Honesty Is Emergency Route To Success

, , , , , | Working | January 14, 2021

I am job hunting. A local temp agency has a job listed, so I apply. They call me that afternoon, and I can smell the desperation through the phone. Apparently, I am the only Excel expert who has replied at all.

I interview the next day. Let the parade of facepalms begin!

The large company needs to update their emergency escape maps so that, in the event of a fire, employees and visitors know where to run and where to gather. Doesn’t sound much like an Excel job yet.

They have hand-drawn maps of some sites, architectural drawings from some sites, and pictures from a helicopter of one. And they had one electronic file! Some gifted employee had drawn a map in Paint, put it in an Excel file (for reasons never explained), and sent it in.

The project manager, a brilliant but non-technical guy, looked at all this and decided that Excel must be the tool to use. And they needed an expert, because, well, experts make them look better.

I have a policy to never visibly facepalm during a job interview. I follow my policy but the temptation is so strong.

Me: “Excel, while an awesome tool, is absolutely the wrong tool for the job. You’re trying to drive nails with a CNC lathe. I recommend that you find somebody who is good with MS Visio.”

We shake hands and I leave.

The temp agency calls while I am driving home.

Temp Agency Rep: “Can you please spell ‘Visio’ for us?”

I do. They call me back again later that afternoon. 

Temp Agency Rep: “Do you know how to use Visio?”

Me: “I do; it is really pretty simple.”

Temp Agency Rep: “The boss you interviewed with was impressed enough with your honestly suggesting he hire someone else that he wants to hire you.”

So, I spent six months tracing Google Earth images of worksites and figuring out which escape routes fit our state’s fairly vague rules for emergency escape maps. Easy work, nice people.

The job could have been done in a fraction of that time by a decent graphic designer, but they wanted me, I wanted the paycheck, and the work got done.


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