The job interview

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    ‘Think about this: Election Day is the day we hire people whom we are supposed to have interviewed. And the interview period is the campaign period. How seriously do we take the role of citizen-interviewer?’

    HAVE you ever been to a job interview? Either to conduct one or, more interestingly, to undergo one?

    I’ve been at both ends of a job interview and, of course, it’s more nerve wracking being the interviewee rather than the interviewer. For obvious reasons. I can remember four interviews I’ve been through, each one of them, not because I successfully got through them, but because the process has been seared in my memory. In contrast, I hardly remember interviews I’ve conducted, not because the interviewees weren’t interesting but because they didn’t keep me up the night before, tense and wondering what lay ahead.

    What’s similar in the case of being interviewed and giving the interview is this: you have to prepare. And by prepare I mean knowing why you are giving an interview. What is it – the position – that is being filled? How does it fit into the organization? What characters, straits and skills are you looking for? What amount of experience even? And is there an X factor you can surface during the interview? Is there a gut feel that the interview can trigger?

    The first job interview I went through was in 1984 with then Assemblyman Renato L. Cayetano, at that time founding partner of the PECABAR Law firm. He had been elected a member of the Batasang Pambansa and was in need of a legislative assistant and speechwriter, and I had been recommended to him by one of his senior associates, Atty. Napoleon Poblador. I was a member of Poblador’s staff when he was editor-in-chief of UP’s student organ, the Philippine Collegian.

    It was a short interview. Cayetano the elder told me what his requirements were, asked me if my class schedules at UP Law would allow me to work for him, and then asked me what I wanted to receive. He then told me he was being invited to speak to the Bureau of Customs and asked if I could draft a speech, giving me some thoughts he wanted incorporated in the speech. I stepped out of his office, borrowed a typewriter and in an hour came back with a draft. He read it, told me he would make a few edits, and then added, “You’re hired!” That was what. And it led to a relationship that formally lasted until 1987 when he lost in the first elections for Congress under the 1987 Constitution, but informally lasted until his death in June of 2003.

    My second job interview was with Enrique Zobel. He had bumped into Cayetano at some party and the former somehow told the latter he was in need of an executive assistant.

    Cayetano recommended me. In fact, when I first met Zobel at his office at the Enzo Building on Buendia Avenue, I was accompanied by Cayetano himself, who then left me behind so I could be interviewed. I remember how it went: Zobel was amused that I was a UP student (he saw all UP students as “rebelde”) and then asked me if I could draft four speeches for four different speaking engagements he was invited to. He was leaving the next day for Spain so I would need to give the drafts to his secretary, Cory, who would fax them to him in Sotogrande. I took a look at the four invitations and told him I could write the drafts – but could I see some of his previous speeches? He had some given to me, then he asked me how many days I would need; I said one. And he said, oh, so that’s four days? No, I countered: One day for all four.

    Needless to say I was hired, and that started nine formal years of engagement which ended in 1997 when I joined Coca-Cola. But our friendship lasted 16 years, ending only in 2004 when he died. In his last wishes he even asked that I deliver the eulogy at his funeral mass in Forbes Park.

    My third job interview was for Coca-Cola and this was a more drawn-out process.

    I went through three interviews, and at first I was told I didn’t get the job because an answer I gave at the second interview wasn’t the one the interviewee wanted to hear. So I wrote to the company HR and told them thank you but I stood by my answers and explained myself. Apparently, the HR department showed my letter to the Philippine operations president who called me in for a third interview and, voila! I had a job. It was to last for 16 years ending in February of 2012.

    My final job interview was for my current employment. During my period of “joblessness” in 2012, Sen. Alan Cayetano recommended me to a mining operation which decided to create a post for corporate communications. I was interviewed by the President and CEO in April, but then didn’t hear from him again. I thought I didn’t make it until a call came in May and I started work in June. I’ve had the job for nine years now.

    Each time, I had to prepare. Each time, I had to know what I was bringing to the table and how I could bring value to the organization I was interviewing for.

    Think about this: Election Day is the day we hire people whom we are supposed to have interviewed. And the interview period is the campaign period. How seriously do we take the role of citizen-interviewer? Do we know what job we are hiring people for? Do we know what traits and characteristics and skills to look for? And do our interviewees take us seriously and tell us all that they can do – and once hired, deliver on their promises?

    And if they don’t deliver, do we fire them? Or do we extend their contracts and give them fat bonuses?