So 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 intern – BUT 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!)