Welcome to the 'Behind the Bottom Line' Summer Special 2022. Two great episodes to listen to on holiday. Today's stories are:
👨💼 ‘The Interview’ – how good are you in job interviews? Cuthbert Trill wants to kill himself but is persuaded to apply for one more job. Will he get it?
🐺 ‘Full Moon’ – Topfoods plc chairman Jerome Jones is really into diversity for really bad reasons. But he’s in for a shock when he finds out HOW diverse his employees are.
🎧 These two stories have been sound-scaped. To get a truly immersive experience, listen with headphones.
Image by rawpixel.com
Music & Sounds: JuliusH / Fronbondi Skegs / u r7iwd4nklp / SounsForYou / Microsammy / Ashot-danielyan-Composer / AntipodeanWriter from Pixabay
The wave that knocked Cuthbert Trill over was extremely cold, which since it was landing on a Cornish beach at the beginning of February was not very surprising.
He surfaced, spluttering water and sand and realized his glasses were now on the sea bed. He bent to pick them up, just in time for the next wave to knock him over again, refill his mouth and nose and wash the glasses out to sea.
This won’t do, he thought as he staggered blindly out of the water in the direction of his towel to wipe his eyes. He needed to be able to see what he was doing when he drowned himself.
‘Over here!’ somebody shouted. ‘Your things are over here!’
Cuthbert peered in the direction of the voice and saw the bulky shape of somebody wrapped in clothes suitable for a cold morning at the seaside. Bother, he thought. This was going to complicate things. He hobbled over to his clothes and took the towel the figure held out to him.
‘Thank you,’ he said, shivering. ‘I’ve lost my glasses.’
‘Why do you need glasses if you want to kill yourself?’ said the stranger.
‘Ki… ki…kill myself? Wha … what makes you think that?’ asked Cuthbert, trying to stop his teeth from chattering.
‘Well, it’s not swimming weather, is it? And also I read your suicide note.’ The stranger waved Cuthbert’s hand-written letter under his nose. ‘By the way it’s spelt 'despair’ not ‘dispair’. Honestly! Did you even go to school?’
‘That was supposed to be read by my wife, not somebody walking along the beach!’
‘It just said “To whom it may concern”. I was concerned. Anyway that’s irrelevant. Why were you trying to drown yourself?’
‘I have excellent reasons,’ answered Cuthbert, trying to look dignified which was difficult as he was blue with cold.
‘Lost your job? Wife run off with your best friend?’
‘Both of those, actually. How did you know that?’ Cuthbert put on his jumper. If he had to talk to this annoying person he may as well be warm.
‘Good idea. Don’t want to catch cold. Although …’ the stranger laughed. ‘I suppose that shouldn’t bother you. But to answer your question, I’ve heard your story lots of times. Why don’t you just get a new job, new wife and a new best friend?’
‘It’s not that easy. I go to interviews but I don’t get the job and when you haven’t got a job you have the sex appeal and charisma of a dead fish.’ Cuthbert put his socks on again. Not that he could even feel his toes any more.
‘I bet you go about it wrong.’
‘I do not!’ said Cuthbert indignantly. ‘I’m extremely good at interviews.’
‘Really? Well, let’s try. I’ll interview you for my job. If you pass the interview you can have it. I’m retiring soon from my position and we’re looking for a replacement.’
Cuthbert laughed for the first time in many weeks. ‘All right. What do you do?’
‘I’m a head-hunter for a very large organisation. It’s an important job, so you have to be good. First question: why should we hire you?’
‘Ummh … well, I …er..’
‘For goodness sake!’ said the stranger. ‘Show some enthusiasm!’
‘Well, I really need a job because …’
The stranger rolled her eyes.
‘Now you sound desperate. Be more positive!’
‘OK, OK … I believe I can make a good impression on potential recruits.’ To show his commitment to making a good impression, Cuthbert put on his trousers.
‘Better. Second question: what experience do you have in recruiting?’
‘None. In my last job I wrote poems for a greeting card company.’
‘For goodness sake, are you being useless on purpose, Cuthbert? Try to think what relevance your previous job could possibly have to head-hunting. And make it quick …you’re failing this interview at the moment!’
‘Erm …I’m …well, I’m very persistent . When I was looking for a word for a birthday card poem I wouldn’t give up until I’d found exactly the right one. I would bring that persistence to recruiting.’
The stranger looked pleased. ‘Very good. Now, where do you see yourself in five years time?’
‘Not funny. I can see why you lost your previous job. Answer the question properly.’
Cuthbert scratched his head. ‘I want to be leading a team that meets targets set by senior management and is respected across the company,’ he said, and put on his shoes.
The stranger clapped her hands. ‘Brilliant!’ she said. ‘When can you start?’
A feeling of pride spread through Cuthbert for the first time in ages. It felt good, but just at that moment he heard noise coming from close to the water’s edge. A rowing boat had appeared and people were lifting something out of the boat and putting it on the sand.
