Paranoia (017 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
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Part One: 7 (Cont'd)

Later, I learned who Judith Bolton was. She was a senior VP who'd been brought into Wyatt Telecom a few years earlier as a powerhouse consultant with McKinsey & Company to advise Nicholas Wyatt personally on sensitive personnel issues, "conflict resolution" in the uppermost echelons of the company, certain psy-ops aspects of deals, negotiations, and acquisitions. She had a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, so she was called Dr. Bolton. Whether you called her an "executive coach" or a "leadership mastery strategist," she was kind of like Wyatt's private Olympic trainer. She advised him on who was executive material and who wasn't, who should be fired, who was plotting behind his back. She had an x-ray eye for disloyalty. No doubt he'd hired her away from McKinsey at some ridiculous salary. She was powerful enough and secure enough here to contradict him to his face, say shit to him he wouldn't take from anybody else.

"Now, our first assignment is to learn how to do a job interview," she said.

"I got hired here," I said, feebly.

"We're playing in a whole new league, Adam," she said, smiling. "You're a hotshot, and you have to interview like a hotshot, someone Trion's going to fall all over themselves to steal away from us. How do you like working at Wyatt?"

I looked at her, feeling stupid. "Well, I'm trying to leave there, aren't I?"

She rolled her eyes, inhaled sharply. "No. You keep it positive." She turned her head to one side and then did an amazing imitation of my voice: "I love it! It's totally inspiring! My co-workers are great!" The mimicry was so good, it weirded me out; it was like hearing your voice on an answering machine tape.

"So why am I interviewing at Trion?"

"Opportunities, Adam. There's nothing wrong with your job at Wyatt. You're not disgruntled. You're just taking the logical next step in your career, and there are more opportunities at Trion to do even bigger, better things. What's your greatest weakness, Adam?"

I thought for a second. "Nothing, really," I said. "Never admit to a weakness."

She scowled. "Oh, for Christ's sake. They'll think you're either delusional or stupid."

"It's a trick question."

"Of course it's a trick question. Job interviews are minefields, my friend. You have to 'admit' to weaknesses, but you must never tell them anything derogatory. So you confess to being too faithful a husband, too loving a father." She did the Adam-voice again: "Sometimes I get so comfortable with one software application that I don't explore others. Or: sometimes when little things bother me, I don't always speak up, because I figure most things tend to blow over. You don't complain enough! Or how about this: I tend to get really absorbed in a project, so I sometimes put in long hours, too long, because I love doing them, doing them right. Maybe I work on things more than is necessary. Get it? They'll be salivating, Adam."

I smiled, nodded. Man, oh man, what had I gotten myself into?

"What's the biggest mistake you ever made on the job?"

"Obviously I have to admit something," I said nervously.

"You're a fast study," she said dryly.

"Maybe I took on too much once, and I—"

"—And you fucked it up? So you don't know the depths of your own incompetence? I don't think so. You say, 'Oh, nothing really big. Once I was working on a big report for my boss and I forgot to back up, and my computer crashed, I lost everything. I had to stay up till three in the morning, completely re-create the work I'd lost. Boy, did I learn my lesson—always back up.' Get it? The biggest mistake you ever made was not your fault, plus you made everything right."

"I get it." My shirt collar felt too tight, and I wanted to get out of there.

"You're a natural, Adam," she said. "You're going to do just fine."

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