Leighton started his career as an apprentice ICT technician for a Secondary school. The job was roughly what you would expect, but the interview went down as one of the most surreal moments of Leighton's life. With his first interview scheduled to begin at 9:15 AM, Leighton arrived forty-five minutes early in his new suit and tie. At T-minus two minutes he remained the only candidate in the reception area, and his confidence was growing. But at 9:13, in walked Dave.

Dave had a strut to him, an air of cool detachment that Leighton couldn't seem to match, even though they were about the same age and Dave had elected to wear jeans and a t-shirt. It turned out they were vying for the same position, but while Leighton was relying on his community college experience, Dave had been putting computers together since he was in Secondary school. By the time the receptionist asked them who wanted to go first, Leighton's confidence was on the floor in pieces. His brand new tie seemed uncomfortably tight, and the collar of his dress shirt kept tickling his neck. Dave was out of his chair before Leighton could say anything, and looked back at his competitor with a smirk.

"Don't worry, buddy," Dave said, "I'll get them warmed up for ya."

The next fifteen minutes felt like months. Leighton strained to make out what the muffled voices behind the door were saying. When Dave emerged, he looked like the cat that caught the (computerized in this case) canary, and he patted Leighton on the shoulder.

"Good luck, little fella! Those questions were tough, even for me."

When Leighton sat down across from the senior ICT technician and the head of IT, he was sure they could tell he was sweating straight through his suit jacket. An old PC sat on the table between them, and the senior tech slid off the case and turned its guts towards Leighton.

"This is just a simple test to confirm where you're at," the head of IT explained. "One of this computer's RAM chips is bad. Figure out which one, and replace it with one of the chips on the table. Note that not all of the replacement chips work, either."

Leighton nodded and got to work, some of his confidence returning; he'd had an exercise very similar to this as part of his final exams. He quickly isolated the bad chip and pulled it out, and had a working chip in its place in no time at all. The rest of the interview went smoothly, as Leighton could also slave the hard drive to the CD-ROM drive and confirm it was detected in the BIOS. Finally, he was to share a network folder with all users but give the pupils read-only access to it. Though he hadn't yet worked with server software very much, Leighton managed to muddle through. It was only when he left the room and saw Dave stretched out in his chair, smiling that confident smile, that Leighton's heart sank: he was still up against a candidate with way more experience.

"Take a seat," the receptionist said, picking up her phone. "You'll be meeting with the Headteacher and one of the Governors next."

Leighton slumped back into his seat across from Dave. This next interview was sure to be a formality, but he could hardly just leave. He made reluctant small talk with his adversary as they waited for the heads of the school to arrive. When they did, Dave went in first again. This time, when he emerged the smile was gone from his face. Leighton found the Headteacher and Governor waiting for him with arms crossed. He hardly had time to sit down before they launched into questions.

"You're just out of school yourself, correct?" Leighton nodded at the Headteacher, who was leaning across the table somewhat aggressively. "How do you feel about working with people who are only a couple of years younger than yourself?"

"I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea," Leighton assured her. "I expect some amount of disrespect given my age, but I'm prepared to shrug it off and get on with the job."

Immediately, the Governor jumped in. "Our oldest students are sixteen, and they can be a little too familiar with the staff. Are you prepared to deal with that?"

"Well, obviously the situation would be delicate and would have to be handled accordingly," Leighton said. The Governor raised his eyebrows, and he continued. "I would explain to the pupils that their behaviour was unacceptable, and leave the room as quickly as possible to defuse the situation." That earned a curt nod from the Governor, but the Headteacher leaned even further forward.

"Let's cut to the chase here," she said. "If the pupil in question was a girl who was blatantly trying to get you on your own, what would you do?"

Leighton was taken aback. "Well, as I said, I would explain to the pupil that this wasn't acceptable, leave the room, and report the matter to my manager at once."

The Headteacher returned to her chair, and the atmosphere in the room lightened almost visibly. His interviewers offered their hands, and thanked Leighton for his time.

The job offer followed shortly, and Leighton spent all the time between then and his first day on the job wondering about that second interview, and about Dave. By the afternoon of his orientation day, he couldn't take it anymore. He turned to his boss, the senior IT technician.

"I've got to admit, I'm a little surprised Dave didn't get the job. He had way more experience."

"Dave?" His boss laughed. "Yeah. His technical chops were good. But we had serious concerns in other areas."

"Oh," Leighton said, and considered dropping the matter. But he was just too curious. "Um, what areas exactly, if you'll pardon my asking?"

"Well, did the Head happen to ask you what you'd do if a female pupil came onto you?"

"Yes..."

"She asked Dave that, too. Want to know what he said?" Leighton nodded. "He said, 'What would I do, or what should I do?'"

"You're not serious."

"Yup. And then he laughed."

"Really."

"He really did," said Leighton's boss. "Needless to say, the Headteacher did not."

 

Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan / Foter / CC BY