Thursday, March 6, 2008

job interview experience of a lifetime

Board: As we’re sure you know, Michael Dell well be stepping down this year. Our search for a new CEO at Dell has come down to two candidates: you and Jonathan Ive.

Me: However this turns out, it has been an honor to be considered in the company of Mr. Ive, who is a fine young man and will someday, eventually, make a great CEO.

Board: Could you remind us of your job qualifications?

Me: My father was a beloved CEO of a major corporation, and many people wish they could have him for CEO again.

Board: We’re all aware of your father’s laurels. But we’re not hiring your father (much as we’d like to). For this position we’re more interested in what you have done, personally, that makes you qualified for this job.

Me: Sure. Well, years ago I proposed a plan for a universal scripting solution that would have covered all platforms and applications, instead of the costly mess of redundant alternatives we had.

Board: And how did that turn out?

Me: Not so well. It’s still a mess. I made some errors in judgment and community involvement.

Board: To be honest, Mr. Ive is looking pretty good. His design of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone are widely credited with turning Apple around.

Me: I did an Apple design, too. Have you heard of the iPod Freestyle?

Board: No.

Me: Oh. OK, I concede that a few of Jonathan’s past products have been pretty successful, while my judgment may have been off now and then. But this job isn’t about the past; it’s about the future. I have… um… I have…

Board: Yes? You have…

Me: I have a lifetime of experience. Yeah, that’s it: a lifetime of experience.

Board: So, in this competition you’re conceding that your competitor has made better decisions, but you should be selected because you have a lifetime of experience?

Me: Yes. That’s part of it... But there’s also the phone thing.

Board: What phone thing?

Me: Suppose there’s a critical problem with Dell manufacturing in China. It’s 3AM and the CEO’s phone rings. What’s he going to do?

Board: Um. Answer it?

Me: Sure that’s what I would do. That’s exactly what I’d do. Right away I’d pick up that phone and say “Hello, Brent the CEO here.”

Board: And Mr. Ives would do something different.

Me: Nothing against Mr. Ives, but my father was CEO of a major corporation (have I mentioned that?) and his was not. I’ve lived in a CEO’s house and he has not.

Board: So?

Me: So I know where the CEO phone is. It’s right next to the CEO bed, and I know where that is too. Jonathan has not lived in a CEO’s house and so doesn’t have this experience. He would be wandering around in the dark, stubbing his toe while he looks around for the phone. By the time he found the phone it would have switched to the answering machine, and then there’d be that awkward period of trying to talk over the answering-machine message. That’s no way to handle a crisis at 3AM, I can tell you that from experience.

Board: Experience?

Me: Yes, a lifetime of it--except for 45 minutes when I was drugged during a colonoscopy and so have no memory. But a lifetime minus 45 minutes is still a lot of experience.

Board: Thank you for your time, Mr. Noorda. We’ll get back to you.

Me: Did I mention that my father was…

Board: You mentioned it. We’ll be in touch. OK Bye.

I’m waiting for their phone call. I’m sure it will ring any minute now… any minute… Maybe I should offer Jonathan the VP position, to show there's no hard feelings.

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