Interviewing administrative assistants was a laborious task. Hank new precisely what he wanted, but he couldn’t seem to articulate it to the recruiter. He’d said he needed someone smart. Someone determined to get ahead in her career, although that was a fine line because you didn’t want an admin who was immediately discontented, shirking her duties in her anxiousness to trade in her job for something better. She should be organized, careful with details, know how to keep confidential information to herself. And yes, although he didn’t even like forming the thought, it mattered that she was attractive. It was a very un-politically correct thought and it was not something he’d verbalize to his peers, and certainly not to Deb.
So far, he’d talked to fourteen women and three men. Most of them were not particularly smart. And the more he listened to them rattle on, the higher that criteria advanced on his list. They talked too much, they sold themselves too hard, and they were too helpful. The last candidate he’d talked to, a woman about forty and very well put together, had brought a cup of coffee with packets of sugar and cream to the interview. Rather than shaking his hand, she’d held out the steaming cup. When he suggested she drop it in the lobby trash, her eyes filled with tears. He really wanted someone clever, a woman who understood intuitively how to protect his time, and was sharp enough to learn to anticipate what he wanted without always having to ask.
The woman ushered into his office just now had long red hair, so thick and wavy it looked like a flaming waterfall. Silken strands flowed over her shoulders, hair that a man could wrap around himself and never need a blanket. She had slim hips and a terrific body overall. She seemed aware of that fact, but not dominated by it. Pleased with her appearance, but giving the impression there was more to her than what was visible. He glanced at the photograph of Deb and Kevin.
Except for the hair color, Deb used to look like that. Shorter, a little fuller in the hips, but a gorgeous face and near-perfect shape. Now, Deb was plump with motherhood. She was one of those women who had fallen in love with her son the moment he was born. Hank was glad she was so devoted to Kevin, but sometimes, especially now that Kevin was in second grade, it had started to seem a bit . . . much. There was almost no room in the picture for Hank.
The woman nodded. She shook his hand and sat down facing his desk. She put her purse on the floor and crossed her legs. Her slacks looked as if they’d been spun around her body by an army of silkworms.
There was no way he could hire this woman. There was such a thing, he decided right then, as too attractive. She had the potential to stir up all kinds of trouble in his department. He didn’t need that. In fact, he wondered why she hadn’t pursued a career as a model. This was a waste of time. He’d cut to the chase and select someone from the other two finalists. He’d hoped for a pool of three, but it wasn’t that important. It was just an administrative position. “Tell me why I should hire you,” he said.
“I’ll make your life so easy, you’ll never have to think about your schedule or your travel arrangements again.”
“That’s a big promise.”
“I keep my promises.”
She was ballsy. He wasn’t sure if he liked that or not. It hadn’t been an ordinary first question, yet her response was wickedly fast. He glanced at her resume. “You worked at Nordstrom’s?”
“For the vice president of merchandising.”
“Technology is a lot different from a department store.”
“Yes and no.”
He picked up his pen and twisted the cap around. “Explain, please.”
“You’re selling products.”
“Very complicated products.”
“Selling is selling. A VP is a VP. Politics are the same at any large company.”
“They’re a lot more intense in this industry. There’s more at stake, more money to be made.”
He glanced at her resume gain, not really reading it. Her qualifications were no more and no less than the others he’d spoken to. It was getting to the point that he might be over-thinking it. Everyone had strengths and weak spots, and all of them could do the job.
Not caring how she answered, knowing the response would be a stock reply, he asked her about her previous jobs, what she’d liked, what she hadn’t liked. He asked her how she’d handle a display of temper by someone on his staff and what her process was for following up on action items. When she finished speaking, he was quiet for several minutes, the room filled by the faint sound of the computer keeping itself alert.
He folded his arms and pushed the resume to the side until the edge tapped the bottom of the picture frame containing Deb and Kevin. “Well, then. Thank you for your time. The recruiter will be in touch.”
She stood. “By the way.” She smiled and pushed her hair back from her face. “Politics aren’t about money, they’re about people wanting power over other people.”
He put the pen on the desk, lining it up at the side of his computer keyboard. He stood and walked around the desk. He held out his hand to shake hers. “I’d like to make you an offer.”
She smiled coyly. “Right on the spot? That’s very impulsive.”
It was impulsive, but he had no choice. Yes, her looks were dangerous, but not hiring someone this smart was dangerous in another way. It was putting too much emphasis on perception and not enough about what the company and the department needed. About what he needed.
This week’s flash fiction is a bit of back story for Vanessa — one of the main characters in my next novel, GETTING AHEAD, coming April 2014. Here’s a preview of the cover.