he was politically clumsy upsetting many people in high places including the MD and the Chairman of the Board of Directors. He also did not take things seriously enough as he was too busy having a good time.
He reflected on his earlier conversation with Mel and admitted to himself that she was right about him missing his chance with her. Never mind, tonight he will go home, have a light supper, shower and check his iPhone for numbers of some old girl friends; with a bit of luck, he will stumble across one who remembers him, happens to be free and not so fussy about commitments.
David and Mel had lunch at the Bistro and they were joined by the MD who invited himself as he wanted to talk to both of them about a great idea he had. It always pissed David off when someone advertised their idea as being great before telling you what it was, hence setting your expectations higher than the idea deserved.
David was sure that the MDs idea would at best be average and at worst, dull as a wet Monday morning. He was completely wrong; the idea was the stupidest he had ever heard. The MD wanted junior staff to appraise their bosses instead of the other way around. He contended that the more junior you are the more honest you are likely to be with your opinion. David being politically clumsy retorted: in that case, you and the Chairman must be the two most dishonest people in the entire company. With that, the MD finished his ravioli quickly and excused himself as he had a meeting with a major client that afternoon.
Suppressing a smile, Mel reprimanded David for being so harsh with the MD but David was not apologetic. Mel’s iPhone pinged a message, which she read straight away.
– Bad news I am afraid David, the candidate can’t make 4:00 pm
= Bugger! Why not?
– She can make 5:00 though
= Double bugger! I was hoping to get off early today
– I told you I will sort it out next week but you wouldn’t listen. I will say we are not interested, shall I?
= No, arrange it for 5:00 today
– Are you serious?
= Yeh, yeh I am serious. Go for it.
– As you wish. I will ask Suzie to email you her CV and I am not in a rush to get your feedback on this girl, I am sure you will tell me she is crap on Monday.
The two of them laughed, saluted each other with their chilled white wine and talked about social matters.
David returned to his office around 3:00 and ignored something the smelly temp was saying to him. He closed the door, sat down and checked his emails. There were a bunch of work as well as social messages. The second from the top was from that thin girl with the large feet in HR called Suzie. It had a CV attachment that Mel had promised him.
David clicked on the attachment and a 2-page document opened:
Name: Hermione Hamilton
DOB: 14 February 1992
Qualifications: First Class Honours BA, English Lit. – Trinity College, Oxford, 2012
Achievements: Student University President 2011; Duke of Edinburgh Gold Medal; Head Girl at school; Winner of a national newspaper short stories 2007; and winner of Speaker of the Year, Royal Debating Society 2008.
Work Experience: 2012 to date: PA to Financial Controller of a national car rental company…..
Career Ambition/Personal Statement: I have always set myself the highest possible levels of achievement and I am yet to fail. I truly believe that I have been put on this earth to accomplish great things and I will not rest until I do so. You may not believe me, you may even laugh at me, that is your privilege but; you cannot deny my courage in writing this personal statement. If I am courageous enough to put myself out there, why don’t you be brave enough and invite me for a chat?
David sat back in his chair and said: WOW! I can’t wait to meet this arrogant little bint! I am going to cut her down to size, that’s for sure. He then thought to himself: I really need the company of a good woman this weekend.
At 4:58 the phone rang in his office.
+ Eh, hi, this is Suzie from HR, I have a Hermione Hamilton to see you
= Yes Suzie. Can you ask her to wait for a few minutes and I will call you to send her up when I am free. Thank you.
He hung up the phone and returned to playing Sudoku on his iPad.
At 5:15 his phone rang again.
– David, are you going to see this candidate or not today?
= Hi Mel, yes I am in a minute.
– But you said you were not busy and you wanted to see her at 4:00!
= Yes sorry, something urgent came up and I have to finish it before I can see her.
– Well hurry up, for goodness sake; it is not nice to keep people waiting
= I won’t be long, I promise
He put the phone down and carried on with his Sudoku.
At 5:32 his phone rang for the third time.
– David, Suzie needs to go home in a minute, she is travelling to France tonight and I do not want to be late either, how long are you going to be?
= I am sorry Mel, I just finished, please send her up.
The Marketing Department floor began to empty and people were waving to David good night mouthing “have a nice weekend” through the glass wall between the open-plan office and his enclosed corner office. The temporary PA knocked on his door and opened it a fraction and said: shall I go now David? He said: “yes, yes go and thanks for all your help. Good luck for the future.” With that, he gave her the clear message that he did not intend to renew her assignment the following week.
He sat back behind his desk and looked through the glass partition along the length of the floor and all the way to the exit door; he could see the 10 or so staff leaving in ones and twos chatting and laughing, he wondered what everyone plans were. They were all much younger than his 41 years and felt a little old and jealous of their free and easy lives. All of a sudden he was alone; his mood began to darken.
