Interview Strategy: Dressed to Kill

Dressed to Kill, photo John French. London, UK, 1963

Dressed to Kill, photo John French. London, UK, 1963

I used to have a beautiful apartment with a long staircase in a lovely brownstone in Manhattan. I also had a cookbook publishing and packaging company there.

One day I invited an old friend, Peter Kump, for lunch. At the time, he was running a cooking school in the neighborhood, that he eventually turned into the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).

As we were chatting, a thin trickle of blood peeped shyly from his nose. I didn’t comment. (I am British. British people do not comment.)

“Peter,” I said, calmly, “Let’s adjourn to the living room. Here, lie down and put your feet up.” Peter held the wad of bloodied paper to his face as I toyed with the idea of dialing 911 to scream for medical attention.

The doorbell rang. Who could this be? Excusing myself, I went down the stairs and answered the door.

A very tall young woman stood before me. Masses of hair. Thick fur coat. Crimson lips. Stiletto heels. Instantly I hate her.

“I’ve come for the interview,” she states. Hmmm. She thinks I forgot about the interview. She’s right. I did.

“Ah,” says I. “Do come in. I’m delighted to see you.” (Note: time-perfected British method of extreme put down by employing use of charming greeting in direct contrast to applicant’s curt statement of fact.)

Woman walks up stairs. Enters living room. Stops abruptly. Stares at Peter on the couch.

“This is Peter,” I say. “I’ve just shot him. Would you please help me throw him out of the window?”

“I just came for the interview,” she responds, restating her previous purpose.

“Well,” I retort. “If you are not prepared to pitch in, I’m afraid there isn’t a job for you here. May I show you the way to the door?”

Woman exits. She has spoken exactly 11 words (five of them twice). Peter roars with laughter. Bleeding has stopped. Lunch resumes at the dining table.

This is actually a true story though I blush to tell it as it seems so heartless in retrospect. I never crossed paths with this young woman again. Occasionally I wonder if she interpreted the entire scene differently.

There is a point to this story. As soon as I’d met her, I’d made up my mind I was not going to hire this woman. Other employers possibly would think the same way so:

  • Interview Tip #1: Be aware that first impressions happen literally in the blink of an eye. If you don’t believe me, read the excellent Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. As one Amazon reviewer, Michael Erisman, noted, “the book centers on the concept of how fast we really do make judgments, called “thin slicing,” and how deeper analysis can sometimes provide less information than more. It is all about cognitive speed.”
  • Interview Tip #2: Smile. Say, “Good Afternoon.” Provide your name and don’t wear a fur coat to an interview.

One thought on “Interview Strategy: Dressed to Kill

  1. Irena-
    Margot and I have spent our afternoon cracking up over this blog. Just wanted you to know that your humble publishers do take time to read your blog, and how much we enjoy it. Question- what job was she applying for? Please say personal chef.

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