Kalini had been the top student in the sciences program at the University of Wisconsin, and was being recruited by a number of pharmaceutical companies for their R & D divisions. Kalini had narrowed the search to three of the best-known organizations. She performed well in her first round of interviews, and now she was looking forward to the next round, which included her potential boss and other senior managers.
Kalini’s potential boss, Todd, wasn’t looking forward to the interview that day. It had nothing to do with Kalini. He had been traveling for the last three days and for 14 of the last 20 business days. That much travel was unusual for him, and heightened his immediate problem. He had a major presentation that had to be written, proofed, and practiced that day for delivery the next.
Todd knew that hiring a new research scientist was high on the list of priorities, but not today.
Kalini knew her strengths included outstanding intellect, technical skills, and an intense desire to improve the human condition. She also knew she was often uncomfortable meeting people for the first time and engaging in informal conversation or chitchat. As much as she tried to overcome this challenge, she found it difficult. In some encounters, when the conversation was awkward, she became tense or flustered.
Todd wanted to take a few minutes to prepare for the interview with Kalini , but it never happened. Todd pried himself loose from working on the presentation when Kalini was waiting outside his office. Todd was somewhat comforted by the fact that he had enough experience, and was facile enough to carry off any interview. He was sure this one would prove no exception.
Todd invited Kalini into his office and offered her a seat. He would normally have been willing to spend 10 to 15 minutes helping Kalini relax and become comfortable in the interview setting. Perhaps due to his own pressures, he found himself struggling with conversation topics. Suddenly, he remembered Kalini’s résumé had a personal section that listed her interests and activities.
He excused himself and went behind his desk to look for her résumé. Todd became more embarrassed as he fumbled through the papers, but could not locate the résumé. Red-faced and uncomfortable, he finally asked Kalini if she had an additional copy of her résumé. He defended his actions by mentioning that he had just arrived home from a business trip.
Kalini was doing her best to remain calm during this part of the interview, but this was the toughest time for her under the best of circumstances. Now she was put on the spot, and had to produce a résumé. She had not anticipated this request and wasn’t even sure she had a copy of her résumé. The longer she fumbled in her bag, the more uncomfortable she became. An observer watching the two people could have seen the humor in the situation, but neither Todd nor Kalini saw anything funny about what was happening. In the end, neither of them found a copy of the résumé.
Todd had no choice but to come back to the interview setting and attempt to resurrect the strained conversation. Now he had a real problem in that Kalini had subconsciously retracted to a level deeper within herself during the period of confusion. Todd had to work very hard to draw Kalini out; he tried hard and she tried hard, but it never worked. She couldn’t help but think how ridiculous it was that she didn’t have a résumé, and he was thinking about why he couldn’t find her résumé. When the interview ended, both people were relieved that it was over, yet were uncomfortable with their behavior.
Later that day, Todd called Kalini to apologize for his lack of preparation. He asked her if there was any chance she would be willing to come in and see him again. She agreed, and when they got together, they had both laughed about their first meeting.
Fortunately, in this case, Kalini had a great background and Todd was willing to accept responsibility for the poor interview. Ultimately, Kalini received a job offer from Todd’s company and accepted it. In another instance, not having a résumé might not have turned out as well.