CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: Finding Work in 2013. The Final Interview. How Much Do You Want the Job?

by Gordon Lawrence


Robert felt a tap on the shoulder as he left church following Sunday services. Fellow parishioner and acquaintance, Christobal Valdes, needed a minute of Robert’s time.

Chris came right to the point, “Robert, I’m looking for a job and I need your help.  I know that you are working at the call center and I’ll do whatever it takes to get hired. Would you help me?”

Robert took a deep breath and replied, “Chris, I don’t think call center work is for you. It’s hard, it’s stressful, it’s low pay and the hours are bad. You’ve always worked in sales and I suggest that you keep looking.”

Chris was desperate, “No! I need to work now. Robert, I would not ask you if I had a choice. I’m out of choices. I need your help. I know that you have job openings; please just get me an interview.  You know that I can do the job.  I’ll work for any amount and any hours. Help me, dammit!”

Robert thought to himself that if Chris was this determined on the job, he would hit every incentive bonus. “OK, I’ll help. Meet me at my house this Tuesday night at 7:00 and we’ll start the preparations.”

Robert put out his hand; Chris pushed it aside and wrapped him in a bear hug, and whispered, “Thanks.”

On Tuesday evening they spent four hours preparing for the simulation test and interview.  Robert played the interviewer and fired question after question; by 11:00 PM Chris had the technical skills to go along with his selling talent.

At the simulation testing, which consists of video taped role playing; Chris felt fully prepared and highly confident. His score was 3rd highest of the 25 applicants (remaining from the 375 original applicants.)

The one-on-one interview went even better; his enthusiasm, energy, confidence and sales experience pushed his overall score to #2.

The Final Interview

Twelve candidates were brought back for the final interview.  The group was told to enter a meeting room, together, and Brenda Martin, the supervisor, distributed pens, index cards and envelopes.

The manager, Larry Barnett, stood up and explained the final interview process. “Ladies and gentlemen, from over 375 applications, from 25 finalists, the twelve of you have made the final cut.  I congratulate you.”

Chris wondered what was going on.  Was everyone going to get hired?

Barnett continued, “Everyone here passed the background check. Your references checked out. Your credit is good and you passed every test we threw at you with flying colors.”

“I wish we could hire all of you. In time hopefully we will. Today, however, I can only hire six.”

Chris thought, “I’m in. I made it.”

How Much Do You Want This Job?

Barnett raised his hand to get everyone’s attention.   “So here’s how I’ll make my final hiring decision. Does everyone have a pen, index card and envelope?  Great”

“Please write on the index card your expected starting salary. Sign the card, place it in the envelope and leave the envelope on the table.  Then go to the the waiting area.”

Barnett’s voice got louder, “I will call out six names, representing the six lowest starting salaries. Those six will proceed to HR to complete the personnel forms, receive their schedule and meet with their supervisors.”

Chris could not believe what it had just heard.  The jobs would go to the lowest bidder?  This is unbelievable.

One of the applicants called out, “That’s not fair.  You have us bidding against each other. That’s not right.”

Barnett responded:  “This process is absolutely fair.  And it’s right because I say it’s right. Please complete your cards, if you want to be considered to work here.”

Chris was in shock. He quickly gathered himself and thought of his expenses: food, rent, utilities, truck payment, gas, cell phone – in that order.  Necessities only. No cable TV.  No vacations. No new clothes. No restaurant meals. No savings.  He could make it on $1,250.

$1,250, plus 15% taxes, divided by 160 hours per month is 8.99 per hour.  Chris picked up the pen and wrote $8.99, signed the card, put it in the envelope and left it on the table.

He joined the other competitors in the waiting room.  No one made eye contact; everyone looked down at their shoes. Chris thought, “Jesus, I can’t believe this shit. Bidding against each other.   Low bidder gets the job!”

After 500+ resumes, countless cold calls, personal contact with every person he knew, personal contact with every member of his church, hundreds of online job applications, twenty-four job fairs, three work-for-nothing tryouts, two volunteer jobs, visits to a dozen temp agencies, an application to every federal, state and local government agency – nothing.

So it’s come to this. Chris needs the job.  He desperately needs the job. He has to have the job.

Barnett entered the room, quickly noting that all 12 applicants were waiting, staring at him, making full eye contact.

Barnett looked up from his notes, slowly scanned the room and started calling out names.

Thank you for reading Call Center Confidential.  Please invite your friends,  family and co-workers.  I welcome your comments.  Next time:  “and be sure to write your facebook id and password on the application form.”

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