At 5:40, the Marketing Department door opened and a girl of about 1.78m tall, with a short jet black hair, a tailored charcoal jacket and very white shirt with turned up collar glided across the floor as though she owned the place or worked there for a long time. She seemed to know where she was heading. As she got closer to David’s office her stunning features came into full view. She had flawless porcelain skin, beautiful green eyes and cheekbones that gave her face the qualities cosmetic companies pay good money for; except she hardly wore any make up, why would she? Her figure was ridiculously chiselled like the figure of 8 with long shapely legs that had no stockings or tights, were partially covered with slightly above the knee black skirt and finally, the feet were adorned with half heel green shoes perfectly matched by the green necklace and green handbag almost the same colour as her eyes.
David took all this information in as he watched her walk towards his office and to say he was impressed is to state the obvious. As she neared the glass partition where the door to his office was situated, their eyes met, she smiled and looked at him waiting for a signal from him to beckon her in. David nodded at her, she opened the door and walked straight to his desk expecting him to stand up to greet her.
= Sit down please. It took you almost 10 minutes to travel two floors.
Hermione sensed a game was being played but was not sure what kind of game it was. Never afraid of a challenge, she set her handbag by the chair nearest to David’s desk, smoothed her skirt down and sat down with a ramrod back with her beautifully manicured hands resting on her lap.
* It took me 7 minutes to travel two floors not 10. I think you will find that at this time of day when everyone is rushing to get out of the building, it was quite an achievement to make it in 7 minutes.
= So, you want to work as my PA
* Not yet, we will see about that this afternoon
= If you are not sure, why did you come for an interview?
* I came to find out if I would want to work as your PA
= And how do you intend to find out?
* By the kind of questions you ask and the kind of answers you give to my questions
= Do you like my questions so far?
* To tell you the truth, I am hoping for better ones
= I will do my best! You have been academically very successful and I am wondering why you are interested in PA work when you can do better things with your career.
* I am 22 years old with one-year work experience. I agree I can do better things with my career but, I have to start somewhere.
= So, this job on offer is just a starting point for you?
= And after this where to?
* That’s what I intend to find out from our meeting today
= Let me get this straight. You intend to find out from me if what I offer you will give you the chance to move on to higher and better things and if it does not, you will not take the job.
* That’s what I said
= Do you realise how arrogant and insulting what you have just said to me?
* Well, it is honest though. Certainly more honest than keeping me waiting for over 30 minutes for no apparently good reason and then try to put me at a disadvantage by saying it took me too long to get to your office
= You are a cocky young woman aren’t you?
* Is this a rhetorical question or shall I answer it?
= No don’t answer it. Wait, yes please answer the question.
* What is it you are objecting to? The fact that I am cocky, or the fact that I am young or may be that I am a woman? I am 22 years old so, I guess this is relatively young, and yes, I am a woman. As for cocky element, apart from the oxymoronic coupling of woman and cocky in the one sentence, I will put it this way: I am self-assured and I can justify it.
= Okay, I am beginning to enjoy this! So, tell me why you think you will make a good PA
* To be a good Personal Assistant, you have a simple project to focus on. This project has a number of sub projects, which are mostly routine but they can have a variety of challenges from one day to the next. As my approach to any challenge is to analyse it, understand it and then devise a plan of action to deal with this challenge, leaving nothing to chance or external influences to get in the way of accomplishing my overall project objectives.
= I see. What is this overall simple project and what are those objectives?
* The overall project is YOU, to make sure you do your job to the highest possible standards that you company deserves and the objectives are to a) make you look better than you really are and b) make you feel better than you really deserve
= Fuck me! And in return, what do you get out of the job?
* That’s MY question to you. What do I get out of working as your PA?
= You get paid, that’s what!
* I can make 20 times more than you can offer me by pole dancing at a nightclub working for just one hour a night. I need a better answer than that.
= Ha, that depends on whether you can pole dance, doesn’t it?
* I can
= Can what?
* Pole dance
= You are shitting me!
* No I am not. This is one example where I can make you look better; I can help you express yourself more elegantly than you currently do instead of the liberal use of profanities you seem to prefer
= You didn’t strike me as a prude
* Good, because I am not.
= You said you could make me feel good too
* No, I said “I can make you feel better than you deserve”
* How I can make you feel better?
= Yes! Stop wasting time, tell me how you can make me feel better than I deserve.
* Ok, right now you are feeling lonely, true or not?
= You are the most unbelievable little bitch I have ever come across
* Thank you; now answer my question please
= I am not going to sit here and discuss personal issues with you!
* Why not? You are the one who has been using profanities with me. Now, answer my question please.