‘What’s happening? I can’t see properly,’ he asked his companion.
‘They just found your body in the water,’ she said. ‘You drowned a short time ago.’
‘I … I drowned?’ said Cuthbert. ‘But … but then that means you must be …’
‘Death? Correct. Don’t look so surprised. It’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?’
‘But what about this head-hunter job?’
‘As I said, we need a replacement. You look quite presentable with clothes on and we really need to update our image. Make death a bit less frightening.’
‘Yes, but I ….’
The alarm clock on his bedside table woke Cuthbert. Outside he could hear waves battering the beach facing the cheap hotel he was staying at in Cornwall. He put on his glasses, got out of bed and stood by the window looking at them. They looked very cold. He thought for a while, then slowly tore up the letter he’d written the previous evening.
Nick Samuel was 48, married to Claire, had two nice children at an expensive private school and was worried that he was about to lose the job that paid for them all.
He was the Human Resources director for Topfoods plc and normally enjoyed his work. Until the day the Chief Executive Officer for Topfoods, Jerome Jones (or JJ as he was called) discovered diversity.
“Diversity?” asked Nick when JJ called him into his office.
“Yes, Nick. Do all people in this company have equal opportunities for promotion? Or is it only white middle-class males like you?”
And you, thought Nick. He pointed out that 45% of Topfoods managers were women, 32% were from ethnic minorities and that the offices and factories had all recently been redesigned to allow wheelchair access.
“It’s not enough, Nick. What about gays? Or single parents? Did you know that scientists somewhere have proven that culturally diverse teams produce better results than unmixed teams?”
“Yes,” said Nick. “I read that article in the London Business Journal last month.”
“Good. Well, the Journal is giving an award to the CEO who provides the best example of diversity in action and I want to win it. Everything you said so far is fine, but lots of companies do that. I want someone spectacularly diverse in a senior job.”
“Doesn’t that depend on their skills, JJ?” asked Nick nervously.
“Oh, we’ll find a job where they can’t do any damage. Perhaps say goodbye to somebody who’s been too long in one area.” As he left the room, Nick felt JJ’s eyes on his back.
“So it’s just about winning this diversity award is it?” asked Claire that evening.
“Definitely. Perhaps I should tell JJ about …you know …”
“Too risky,” she said. “Just do as he says and find some interesting candidates in the company. I bet there are lots!”
So for the next three weeks Nick interviewed people and produced a file of twelve high-potential possibilities for JJ.
“Why are these profiles anonymous?” asked JJ as he looked at Nick from behind his huge desk.
“I only got this information from the individuals on the basis of anonymity. If you decide you want to offer one of them something, I can arrange a meeting with you. Shall I begin?”
“Candidate A is 32 and has qualifications in marketing. She is divorced and has a 3-year old son and a girlfriend.”
“Excellent! Is she pretty? Would she look good in photographs?”
“That’s sexist JJ, don’t say that at the awards. But yes, she is. She is also a practising witch and can turn …”
“Wait a minute … a witch?”
“Yes. Black magic. Very useful in the strategy department.”
“No really, JJ. She’s well-known in witch circles.”
“We can’t promote a witch!”
“Well, it makes her very diverse.”
“I’m not interested in weird diverse, Nick. I want award-winning diverse. What about the next one?”
“Candidate B is a 28 year old junior accountant who went partially deaf three years ago …”
“Good so far …”
“… and is a very skillful mind-reader. He knew exactly what I had planned for the weekend. He could be head of auditing.”
“I do not want a mind-reader next to me in meetings! Next!”
And so it went on for another ten candidates. There were four who communicated with ghosts, three who could move furniture with their thoughts, two more mind-readers and one genuine zombie.
“I know that guy, Nick! I saw him eating a cat at lunchtime down in the garage a month ago but I thought I was mistaken. This is terrible!”
“I’m sorry JJ,” said Nick. “It’s amazing how much diversity there is in the company.”
JJ sighed. “This award was a crazy idea of yours, Nick. What did you say to these weird … I mean the people you interviewed. Are they expecting something?”
“No. I just said that we might promote somebody on the basis of their special skills.”
“OK, let’s forget about this and destroy that information. If the newspapers …”
Nick went home early that evening.
“You were right of course,” he said to Claire over supper. “Lucky I didn’t say anything about my … um … special feature.”
Claire laughed. “Don’t forget the time. The moon will be out soon.”
Nick scratched his chin, which badly needed shaving. “Yes, such a bore. Thank goodness it’s only one night a month. Shall we go for a walk after I’ve changed?”
“That would be nice. I’d like some fresh air.”
So half an hour later, with a bright full moon shining in the sky, Claire Samuel could be seen walking down the street while her husband trotted behind her and sniffed the bottom of all the lampposts.