The Business Meal
In the tech world we now live in we have forgotten a great deal about how we used to conduct our due diligence on people.
Today we Google them, check both public and restricted databases, we try to peek at their Facebook Account, for professionals we look at Linked-In, we check to see if indeed they graduated from Bistlethike University and try to plumb the depth of their work at previous employers to insure they did a good job, their responsibilities were close to what they have described in their resume etc… We check court records to look for criminal matters, bad driving incidents, civil litigation and of course all of those lovely domestic relations cases…
What did we do in the old days? We took them and their spouse to lunch and or dinner.
We can all fake it on paper. For heaven’s sake we never look better then when we are on paper:
Ana Z. – Ph.D. in Peace Studies from Bistlethike University , Miss USA, successful independent professional, skied Antarctica, erected huts in small village where people have large sad looking eyes, and slayer of two dragons with one handsomely bejeweled enchanted sword. Hobbies are writing romantic poetry and hang gliding.
One fellow I met had to Ph.D.s one in Mechanical Engineering and the Other in Genetics. He had wowed people from afar and got himself on the board of a public company. It took less than 5 minutes with to test his knowledge to realize he was a pretender
Yes in the old day we took prospective employees out to dinner. We talked about all sorts of stuff, weather, relatives, sports, how wonderfully fatty this piece of Ribeye is… and we listened, too. How did they treat their spouse, how did they work with wait staff, did they have manners. I was told when I was growing up that manners are important. Since then, I have learned that manners are not just important, manners are vital. Manners are the social equivalent of an adult being house trained, they are the little things that communicate to the rest of your world you have been civilized.
I vividly, and I do mean vividly, recall sitting at a table loaded with Ph.D.s discussing a research matter. It was a lunch meeting in a beautiful restaurant with a light green linen tablecloth. The discussion was lively and animated and continued as lunch salads arrived. One of the Ph.D.s however kept talking while he ate and chewed. He could not wait to make his points and talked over others. He chewed with his mouth open while he kept talking. The image that came to mind was a bit like a talking cement mixer spewing out bits of leaves as it spun. There were little bit of masticated shrapnel all around his plate, little bits of green, orange and red of what was once an appetizing salad. The bits of chicken from the main course added off-white bits to the masticated shrapnel splatter pattern on the once clean light green tablecloth. The tablecloth slowly highlighted each of these bits by adding a darker green halo underneath these bits of masticated shrapnel as the tablecloth absorbed the water and oil from each splattered food bit. I also can honestly say I could not remember one word he said. I also know I was not the only one at the table who got the heebeegeebees from this display. Since this, his first lunch with the group, he has not been invited back. His lack of manners closed a door of opportunity, which even the best education could not keep open.
Maybe just a lunch for a lower level employee, maybe fine dinning for an executive. (A partnership may take longer and may have involved a few rounds of golf, a visit to along with a dinner at the country club.) All of this was normal, as well as using ones social contacts to fine out more about a candidate. Alcohol usage, political beliefs, family origin, civic work, and organizations that one belonged to were / are fair game and completely out of the personal jacket.
So much so today, we are only interested in hiring unblemished people. People with easy to read resumes; people who show clear paths and never have had an untoward moment in their lives. We are looking for the pristine “who”. Back in the old day we looked at what they were by evidence of their behavior, social circles, manners and what groups they belonged to. We use to look for the “what” made them.
If I were in charge of hiring for a company, other than my own… (and, which based upon way more than just this article we call safely assume I’ll never get picked for that spot) I would like to use the best of both worlds.
With 30% of people or more outrightlying on their resumes – I believe we have a problem with ethics and forgiveness. I would like people to come to me with all of their stars and warts, successes and failures clearly displayed.
I would celebrate the sole who was knocked off their horse and got back up again. I would shun those who made excuses about it always being someone else’s fault. I would celebrate the explorer of words, deeds or our minds. I would shun the anti social boozer and philanderer. I would celebrate the hard worker who was eager to accept and confront challenges. I would shun the thoughtless worker.
If one chooses to leave one’s desk and quit sifting and sorting though wonderfully prepared and puffed résumés – all prepared to ever so slightly lead you, and one chooses not to have a lunch with a candidate as more of a speed date, than one can take the time to dine and enjoy the fruits of a Business Meal.