Posted by: cochinblogger | June 24, 2010

How A Word Got Me My First Job

Yes, a word, a mere word. No, readers, nobody put in a word for me. Guess again. Or better still, read on. 🙂

A few months after passing out of college, I applied for a sales position with a leading Indian computer company. The initial interviews, group discussions, and tests went well, and the final barrier was an interview with a director of the company. I was asked to meet him in a certain room in a certain five-star hotel. At the appointed hour of the appointed day, I presented myself at the hotel’s reception counter. The girls at the counter pointed to the elevator and breezily waved me on. I went up to his hotel room and knocked. No reply. I knocked again. Again no reply. I then opened the door and walked in.

The director was lying on the bed, a towel wrapped around him, upper body bare, talking animatedly into the phone. He gave me a dirty look, and ordered me to get out of the room and wait outside. I retreated, crestfallen, certain I’d blown this. As I waited outside, I toyed with the idea of disappearing. Before I could move, the door opened and he invited me inside. He reclined on the bed, and flipped rapidly through some papers in a folder. It was my application. I sat on a sofa and waited for his questions.

He looked up and asked why I had barged into the room. I explained that I’d knocked twice and heard nothing. “Why did you come in if you heard nothing?” he asked. I remained silent. What should I have done, anyway? Should I have retraced my steps to the reception counter? Mind you, this was well, well before the advent of mobile phones.

Then he came to the point. He was looking at page 2 of my CV, which listed my interests. “You’re an introvert. Why did you apply for a marketing job?” It occurred to me later that he’d decided this was the quickest way to give me the boot. Now, I’m hardly known for my presence of mind, but that day I hit bulls-eye. My response was immediate. I looked straight at him and said, “I’m not an introvert. I’m an ambivert.” He looked up quickly and met my eye, but couldn’t hold the gaze, and looked down again.

The late Bobby Fischer once said that the most satisfying moment in a chess game for him was when he sensed his opponent’s ego had cracked (that was the moment when he realized that his position was beyond repair). Well, I sensed that the director’s ego had cracked. He didn’t know the word ambivert, and what’s more, he knew I knew he didn’t know.

He then quickly signed the appointment letter, and shooed me away.

(This post deliberately begs the question of whether one has to be an extrovert to succeed in a sales position. Perhaps I’ll take that up in a future post.)

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