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What A Load Of Bull

, , , , , | Working | May 6, 2021

I’m a biologist at a small startup biotech company, small enough that we don’t have a human resources department, only an HR consultant who shows up once a week. As such, in addition to our regular jobs, the scientists are in charge of reading resumes, interviewing candidates, etc. Frankly, it’s kind of a fun break from our lab work, and it’s helpful for us to have a hand in identifying the candidates who would be easiest to work with.

My lab work involves the cryopreservation of an experimental vaccine, which means finding ways to keep it stable at extremely cold temperatures. (No, it’s not one of the vaccines for the current health crisis.)

One of my colleagues has just finished interviewing a candidate for a Research Associate — entry-level — position. It’s my turn to interview him next, even though the candidate wouldn’t be working in my department. My colleague smiles at me in the hall and hands me his information.

Colleague: “This will be interesting.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Colleague: “You’ll see.”

I enter the interview room. The candidate is a typical guy just out of college, wearing a nice suit, and he has the most smug look on his face I’ve ever seen. I introduce myself, tell him a little about my department’s goal of cryopreserving a particular vaccine, and start to ask questions about his experience. After a while, he interrupts himself.

Candidate: “By the way, I know how to solve your problem.”

Me: “What problem?”

Candidate: “Cryopreservation.”

This is essentially the primary research goal of my whole department, so I’m curious to hear what someone who just walked in our doors might think is the way to “solve our problem.”

Candidate: “Bull semen.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Candidate: “Bull semen. It helps with cryopreservation.”

Me: “Are you saying… we should add bull semen to our vaccine?”

Candidate: “Yup!”

He sits back, smiles, and crosses his hands behind his head, and then he says something I’ll never forget.

Candidate: “But I’m not going to give you all my good ideas today. First, you have to hire me.”

I was somehow able to keep a straight face through the rest of the interview. Discussing it with colleagues later, we concluded that he must have Googled “cryopreservation” before arriving and read that cryopreservation is often used in the cattle industry with bull semen. He then decided that this tangentially related thing he just learned must be the solution to our problems and that he could use this as a bargaining chip to get hired.

We did not hire him. And we did not add bull semen to our vaccine. But “I’m not going to give you all my good ideas today” became an inside joke around the lab for a while.

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