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job interviews – the accountant

(1) The corporation’s man is sitting with his back to the window and the blinding sun surrounds his silhouette and throws an impenetrable shadow onto his face. This is a deliberately rude piece of positioning and a certain sign that the fellow is indeed a very unlikeable bastard and most probably the reason the last four accountants have fled the job.

Your careful resume has been pitched onto the nearest surface and close to a stack of others which is overt evidence of this executive’s very busy day.

His preamble is glib and frightening as he smoothly complicates every explanation of the companies affairs with words from either accounting manuals or business doctrine. He doesn’t like eye contact, his hands are calm, and he doesn’t want you.

He is the woman, you are the man.

(2) The small businessman greets you in an office with full ashtrays, full in trays – and you know without asking  – heavy outlays. His office is small and dimly lit and painted in a melancholy pastiche of blue and orange. The filing system is horribly visible and consists of a metal shelf of broken backed binders racked against the wall. They have no labels and lean against each other like old men in a food queue.

Bundles of yellowed computer printouts spill over the floor behind his desk, the carpet is patched with spills. His window is nailed shut and he has pictures of Juan Fangio on the wall behind his desk.

None of the chairs match, he writes with a pencil, the phone doesn’t ring in the half hour that the interview lasts and the aged receptionist who has doing all his bookkeeping for the last fifteen years gives you a tired smile when she brings in the coffee.

The recruitment agency’s consultant is a distracting beauty wearing a short satin skirt and intimate perfume, her legs whisper at you every time she crosses her legs. She has an Arts degree, you do not – this fact is established very early in the interview,

Of the last five positions you have held you have four references and she only wants to know about the missing one. Every time someone walks past her door she looks up, sometimes she waves. After eight minutes the lass takes your resume and references and disappears. That’s it, she doesn’t return and nothing good is going to happen here.

The software company manager has bad breath and his hair is an uncombed uproar of soiled curls – he wears glasses as thick as armour plate and his attention to you and the interview is shared by his obsessive interest in the 62″ monitor that flickers at him from the wall behind you. He mutters and grumbles and explains the business’s shortcomings with a disarming honesty – the corridors of this place are inhabited with hairy men and women, they wander in and about without obvious purpose.

The fellow has no interests in balance sheets or company profitability and his handwriting is absurd – he has an honours degree in pure mathematics – he is no doubt the product of a misspent puberty and has doting parents.

Take the job at your peril, this man is in charge of a doomed enterprise.

The old accountant taking his retirement from fifty-five years of bookkeeping with the one firm lets you do all the talking. His serene hands take concise notes in strong longhand. His few questions are pleasantly put but are baited and barbed. He is a pleasant and accommodating man and he has framed pictures of his wife and grandchildren sitting central on his old oak desk. They are all smiling.

His office is a quiet and orderly den of records, there is a radio somewhere playing classical themes, his computer is turned off . He has two phones and he signs all the cheques –

nobody interrupts the interview and all the furniture matches.

Take the job.

The mildewed young corporate accountant maintains a half smile on his pouched face throughout the interview. His glass cube is on the forty-fourth floor and is almost bare with only the one three-door filing cabinet and a two-ply bookcase untidily filled with old finance journals and bound monthly  reporting packages. His view of the glittering city is shared by about on hundred thousand like souls in like commercial slave towers,

He has eight accountants reporting to him and they all probably dislike him equally, he talks of reporting deadlines and he likens incorrect information to an attack by the Taliban – other grimfaced men hurry past his office, they pace to and from their office kennels – and everyone watches each other –

good luck.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mike #

    I’ve never interviewed for a job and every word that I just read resonated. PB, you could have subtracted your advice on what job to accept because the descriptions were so vivid and the situations so well crafted that the conclusions became rhetorical.

    Last week, I was hired to decorate an office plaza for Christmas. Something unsettling about empty office cubicles. Like a jail cell, every single one was a montage of that persons “outside” life. As odd as it was, I was contracted to bring continuity to each individuals chotchky decor… corporate continuity replacing employee personality. I laughed at the irony until I took down the first cubicles marshmellow santa.

    It felt like I was in a morgue or I was following a neutron bomb. Cubicle dwellers surrounding themselves with memories of the outside world. Employees too scared to leave before their bosses who have nowhere else to go.

    Now I know how their first interview felt.


    December 17, 2010
  2. Hey Mike, all of that stuff is 1st hand – the only thing I didn’t mention was the IT guy’s toxic breath – he had some stuff wedged into his teeth that was fully decomposed – bastard never cleaned ’em, ever.

    December 17, 2010
  3. Mike #

    Good stuff PB…. very.

    December 17, 2010
    • chotchky – this a new word to me mike, is it yours or does it have a history

      December 17, 2010
  4. Mike #

    Ridiculous items cluttering without statement…. “empty calories”, stuff.

    You ever meet an old couple that has a house filled with minutuae? Trinkets of this that don’t match crap of that. Chotchky.

    Probably not Websters, but proper usage.

    December 17, 2010
  5. Steve Shearer #

    Pete: Bean Counter?
    Say it ain’t so.

    December 20, 2010
    • amongst a whole lot of other things stevo – ended up at mcconaghy’s boatyard at mona vale the last 10 years – now that was a blinder – even went to china to teach a bunch of local ladies how to put together a spreadsheet – man’s no good if he ain’t an allrounder

      December 20, 2010
  6. Steve Shearer #

    Yes, shit you are prolific.

    I can barely keep up with the reading.

    with the Ashes and all.

    I’m going to call you up one day soon Pete.
    Be prepared.

    December 20, 2010
    • I’ll iron me trousers then mate – and do my hair

      December 20, 2010
  7. Whispering legs and absurd handwriting …

    I hope I’m going to come across a post about teaching ladies in China how to do spreadsheets.

    October 1, 2011
  8. Karen #

    Well, I’m with Steve. Never would’ve thunked it. That said, I’m not surprised – sometimes I read your posts and think, who is this person? but whoever you are Pete, I’m glad you write, especially when what you write includes gems like: They have no labels and lean against each other like old men in a food queue.
    About a filing system!
    love it.

    October 1, 2011
    • thanks K, I didn’t mention it at the time but the bloke with the filing system was a hearse manufacturer – using bits of old cars – and the best thing about being a bean counter was that you got to know everything about a business very quickly, and coming to board meetings with red eyes and a very relaaaaaxed demeanour made the event very interesting – I used to hide images in spreadsheets and wait for the reactions when they were found –

      October 2, 2011

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