Stories and thoughts about family and life

Everyone should have FBLA

on June 14, 2014

I remember my FBLA classes in high school (Future Business Leaders of America, for the uninitiated), and all the interesting lessons those held. I got a lot out of those classes, from the appropriate skirt length, to using your “power colors” to your advantage. We learned about the proper way to present yourself during an interview, how to properly shake someone’s hand, how to project when speaking, etc. These have been lifelong lessons I never imagined I would have used to the degree I have. Many of them haven’t changed too much, either. Oh, maybe we don’t all interview in skirts now, but the handshake rule, for example, is still very true. It occurs to me that lots of people never had access to this information, as I can attest from the number of nearly broken fingers I’ve had over the years, or the people who don’t seem to understand not chewing gum during an interview, or the ones who present a resume full of typos (and then calling themselves “detailed”).
Anyway, I’ve had the opportunity to conduct a few interviews this week, and it’s been a humorous and eye-opening experience to say the least. We are adding a very specific position, with specific job functions. For us, it’s more about adding the right person to the team and then we can teach them something if they don’t know it. We’re typically looking for people who can follow instructions, listen well, can communicate professionally, and we really like people who have initiative and don’t need to have their hands held. As a small company, that piece is very important, as I don’t have time to stop and help with every function, and having someone who can “pick up the ball” is a valuable commodity.
It occurs to me through this process that interviewing is really about selling yourself. I even remarked on Facebook one afternoon that making me repeat the details of the interview a couple of times in a two minute conversation because you’re not quite “getting it” doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. As a side note, that person described herself as “exceptionally detailed and good with instructions.” Just like in sales, what you represent isn’t necessarily what the “buyer” ends up having in the end.
Anyway, we interviewed several people, and a couple of them were amazing, and outshone everyone else. One of those people even called the day before the appointment to confirm, and to be sure that I still have time on my calendar to meet with her (which I thought was especially thoughtful). I know it was more about being able to talk to me and “feel it out” but it was still a nice gesture. The other person brought by her resume and left it for me while I was at lunch one day. I was so impressed with how well it was put together and how she had paid attention to every detail–it was amazing. We interviewed a couple of other people who were also demonstrating good traits, but it’s interesting to me how the really great ones and the really bad ones tend to stand out.
The most eventful interview had a whole story to go with it, but I will spare you the details leading up to the interview itself. The meeting began with the person blowing into our reception room and dropping into one of the chairs in the reception area. “I’m here, finally!” she announced to our receptionist, who was completely surprised by this display and simply said “um, okay.”
“I’ve been in the parking lot for nearly an hour, trying to make sure I was in the right building, and I guess I’m a few minutes early for my appointment,” she explained. Our receptionist, trying to decipher that combination of details, nodded, and asked with whom her appointment was scheduled.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, our guest finally managed to produce my name.
The interview was interesting to say the least. After explaining to me about her work history (which was impressive, by the way), and how she had moved from place to place and which of those jobs she particularly hated, I began to give her the history of our company. By the time I was explaining about the open position in particular, we began to discuss the proper way to perform the duties we undertake. She had a few ideas on how I should be performing this particular job, and how audit procedures and other backup procedures should occur instead of how we are currently handling them. I explained, as kindly as I could that we are still a small company and we cater directly to our clients’ specific needs, so we are much more flexible and work directly with them, rather than forcing them to conform to a large company’s standards. I reminded her that the position for which she was interviewing was not that of an auditor or supervisor, and attempted to get us back on course. We had another derailment or two as she provided input on our new client type in particular (including how lucrative she can imagine billing clients like this much be) and what she thought of their types of services. After redirecting her again, I began to wind down the interview and try to close out this train wreck.
As I was giving the company overview (how long we’ve been here, what we do, etc.) and a couple of last minute details, she stops me. Waving her hand around above her head, gesturing to the room around her she asks “so, who owns all this?” I was admittedly surprised. The other people I had interviewed understood by the time I got to the overview that it was my company. I was trying to mentally analyze what I had done differently, or how she had missed it.
“I do. It’s my company.” I said. Her eyes got a little bigger “you own ALL THIS?”
Now I’m unsure of how I should continue. “Um, yes,” I said “It’s all mine. As I explained earlier, we’ve been in business since 2010. . . ” before I can even finish my sentence she cuts me off “You must be doing alright for yourself then.”
I almost laughed out loud. We’re holding our own, but I would hardly say we’re “doing alright.” We’re very blessed to have been able to hold on through the economy we’ve just endured and every year is a little bit better than the last, but this has been hard. I’m not sorry I did it–don’t misunderstand, but to hear her say it I felt like she had the impression that I have a purse stuffed with money.
As I wrapped up the interview and sent her on her way, she asked me when she would know about the position and what our “plans” are. I reiterated what I had just covered in the interview and sent her on her way. As she walked away, I stood at the door and pondered everything that had just happened. I particularly enjoyed the surprise that I could own my own company. I couldn’t believe all the “rules” she had broken–arguing with the interviewer, asking inappropriate questions, flopping down in the chair as if she owned the place.
I guess we didn’t all have a tactful FBLA advisor who told us lovingly when we were doing something goofy, or parents who taught us about appropriate conversations. I have had a lot of entertainment thinking about this experience the past several days, so I thought I would share and let you have a laugh too. Please, when your children are going on their first few interviews, help them understand what is appropriate, or have them join FBLA. With a job market flooded with people right now, it could just make the difference in them getting a job or not.


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