Friday, September 25, 2009

Dance 3, Looks 10

Earlier this week, I was working in a popular fast casual restaurant and bakery. Yes, I'm one of the hoards of wi-fi users you see occupying tables for hours at a time. But that's beside the point. My story today has been a source of boiling outrage for me.

Here's the scenario. One of the establishment managers was obviously conducting interviews for counter help. I saw him first on the other side of the restaurant talking to a few people. Then he moved to my side. It was very quiet, so quiet that I could hear every detail of the conversations. I realize eavesdropping isn't nice. I can intentionally check out of personal discussions. However, I found myself interested in these interviews. I'm a student of behavior and the human condition, after all. And I'm particularly interested in business and work as a source of happiness.

In interview one, the manager, a man in his early 30s, perhaps a bit younger, was interviewing a woman in her early to mid 20s. She was a touch overweight by American standards. She was dressed well for interviewing, made direct eye contact and spoke with confidence. He asked her about her educational choice (she evidently was looking for a part time job while attending school). She explained that she loves working with and serving people. That's what made her think she'd enjoy the job at this restaurant. As I listened to her speak, I imagined that she'd be serving me and thought that she'd do a nice job of interacting with me.

At the conclusion of the interview he told her what the additional process would be, that two other managers and he would review the resumes and make calls to either set up additional interviews or let the applicants know the outcome. He thanked her and encouraged her to get a refill on her tea before leaving. His demeanor was professional. He was suitably warm, but definitely managerial.

For the second interview, the manager spoke to a another woman, also in her early 20s. She was attractive and appeared to be fit. She was also wearing a dress with a low, revealing decolletage and high hemline that I'd consider completely inappropriate for a job interview. Don't get me wrong; she looked great. It's just that she looked perfectly ready for an evening of going out to clubs with friends, not for interviewing for this job. Furthermore, her demeanor, though not bad, was not as warm as the previous applicant's. As she talked, I thought that the other woman would make a better candidate. Then I noticed other details.

The manager's demeanor was less confident in this interview. He stumbled on his words, used "like" and "um" a lot and talked about his own interests in relationship to the applicant's. He learned she wanted to be a fashion designer, for instance, and then related how even though she couldn't tell since he was dressed for work, that fashion was an important part of his life. The applicant related that she'd worked at a popular chain coffee shop before and that she knows one of the other managers at this restaurant. The interviewing manager said he was surprised the other manager hadn't mention the applicant.

He ended the interview by explaining the process just as he had with the other woman. However, he told this woman he wanted to bring her in for a second interview and that he had just one slot open a few days later. She accepted the time slot.

I couldn't read the two applications. So maybe my assessment isn't fair. However, based on the interviews alone, I am appalled. To my eyes and ears, it is clear that this man made the decision based on what he saw. And I'm not entirely convinced race isn't a factor here. He was white. The first woman was black and the second woman was white. I wanted to scream at him. And even now I don't know what to do other than write this blog. Perhaps I'll invite the restaurant to read this, too.

What do you think?

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