A Conversation with Boots Sharon

This is of course Ann Coulter, but it’s how I picture the real Boots.

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I’m gravely tempted to put forward the proposition that personnel directors are the adult equivalent of the high school guidance counselor. The guidance counselor has historically taken a great deal of ribbing, predominantly from successful people told at a young age that they were not really cut out to be what they wanted to be, and yet it’s the personnel director, who is in truth the real life barrier to your success. As befuddled as most guidance counselors may be, perhaps they were merely trying to warn us that the gates to success were guarded by a personnel director.

 

At least the position of guidance counselor requires some sort of training. Whether that training exceeds the alphabetization of college catalogs, is beside the point. What are the qualifications of a personnel director? Do personnel directors hire other personnel directors or does someone else have to do it?
 
My understanding of most successful operations is as follows. A small group of entrepreneurs form a small company. In most cases these entrepreneurs either drank their way through a mediocre collegiate career or at the advice of their guidance counselor skipped higher education altogether. If successful, this merry group of misfits begins to expand to bigger and better things by hiring a personnel director to screen incoming job applicants.
 
I’ve always found it extremely amusing how many senior executives muse bewilderedly at the fact that they would never have had the qualifications necessary to be hired by the company they have spent years successfully building and operating.
 
I can’t really say how I would set forth on improving the process, but I refuse to honor these people, whose main function seems to be the examination of a cover letter and a resume.
 
I made a long distance phone call from Cleveland to the San Francisco branch of Goldman Sachs merely to inquire as to the extent of their local derivative operation if such an operation even existed.
 
Usually you have to go through a few steps to get to the personnel director.
 
1) Pray that you get a human and not a recording. Recordings have little sympathy for the fact that you are phoning long distance.
 
2) Cross your fingers that the switchboard operator has referred you to the proper person and can actually forward your call correctly.
 
3) If you get a secretary plead with her to actually let you through to the person to whom you seek.
 
If at any point you wind up in the person’s voice mail or forced to leave a message, hang up immediately. Personnel directors are much too skilled and talented to return phone calls. Resumes were invented so that these people could avoid talking to you in the first place.
 
Lo and behold I actually got through to one Boots Sharon, personnel director Goldman-Sachs, San Francisco Branch.
 BS: Hello
 ME: Hi, how are you doing my name is Brad Laidman and I was wondering …
 BS: (pouncing like a lion on its prey) Now if you really cared how I was doing you would have paused.
 ME: I’m sorry?
 BS: You clearly don’t care how I’m doing or you wouldn’t have proceeded on about your way without waiting for an answer.

 Alright, she had me I had made the awful mistake of using a colloquial greeting that had truly lost its meaning, but is this really a crime in today’s corporate world. Remember the show What’s Happening where in each episode Re-Run would say “Hey Rog what’s happening?” No one assaulted Re-Run. It was generally established as a form of greeting. I’m not proud of my verbal laxness, but neither did I feel that it was a capital offense.
 ME: I suppose you’re right, but what I was calling …
 BS: Now, why don’t you start over. I would suggest that you leave the question out completely and just start with your name.
 ME: I can’t believe this twenty seconds and I’m being mocked.
 BS: One can not help, but to mark one by the way he presents himself orally.
 ME: I don’t think you caught my inference I said mock.
 BS: M-O-C-K
 ME: Yes
 BS: Oh, I see. It’s always been a wonder to me about how people can be so lax with their language. For instance, the phrase full of lice is incorrect. Do you know what the singular of lice is?
 ME: The singular of life?
 BS: No Lice. L-I-C-E
 ME: I suppose it’s the singular for that species of insect.
 BS: Yes it louse. And it should be he’s lousy.
 ME: Oh.
 BS: Now, let’s start over.
 ME: I’m sorry, start over with what?
 BS: Start over as if I had just answered the phone. I can’t say that I remember your name.
 ME: I’m not really sure that I want to give it to you now.
 BS: Well, nevertheless let’s start over.
 ME: Look I’m calling long distance, I really don’t have time for this.
 BS: Where are you calling from?
 ME: Cleveland
 BS: Well than why are you calling San Francisco?
 ME: I live in San Francisco
 BS: So what are you doing in Cleveland?
 ME: I’m visiting my parents.
 BS: Oh, so it’s their dime.
 ME: I’m pretty sure it’s up to more than a dime. Is any of this relevant?
 BS: Well, we’re not really hiring people out of college at this time. The cycle usually begins in May.
 
 I think personnel directors are like the guys who draft basketball players out of college. For the most part they have a year long job that entitles about a month’s worth of work leading up to the NBA draft.
 
 ME: Look I’m not in college. I merely would . . .
 BS: Well, what are your qualifications then?
 ME: I worked for O’Connor and Associates for five years.
 BS: What straight out of high school?
 ME: HUH?
 BS: What are your collegiate qualifications.
 ME: I was Phi Beta Kappa at Northwestern. Look do you know anything about the firm that I just mentioned.
 BS: No.
 ME: Well, they are probably the pre-eminent derivatives firm in the country.
 BS: And this means?
 ME: Look I’m not applying for a job, I’d merely like to know the extent of your derivatives operation in San Francisco.
 BS: Oh, well you would have to talk to someone else about that.

 At which point she gave me the number of the person that I really wanted to talk to.

 BS: You must understand that it is important for you to present yourself accurately. I wasn’t merely trying to harass you. I, nevertheless, think that this was good for you.
 ME: You know I was in the hospital once and a doctor asked me how I was feeling and I said that I felt nauseous. He explained to me that I was really nauseated. For me to be nauseous I would be making him and everyone else in the room feel nausea.
 BS: (seeming to feel a bit of camaraderie) Oh that’s a good one and quite right.
 ME: Yeah, well despite the grammatical faux pas, he knew exactly what I was talking about, and you know he never got around to helping me either.
 

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