Little Victories

“You don’t think it’s too… jargon-y, do you?” I asked the young man from HR as I slide the paper back towards him over the desk. The lengthy strings of vague terms and horrible turns of phrase made me feel a little bit sick.

He shook his head. “Not at all, no. If the ideal candidate reads this, they’ll know what it means.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh yeah, definitely.”

“Alright then. Say we’re in an interview.” I cleared my throat. “How would you say you would strive to embody the core values of ‘dishonesty, diminished integrity and unenlightening a customer experience while also adhering to S.O.P and DX423 regulations’?”

The HR man froze, his face ashen. “Ah… Yes. Well. I’m not your perfect candidate, am I? Obviously I don’t know.”

“Exactly. That, and one of those regulations is internal – external candidates won’t know it. The other is completely made up.”

“What is your point, Ms Perkins?”

I turned to face the monitor on the wall. Teleconferences freaked me out at the best of times, but there was something about the CEO’s insistence on appearing on-screen with his face in shadow that seemed so… unsavoury. And I swear he used a modulator to make his voice sound deeper.

“My point, sir, is that we are a global evil organisation. We are the bane of countries everywhere, and we have made billions in ransoms, arms deals and all the rest. A lot of people even paid us when we did that cyber attack and held all their data hostage.”

“What are you getting at, Perkins?”

“We’re prestigious, as evil organisations go. We have a hollowed out volcano island lair in the shape of a skull, and have the balls to have ‘Evil Inc.’ in massive pink neon letters above the dock and spaced out wrong, so it looks like one word. That’s pure evil for you; so do our recruitment practices have to be quite so intimidating?”

“We want the best.”

The HR man nodded. I fought the urge to throw something at him.

“I understand that, sir. I do. But there’s a difference between wanting the best, and making the whole thing so vague and full of corporate chatter that nobody will even bother reading to the end of the job specs.”

“What do you suggest, then?” The HR man piped up, feeling the boss was on his side.

“Alright.” I swung the piece of paper back towards me so I could read it again. “OK – straight away – ‘Must be able to appropriately allocate resources for periods of inactivity while maintaining high standards of accuracy in the combination of said resources.’”

“What’s wrong with that?” scoffed the HR man.

“Can’t we just say ‘Make a good cup of tea for everyone’?”

“And underplay the vital nature of the resource allocation? I think not.”

I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose. I was going to have to change tact. “Look, sir. You bought me in to refine your processes and make everything was a bit more streamlined. I can’t do that if you’re still thinking you should put out stuff like this. It points to a very fundamental problem. It’s the tip of the iceberg. In fact, you know how those plans for actual world domination never quite seem to come about? This is why – this -” I tapped the piece of paper for emphasis. “verbosity.”

The HR man snorted a laugh. “Oh, so it’s OK for you to use big words-”

“- I’m going to thump you, Kevin.”

“Silence, people. Please.” The CEO stopped our bickering before it could get out of hand. Which was a bit of a shame, because I really was about to thump Kevin. “Perkins. I, personally don’t think there’s a problem. It is an in-house style that has stood us in good stead for fifty years or more.”

“Do you not see? That, there – fifty years. That’s a problem. Nobody talks like this. Prime example; remember when that spy, the one with the tuxedo and the car and that? Remember when he turned up in the Alps and wiped out that base of ours? Do you realise we could have prevented that attack if – instead of filling out a load of paperwork and finally sending a lengthy message about the ‘impending approach of an international turncoat and renowned womaniser’ or whatever it was – we just said there was a f***ing spy coming?!”

“He’s got a gun,” sneered Kevin, sarcastically. I ignored it.

“See, sir? Even f***ing Kevin gets it, and he’s basically an idiot.”

A couple of seconds of terrible silence passed. I realised I had been talking faster and faster. I was nearly out of breath. I had been part of this organisation for six months or so. I’d had big dreams about the sweeping changes I could bring in. It would all be so efficient. But no. Nothing ever changed.

Pity really, because we could rule the world if someone ever actually listened to me.

“Are you quite done, Perkins?” The CEO growled.

I nodded. “Yes sir.” I was just desperate for a victory of some kind. A little one. A tiny sign that maybe I could actually make a difference around here and that my life wasn’t being entirely wasted.

Then, after another few moments’ agonising silence, it happened.

“Kevin. Rewrite the job spec. Make it less… Word-y.”

I breathed a slightly-too-audible sigh of relief as Kevin looked aghast at the monitor.

I’d got my little victory.

But then I saw something on the piece of paper that completely undid any positive feeling it could have generated.

“Uh… sir? Are we really recruiting for a writer with Photoshop skills, the ability to write code in C#, and with a background in customer service?”

“Yes, Perkins.” I was testing his patience, I could tell. Too late. I was on a roll.

And with a doctorate in food hygiene, nine years’ experience and regular voluntary positions. As well as two cats, a dog, a J in their name and easy access to ‘the amulet’, whatever that is?”

“Yes, Perkins. We want the best here.”

“Yes, sir. You said… But people like that don’t exist.” I said, ready for round two. “At all.”

I guess little victories weren’t enough, here.


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