Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 75: The Interview

This is the 75th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Interview, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 14th February 2013

Word count: 845

The story:

Sometimes my imagination runs wild, and reality fails to live up to what I intended. It happened a lot, but the time I remember most was a few years ago, there I was minding my own business when a colleague comes over:

“You’ll do it, won’t you?”

“Do what?” asks I, not having the faintest clue what he’s on about.

“We’ve got some people coming in to do video interviews, just three or so questions, for a board meeting.”

“I’m not sure.”

“It’s a great opportunity to get your face out there,” he says, showing his hand. It trumps mine, filled with reservations as it is.

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

I get told the questions standard stuff, best and worst things about working for the company, what I’d like to improve, etc…

So fairly straightforward really. Yet my mind starts directing a very polished seeming professional pitch, the kind no one would forget.

Here’s how my fantasy went:

On the day, the camera arrived, with lighting rigs and reflectors. The cameraman is cool, calm and professional. As is the lady asking the questions.

I stand in front of the camera, in my suit, as I want to seem professional, but relaxed and comfortable. The audience is my friend, whom I respect, and I want to convey my thoughts and feelings to them with the hindrance of formality.

The first question comes:

“What’s the best thing about working for Tyre Corp Limited?”

I look thoughtfully at the camera, letting the moment last just long enough for it to seem that I’m putting some thought into it, and that my answer won’t be scripted, but not so long that it seems I have no idea how to answer.

“Well, I’m glad you asked. The best thing about working at Tyre Corp is easy,” I turn side on, still looking at the camera, and I hold my arm out indicating the customer service people behind me, “It’s the people. Like everyone here in Customer Services. We’re a fantastic bunch and we pull together to improve things for each other, and importantly for the customer. I see this all over the business, time after time. It makes me proud to be Tyre Corp.”

I reset myself to fill the lens again.

The next question comes, “What do you think Tyre Corp Limited can do better?”

“Hmm,” this time I make it clear this is a much tougher question, “Well I suppose we could do more to reward staff, certainly reward then quicker. The annual share reward scheme is lovely, but it comes but once a year. We could encourage people to keep going that extra mile by doing some kind of reward more frequently. Even if it’s something small monthly or quarterly.”

“Does that mean salaries aren’t enough?” the interviewer challenges me.

“Its not all about money. I personally think everyone who tries their hardest thinks they deserve more, it’s natural. Acknowledging that hard work is important though.”

She smiles, it’s a good answer.

The interview goes on in a similar way, I’m almost beside myself with my mastery of the video camera. The board will see this and remember me, they’ll see me in the office and recognise me, ask me how it’s going and want my thoughts and ideas.

It’s a lovely picture, but what really happens is:

A guy turns up with a digital camera with a microphone plugged into it, he sets out a chair in front of the camera and gestures for me to sit down. He looks through the screen, and says “Go.”

A woman by his side reads the first question.

And my brain fails me. “Err, um, heh,” is all that comes out. Finally, after what seems like an eternity I manage to squeeze out just one weird, “People.”

“What about people?” she asks, sympathetically.

“Oh er,” this is my chance to recover from the bad start, “They’re all great,” there’s a hundred people in the back of my mind groaning at my terrible answer.

“Okay,” she says unperturbed, “How could Tyre Corp improve?”

“Ah, er, um, oh,” I purse my lips, sigh, “Rewards,” I finally say. By now the illusion I’d built of being cool confident and professional had long since vanished.

“Do you mean salary?” she asked.

“No, it’s not just about money, but showing appreciation,” when I look back, that was about the only saving grace in that whole interview. The next answers I gave went the same way. I won’t bore you with all the painful detail.

“How’d it go?” my colleague asked.

“Fine,” I lied.

Several years later in a team meeting, they surprised me by bringing out my fifteen years service certificate, and then surprised me further by playing the interview in full. A lot of time had passed since then, I was not the same kid. It was painful to watch, but at the same time I was proud of that kid for imagining greater, and trying to achieve it. Without him, I would never have risen as high as becoming a board member.

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