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The Job Interview Game

It has been my good fortune to work with various employers and employees of late, and I have some observations to make which may prove salutary to both groups.

When an employer graded a prospective couple as a B-, he was being overly generous, I thought, given that they had talked non-stop, the gentleman in a loud voice, and had complained vociferously about their current employer. This behavior was particularly egregious, as this couple had both been briefed by me to avoid these exact points in their interview, following my observation during two phone conversations that they tended in this unacceptable direction.

These two individuals were by no means the only applicants suffering from this lack of awareness concerning employers’ needs. A good household and even hospitality employee would do well to bear in mind Sir Winston Churchill’s remonstration: «A diplomat is a man who thinks twice before saying nothing.» The following is NOT meant to be insulting, and certainly does not apply to all Americans, but there is a subset of the populace that is sufficiently full of their own world and concerns that they feel compelled to talk incessantly about them.

The first lesson to learn for them is that there are other people in front of them, and then to observe whether these people are willing and eager to hear everything one is thinking of telling them. Factually, employees are there to listen, not talk, and that is the simplicity of the matter. Listen and respond, or better still preempt. Otherwise, as some clients have complained to me, «I begin to wonder who is working for whom.»

The issue of over-talkative employees brings to mind an observation that a number of people are attempting to enter the household profession without having worked in it before (nothing wrong with this at all), but without realizing that there is a mind-set that goes with working in a household situation, where one is in a private household, but not of it. It is not the same as working in a cleaning service or an office or the military. These all have their own codes of conduct, and they are not the same as those of the household, even if the mechanical actions (of cleaning or managing others) are the same.

Many Americans in private service and guest services in the hospitality industry have the proper approach, but to those new to (or even experienced in) the field who do not have it down, I would recommend reading Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals. And then muzzle your desire to talk up a storm in the presence of, or concerning, your employer. You and they will be the better for it, I assure you.

Lastly, employers, as much as you know that looking after pennies means the pounds (or dollars) will look after themselves, please be aware that you do not increase loyalty or respect in employees by penny pinching on salaries. Here, I am not saying that you should feel bad that you are only paying your Household Manager $90,000. No, I am saying that beating him down from $50,000 p.a. to $47,500 may satisfy your bargaining instincts, but it only tells the employee that Scrooge is alive and well, and that his own services are not valued that much. He or she may well reciprocate by giving you the value of the service as you perceive it.

My question to you is: «What are you going to do with that extra $100,000 you saved over the years when you reach the pearly gates?» Share the wealth a bit more and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing another person (your employee) happy in servicing you. Whether you agree to the notion or not, the fact is that we are each responsible for each other. As the poem goes, «Send not for whom the bell tolls…» Another way of expressing the idea is: «What goes around, comes around.»

Your move.

Steven Ferry
June 2002