'Ninth pin' ruins otherwise good day

'Ninth pin' ruins otherwise good day

Oct 01, 2002

Have you ever noticed the similarity between hiring an employee and purchasing a new shirt?

The shirt looks good in the store. You take it home, remove it from the wrapper and proceed to find and remove each of the eight pins that hold it to the cardboard. However, when you try it on, you find the ninth pin. Or should I say it finds you.

The job applicant may have a great resume and answer each of your questions as if they could read your mind. You may think that you left no stone unturned. Then, their second day on the job, you find out they are leaving town in six months, are on probation for embezzlement and don't know the alphabet.

The only veterinarian I know who has never run into such a problem is my friend, Arnie. As I have written many times, Arnie is the greatest source of wit and wisdom that veterinary medicine has ever known. He can find the ninth pin in any job candidate. So, when he invited me to join him as he interviewed for a new technician, I jumped at the chance.

The first applicant was Rosy Outlook. Arnie, knowing that the secret to a successful interview lies in doing more listening and less talking, asked Rosy about her previous job.

"It was great," she said. "We all got along so well that the days seemed short. There was a spirit of teamwork that I just loved. We all had official job descriptions, but no one let a task go undone just because it was someone else's responsibility. Sometimes we would go out together after work just to laugh at the things that happened during the day; you know, things that clients do, like insisting on giving their dog's age in dog years or asking for a bowl of water in the exam room because they think their dog is thirsty. One time we had a client complain about the fleas on her dog. She claimed that they must have come from his visit to the clinic eight months earlier. You know why? Because she was sure that her dog couldn't get fleas at home since there was a fence around her yard. Our hospital had a Bone Head Hall of Fame and she won a place of honor there. I was sorry that my husband's employer moved us to Pennsylvania. If I get a job here, do you think I'll find the co-workers to be as nice as the ones I left?"

Arnie assured her that she would find his staff to be just as pleasant.

Our next candidate, Alice Grousing, had a very different previous job experience.

"I hated my last job," she said. "The clients were idiots. There must have been something in the water in that town. A person would come in because there was a lump on their cat and then, when they got to the hospital, they couldn't find it. Or, they would tell you that their stupid mutt was a purebred just because it resembled a picture in the dog book. I remember one moron who didn't want anyone to hold his nasty cat while I took a blood sample. He wanted to do bird calls to distract the cat while I risked my fingers on his stupid animal. I could've punched the guy. The people I worked with weren't much better. I used to count the number of times that I answered the phone. Sometimes it was more than other people and I'd just let it ring until someone else got it. If I wasn't careful, I'd have wound up doing more than my share. They were the kind of people who had more to say behind your back than they did to your face. It was a relief when the boss told me that he wouldn't be needing me anymore. If I get a job here, I hope I'll find the people a lot better to work with than the ones I left."

Arnie gave her the disappointing news. She would find his staff to be just as bad. I told you he was a wise man.