Tuesday, March 13, 2007

30. The Interviews

Rey Alejandro, Ed Roa
After the preliminaries I was scheduled to talk with Dr. Rey Alejandro, the Corporate Affairs Director. I was told that if I hurdled this I still had to be grilled by the Marketing Director, and then, as proforma, the Advertising Manager. The Corporate Affairs Director was Filipino. My first impression of him was that he seemed a bit stiff and exuded a rather studied air. In the course of the interview his being a Yalie with a Doctorates degree in Law just happened to come up. He spoke well but in a somewhat stilted manner. Later on I would discover that he was truly sincere and would offer support to those under his aegis. His mannerisms were just a question of preferred style that his detractors took to mean as arrogance. Naturally he asked me about my experiences in advertising. He seemed amused with the way I earned my spurs on the job. When asked about the campaigns I worked on I was quite effusive talking about the high profile brands I worked on. The brands in my portfolio of experiences were household names…Suki Soy sauce, Philip Morris, Sarsi, Volkswagen, Papa Piccolino, Sola cooking oil and Solacreme margarine White King cake mixes, Radiowealth appliances, Ajinomoto plus a few others that I was involved in either solely or part of a team in the two ad agencies I worked with in my three-year advertising career. I talked about them with the enthusiasm and exuberance of a winner.

Of particular interest to him was the additional competence I had in media work. I was not sure if I made a positive impression. Sometimes glibness turned off people, but I felt good having been able to cram my short career into twenty minutes of interview time. After the interview I had a sinking feeling that I won’t make it. I knew that recruitment practices tend to create a fraternal circle of like minds because the decision-makers’ criteria were based on qualities that more or less typified their own personalities and backgrounds. An ivy leaguer with a doctorate degree would epitomize such a decision-maker and may be the least sympathetic to someone with a spotty academic background like mine. Some form of perpetuation of the species dynamics could be at work here.

My interview was a success. A day later I received a phone call making arrangements for two more consecutive interviews towards the end of that week. This was it. I felt even more anxious this time because the possibility of being taken in was so real and the fact that the next two interviews would be from expats added to my apprehension. I have never been interviewed by expats nor have I ever had interactions with foreigners. Deep within me the “the hewers of wood and carriers of water” mentality that was at rest was stirred.

The interview with Chris Barber-Lomax, the Marketing Director, was a repeat of the things that I talked about in the interview with the Corporate Affairs Director. He struck me as someone who was hard to impress. While he allowed me to talk uninterruptedly, he had put on a mien that made me feel that he was disinterested and somewhat indifferent to what I was saying. Perhaps it was I who was at fault. I couldn’t muster the same kind of verve in my tone of voice as in the earlier interview with the Corporate Director. When he turned to more personal things his demeanor changed abruptly. It was fascinating how he could have turned friendly and fatherly almost, segued without a transition device as it were. He asked about my family, wife, children, siblings and preferences in entertainment and how I spent my leisure time. It amused him to find out that I had media celebrity brothers and a famous movie star as sister in law. Finally he asked me if I played soccer and basketball. I said I played a little soccer in early high school but I did play a lot of basketball. He was glad that I had athletic inclinations because they were trying to put together a team to play in the company intramurals. That was the other surprising thing in my having qualified for the position. I could have played the center position in a basketball team of midgets and I had a scrawny frame that “athletic” would seem to be a farfetched description.

My interview with Hank Nijk, the Advertising Manager, was brief. I learned from him that he was about to leave Unilever in a few days. He was among the many Jewish people who have volunteered to work in the kibbutz in the young Israeli nation then. Jews like him who were successful businessmen, executives, scientists and others left behind their lucrative practices and comfortable lives heeded the call to help in building their nation. I was very impressed at such nobility of heart.

Immediately after the interview I was asked to go to the Personnel Department building where I was informed by Ted Teodoro, the Personnel Manager that I will be taken in at the start of the New Year, but before then, I was to undergo medical examinations to make sure that I was fit to work.

Oh what a glorious day it was! As I stepped out of the portals of the PRC main building the sun outshone itself for me and the people in the cars out there in the traffic of United Nations Avenue seemed to be cheering…Bravo! Well done, Ed!”

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