PCP. This abbreviation reigns supreme at the recruitment firm I work for. P for presentation (“Sloppy dressing, the candidate did not wear a tie and his coat was not stiff.”). C for communication (“Decent speaker though he confused coffin for closet when he said: ‘I cleaned out the skeletons in the coffin’.”). P for potential (“Has IT in his blood but changes jobs frequently, so low placeability.”) The ratings are done on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being best. A PCP of 2, 2, 2 is generally considered excellent. 1, 1, 1 and the candidate has descended from the heavens.
When we meet candidates we observe them like hawks. We keep a copy of their CVs and after introducing the company, request them to take us through their profiles chronologically, from their graduation. As part of my training, I have been inviting three to four candidates every day to our office in Bandra Kurla Complex. Since I am new, I was not permitted to conduct these interviews alone. I “shadow” a senior.
Vanessa Sequiera. At the outset, a P (presentation) of 2. Dressed in a crisp salwar suit with matching earrings and open hair, Vanessa is smart and confident. C, 2 too. She introduces herself with ease, and conveys her thoughts clearly. P (potential), let’s wait till the interview is over.
I am shadowing Chitra for this one. Chitra sits next to me, and is two years younger. She has been at this place since the launch of the India office last year and was at Singapore before this. At first glance, she is a likeable sort with a no-nonsense approach to work. She worked for the finance team before she switched to HR and frequently arouses jealousy because she has a knack for turning around deals quick.
Chitra does the introductory spiel and asks Vanessa to take us though her profile. Vanessa, who started working when she was 22, is a married woman of 33 today. In the past 10 years, she has changed three jobs, every time opting for a better profile within HR. She started with a family-owned fashion designer house where she set up the entire HR function from scratch. As a one-person team, she set about implementing payroll, performance management, training needs analysis and compensation and benefits. So successful was her stint at the fashion house and so deep her learning that she was picked up by a leading IT solutions provider in Bangalore as Assistant Manager — HR, responsible for Talent Acquisition and Management.
Vanessa speaks with restraint and explains in detail her responsibilities at the IT firm. I observe her and Chitra with interest. I have strict instructions from my boss to follow every word Chitra utters during the candidate interview to pick up the line of questioning fast and start conducting interviews on my own. Chitra asks Vanessa a range of questions, from the staff span she looked after at every job to the nature of her role within HR — operational versus strategic.
Vanessa answers Chitra’s questions patiently, bolstering her replies with facts and figures. At her last job, a web technology startup, she undertook three employee engagement projects, all of which were grand successes. In October last year, she took three months maternity leave, convinced that she would be in this job for the long haul.
When she returned in January, things had changed dramatically. The startup’s project pipeline had dried up and a key strategic division had been wrapped up. There were murmurs that the company might fold if new opportunities weren’t tapped soon. The mood was sombre and the cheery, young culture of the place that Vanessa remembered from three months ago seemed a distant memory.
And so she is looking. Listening to her tale, I feel a deep empathy with her, especially her need to find a good job soon, now that she has a baby. When Chitra and I say goodbye to her, I am certain we will be able to find her a good placement, given her background and successes.
The moment she is out of the door, Chitra says: “What a shit candidate!” with a passion that stumps me for its spite. “What?” I say. “She hasn’t done anything strategic in any role so far and she has been working 10 years. Operational, generalist profile. What can we do with her? Nothing. And at Rs 16.6 lakh, she is way below our league.”
Slick. Glib. Smooth. That’s Chitra for you. Cuts to the chase. With our IIM degrees and six-figure salaries, we corporate types, you see, are masters of the world. We live in a smoke-filled cocoon whose beguiling security we guard with ferocity. And we learn fast. We learn to use cuss words with abandon. We learn to keep our shocks to ourselves. We learn that it is perfectly acceptable to trash people who don’t bring us money.
I return to my desk and open a Word doc. Vanessa Sequiera, I type in. PCP: 2,2,4. I regurgitate what Chitra said as reasons for a 4 for Potential. I repeatedly click the tab for the Word doc in the system tray. Vanessa’s name flashes before my eyes in waves of reflected intensity. I am thinking of her, but I cannot indulge thoughts of her. Another candidate interview beckons, and I am learning fast.
All names have been changed to protect identity.
The author has switched too many jobs in the past and hopes he can hold down this one