* There, don’t you feel better already?
= No, I bloody well don’t!
* What did you think I was going to do?
= Nothing, forget it.
* So, apart from getting paid, what do I get out of working as your PA?
= Where do you want to get to?
* I want to get all the way to the top
= Even if it takes a whole week, right?
* That’s amusing. However, I am realistic and expect it will take time but this is what I want.
= Look, let us assume I offer you the job, ok? In that case, I expect you to work for me loyally for a while and then depending on how well you do, I might help you get up the career ladder in the Marketing Department, that’s the most realistic and honest answer I can give you
* Well, it’s not good enough. If this is the best you can do, then I am not interested
= Well, what do you expect then?
* I expect to work as your PA for no more than three years and after that I either get your job or move on within the first year if I see no signs that I am getting anywhere
= You really are something else! There is no hope in hell you can take over from me in three years
* Why not?
= There are at least six men out there working for me who have been here for over 5 years and one of them expect to take over from me well ahead of you
* That’s not saying much for the six of them, or you!
= Why do you say that?
* If they have been here for over 5 years and they may get a crack at your job in three, they can’t be that good then, can they? On the other hand, it does not say much for your coaching skills to have someone for 8 years before you have shown them everything you know
= It’s not my job to coach them
* Well, whose job is it then?
= So, is that it then, have I failed the interview and you will not come and work for me?
* How can I? You haven’t offered me a job for me to turn down.
= Okay, I am offering you a job as my PA, will you accept?
* I will consider it on one condition
= What is your condition?
* That you promise to use me as your ally and partner and not your enemy, slave, office wife, or punch bag. I promise that however long I work for you, I will make sure that you are the envy of all managers and I WILL make you look better and feel better than you really deserve.
= Okay Hermione Hamilton, I will give it a shot, I will give you this promise but I have my own condition too
* Tell me
= I want to know why you are so sure you can make me look better than I really am and feel better than I deserve
* I will tell you but you may change your mind and withdraw the job offer you have just made
= No I won’t
* Looking better: You are blunt and undiplomatic, you are in your forties and clearly very intelligent. I think you are under achieving because of your style. Clearly, this style does not go down well with some people in positions of influence. Also, you like to be popular with certain levels within the company and talking street-wise language is rubbing on you. Head of Marketing should be eloquent, with measured and precise words not easy and free with his words. Words like shit, fuck, or bitch are in the English language but they must be used in the right places with the right people. I will work on all your communications from emails to letters and presentations and make sure that every word will be in the right place to make maximum impact. Your office is full of expensive things but they don’t go well together; there is a riot of colours and styles and that gives different impressions to different people and most of these impressions are bound to be wrong. The way your desk is positioned whereby you are facing the doorway head on, that’s not good for your image, there is no mystery there, you are open to all and sundry. I could see you were playing with your iPad long before I got into your office; chances are you were playing Angry Birds or Bejewelled on it, not working on your latest presentation. In short, I will take care of your input, image, and your output.
= Wow! What about the other part, making me feel better than I deserve? Why don’t I deserve to feel better?
* Because you are a selfish person, that’s why
= How the hell can you know that so quickly?
* I knew that before I even set foot in this building let alone your office. I had a phone call from the employment agency this lunchtime begging me to make this interview at 4:00 saying there was pressure on your company HR who put pressure on the agency so that you can have your interview as you had some free time this afternoon. When I turn up with 5 minutes to spare, you make me wait because you wanted to play a little game on a vulnerable young person. Your office is full of pictures of yourself, none of your wife or children but let me assume you are not married and have no children, no favourite niece or nephew? You are a selfish man who does not deserve to feel better but, I will do it because that will be my job.
David sat silently for almost five minutes. During that time, Hermione remained poised, cool and with a hint of a smile on her face. Finally he spoke.
= Give me an example of how you can make me feel better
* Than you deserve
= Than I deserve
* I said earlier that you were feeling lonely. I can help you there too
= Are you telling me that you will ease my loneliness too?
* Not in the way you think!
= Oh! What then?
* I have a range of things I can do for you. I can get you to write material to be published in business publications, which will draw professional attention to you. I can work on your social diary and include in it more interesting activities than just going to pubs, bars and the occasional golfing weekend. I can arrange for you to meet the right people; even dates with gorgeous AND intelligent women. I can
= But you and I remain on “strictly business” basis?
* Yes, it is best for you that way
= Why is it best for me?
* Because I can hurt you and that’s not my job
= I see, whose job is it then?
* Yours of course
= Well, I’ll be damned!
As Hermione left the building, her phone rang in her handbag. Without missing a step, she pulled her phone out of the handbag and answered:
“Hi Auntie Mel! Yes, I have just come out. What do you think? Of course I got him…”