Oh, Wait — So You ARE the Boss of Me?

Funny - Darcy ConfusedSo then…my boss says those four words that signal I have officially arrived in The Corporate World — even though I am only 23 years old: “You can hire staff.” I’m so excited! I’ve spent my whole life hustling for jobs and taking on more and more responsibility and work – and now I get to hire someone to help ME!

Now granted, “staff” implies multiple employees and my boss means just the one. And that employee will help me AND the whole department. And that employee will actually be a college student summer internBUT STILL! My very own staff!

I myself have just graduated college last year and already I get to hire someone! I’m ecstatic! I’m so overwhelmed with my workload, often working evenings, so I can’t wait to… (shudder of anticipatory delight) … to DELEGATE.

So HR sends me some resumes of outstanding college sophomores and juniors looking for great internships to beef up their resumes. I’m fairly certain the kids (yes, I can call them “kids” now – I AM 23, for Pete’s sake) will consider this summer internship a plum assignment since we are a Fortune 500 company located on Park Avenue in New York City – AND our internships are paid!

I begin the interviews with confidence that the kids will be tripping over themselves to snag this job.

College Junior Tom’s interview is going very well – good grades, great referrals — then he tells me, “I can write stuff and work on projects, but I don’t want to copy things – or run errands – or be, you know, a ‘gopher.’”

Huh? I furrow my brow at Tom.

I quickly explain to him, “But you DO know that in Latin, intern means ‘gopher,’ right? That’s why we hire interns – to do all the work we don’t want to do. If it was fun, interesting, challenging work, we’d do it ourselves.”

Huh? Now Tom furrows his brow at me.

So then, I interview College Sophomore Clara. And I love her! She’s outgoing, perky, and seems very competent. Clara seems like the kind of can-do gal who can do!

I like her so much, I throw her a softball question: “What’s your greatest strength?”

I figure her answer will be something like “I learn fast, work hard, and I can write, research, plan events — whatever needs to be done!”

But instead she says, “I think my greatest strength is managing people.

Huh? I furrow my brow at Clara.

She’s applying to be an intern, for God’s sake. That’s the lowest head on the totem pole. In fact, it’s not even ON the totem pole. It’s a small head – like a shrunken head – NEXT to the totem pole, LOOKING at the totem pole thinking, “Oh, I hope one day I get to be ON that totem pole.”

But her greatest strength is managing people?

I say, “Um..OK. But how would you feel about taking a summer job where you manage NO ONE – but you are managed by EVERYONE?

Clara says very confidently, “Oh, that’s OK. When I joined the French Club at the beginning of the school year, I was just a member — but by the end of the school year, I was the President of the French Club!”

I pause and say soothingly as though talking to a mental patient with a tinfoil hat, “Um…OK, but you do realize that at the end of the summer internship, you probably won’t be the President of our company, right?”

Clara shrugs imperiously, as though to say, “Well, maybe not by the end of summer.”

I figure that the last thing I need is an intern who wants to boss me around – for God’s sake, I want to do the bossing!

So I interview a few more people — and I find Susan who turns out to be ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS – qualified, smart, hard-working, and with a great sense of humor. It’s a good thing too – I’m more likely to crack jokes than crack the whip anyway!

— Darcy Perdu

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(Have you ever received some surprising answers from candidates during your interviews? Or have YOU given an odd response to a prospective employer that you wish you could have taken back? Any fun summer internship stories? Share in the Comments!)
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30 replies on “Oh, Wait — So You ARE the Boss of Me?

  1. K.Haskins said:

    Well, for the love of…! Anyway, did you ever find that “just right” person??

    • Ha — yes, finally! I hired an intern named Susan and she was AWESOME!

  2. It is my understanding that the gen Y and whatever we are calling the next generation is being called have a serious sense of entitlement. They expect to have whatever hours they want, to have access to social media, to move up quickly. It is an issue HR departments deal with regularly because they are the incoming workforce. Keeping someone around long enough to actually move up the ladder and have experience worth passing on has become a whole new problem. Especially with the boomers aging out and (finally) retiring.

    Fun post!
    Bridge recently posted..randomMy Profile

    • Bridge, I know what you mean. I even worry about how this generation goes about applying for positions. I can’t tell you how many resumes I receive for entry-level positions are filled with typos and “text” shortcuts.

  3. I’ve actually had the pleasure of managing a few companies in my lifetime (even though I’m only 25) including a candy store, a medical office, and now my marketing team. However, I have interviewed quite a bit of people and I must say you are SO PATIENT! I would have kicked these kids out with the first idiot answer. In fact I didn’t hire 2 girls because they came to the interview late (without even calling to say “hey I’m lost” or anything). I also fired a girl her first day there because she was 30 mins late… also no call and she even showed up with shopping bags… SHOPPING BAGS R U F-ING KIDDING ME?? I’m kind of a B***h, but that’s why I climb up the ladder so quickly… I don’t put my own job on the line to be nice to others; responsibility is a responsibility and if you aren’t responsible then you can’t work with or under me plain n simple. May God be with anyone I hire when I finally get an official company off the ground…lol

    • Veronica, you are a force of nature to have managed so many companies at your age already!

      And that is pretty hilarious that the girl came late to work with SHOPPING BAGS! And she didn’t even buy anything for YOU? Not smart, not smart!

  4. It’s amazing how the younger generation nowadays seems so entitled. They have grown up spoiled and don’t know what it’s like to not have everything handed to them. We all worked our way up the ladder, and many of these newbies want an office, company car, and big salary right off the bat. Yet, most can’t even construct a proper business letter or email. It amazes me.
    Phil recently posted..American craft beer extravaganza on the UES of NYC!My Profile

    • And some of their resumes are chock full of errors and typos! Damn whippersnappers!

  5. At my last job, at a community family center, I had the pleasure of interviewing numerous potential undergraduates for an unpaid internship. Quite a few of the interviews went really went and the students made for great interns, but I definitely got quite a few surprising answers. Possibly my favorite, however, was the the one who asked where I went to graduate school. When I told her Harvard, she said with this pitying tone in her voice, “Oh, and you work here now?”

    …..?

    We did end up offering her the internship. We decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, but mostly because we thought it would be a good learning experience for her. In the end she ended up being fantastic, learned a lot, and when I later gave her the feedback that she really shouldn’t say something like that an interview, she acknowledged how horrified she was that she said it right after it came out of her mouth.
    Bev recently posted..Lucky Numbers and Crazy CoincidencesMy Profile

    • Oh my gosh, I can’t believe she said that! You’re very generous to give her another chance after such a big gaffe!
      Glad she turned out to be a good intern — and realized her error! So funny!

  6. Oh my, I understand this so well since I teach at a university in Prague and interview students for study abroad positions within Europe. It’s a day of interactions like:

    “Why do you want to study abroad?”
    “I need to improve my English.”
    “Um…in Spain?”
    “I want to learn English on the beach.”
    D’oh!

    • That’s hysterical!
      I want to learn on the beach too!
      I know English already…so maybe…um…Geometry? Yes, please send me to the beaches in Spain to learn Geometry! :o)

  7. My favorite interview story, when looking for a new teacher’s assistant. My two female co-workers and I are interviewing this guy in his early 20’s, and he’s going great…seriously…the job is his. Then…this happened…

    Me: “So do you have any questions for us?”

    Applicant: “You said that I can wear t-shirts and jeans to work, right?”

    Me: “Yes, just as long as they’re clean and look presentable.”

    Applicant: “Great, because I have these awesome t-shirts with funny sayings on them.”

    *pause*

    Teaching Partner: “Um…like what?”

    Applicant: “My favorite one says, ‘I just came for the lapdance.'”

    Teaching Partner: “We’ll call you.”

    • Oh no, he di-nn-‘t! Guuuurl! That playa be craaaazy!

      OK, honestly, that is hilarious! WHAT in the world was he THINKING when he said that to 3 women interviewing him? Was he hoping you’d laugh appreciatively and start stripping? Too funny!

    • Judging from the letters, resumes, and interviews, I agree. It’s amazing how many of them present themselves as “Hire Me Because…Because…Me Awesome.”

  8. Dee said:

    My favorite recent interview story (there are so many to choose from) comes from a very self-assured young woman who was returning to work from maternity leave.

    She extolled me with the story of her swift move up the ladder at her current place of work, where she climbed over individuals who had been there much longer and how she now managed them.

    At that point, she abruptly stopped her monologue and gave me a very concerned and kindly look. She then assured me that her focus was now her child and that I shouldn’t be worried about her taking my job!

    I am such a professional — I actually managed to stifle my snort.

    • omigosh, Dee, that’s priceless!

      Sometimes people speak without thinking! I actually met with a lady last week who spent the first 15 minutes complaining about how her staff were all “control freaks and drama queens” and how clients kept calling her to intercede. Then she proceeded to pitch me on hiring her company because their “service is so great.” (!)

      • Dee said:

        People just don’t listen to themselves — very scary attribute in a “service” provider!

        Reminds me of when I described the “contracts drafting and transaction negotiation” that comprised a legal position we were hiring for. One attorney asked me how long he would have to do that work before he could just advise people on what they needed to do… I had a clear mental image of him sitting in his office on a throne, casting out pearls of wisdom for the huddled masses, not deigning to touch a keyboard or piece of paper.

        • heck, I want that job! So much cooler to just ADVISE people than to actually WORK! Ha!

    • I’m reluctant to fire people too. I read somewhere that Clint Eastwood attends auditions behind a one-way glass mirror so that he’s not in the same room with the actors because he’s so empathetic, he wants to hire ALL of them.

  9. D. Marie said:

    When interviewing for an internship at a huge, global corporation, I was asked the strangest string of questions: “How would you like your funeral to be decorated and what do you want people to say?” — “Will you show me any key chains on your car key?” and “Do you think I’m fat?” (he was morbidly obese). I got the internship, but it turned out I was the only intern who was asked those questions. Maybe he thought I was sketchy…or wanted to steal my car, eat me, then plan an appropriate funeral. I still find it unsettling.

    • bwahaha! maybe he wanted to “steal my car, eat me, then plan an appropriate funeral.” That’s hilarious!
      what odd questions to be asked in an interview! so funny!

  10. Yank Ortiz said:

    Not sure if this fits into this category… But once while I was working as a Pharmacist, a man came up to me with a box of condoms and asked me about something printed on the bottom of the box. It stated: That these condoms had been Pre-Tested. When I told him that that was normal procedure, he proceeded to ask me with all the seriousness possible, how could he apply for THAT job.

      • Yank Ortiz said:

        Clever??? Perhaps. But I believe the man was absolutely 100 % serious.