HIRING IN THE MODERN ERA
By Andrew Biggs
I have a problem which is making me tear my hair out … metaphorically of course.
I am in the process of hiring new staff but it just doesn’t seem to be getting off the ground. In fact it has been a dismal, utter failure.
“We need more front counter staff and sales girls,” I announced at a recent staff meeting, a meeting dubbed the Anti-Think-Tank by some less loyal staff, since they allege it consists of my barking orders, everybody silently jotting down those orders, then at the close of the meeting getting back to the real business of the day, which is counting likes on Facebook.
My announcement elicited an embarrassed cough from my second in charge. “We don’t call them that any more,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Sales girls,” she said, smiling apologetically.
“Oh, of course. I forgot. We are an equal opportunity employer. Sales staff.”
“No, that’s not correct either,” she continued.
She explained that offices no longer have front counter and sales staff. For the front counter, they have Customer Service Representatives. Sales girls, both female and male, are now Business Development Representatives. Good lord. Did our collective heads just disappear up our collective best-not-named orifices just then?
Call them what you like. What I failed to account for is that I am trying to employ millennials.
Earlier this year Bloomberg came out with an index of nations that put Thailand at the very bottom. It would be an interesting experiment to go out and ask people what they thought that index was ranking. We’d have gotten all sorts of answers, wouldn’t we, such as corruption, traffic jams, ability to forge a relationship based on love as opposed to material possessions, etc.
Those answers are all wrong. That Bloomberg index was what they call their annual “misery index.” It measures the happiness of countries based on economic indicators.
Thailand is at the very bottom of the misery index. It means we’re the happiest place on earth!
According to Bloomberg, Thailand and Switzerland are the places to be if you seek happiness, albeit from an economic standpoint. We beat the Europeans, the Americans, and even the Oceaniacs if there is such a word. Martial law is apparently of little consequence to a nation that wants to get off on being happy.
Bloomberg is defining “happiness” as anywhere with low inflation and unemployment. Thailand has an unemployment rate of less than one per cent. Despite the economy being sluggish, despite martial law, and despite rock-bottom prices in commodities such as rubber, everybody has a job.
I dare to challenge Bloomberg. There’s nothing joyous about near-zero unemployment. As an employer it means nothing but misery.
In my language school I have written my own textbooks. There are chapters devoted to applying for jobs, such as how to write a CV, how to dress for a job interview, and tips such as coming on time and not answering your mobile phone if it goes off during the interview.
One special area is salary. Sometimes negotiation is required, and sometimes there are fixed pay scales. This is a sensitive domain and traditionally it is the last thing to be covered in a job interview.
Not any more. The millennials have seen to that.
Here is a transcript, word for word, of one applicant (using the term loosely) who telephoned this week:
“I’m calling about the job at your school.”
“Customer Service. I need to know the salary.”
“Just tell me the salary, please. What do I start on? And is there any commission? If so, what percentage is it?”
Here is another who called on the same day:
“I’m interested in the Customer Service position.”
“When would you like to come in for an interview?”
“Well, I’d like to know the hours first.”
“Yes, because I can’t work weekends. I need that time to help my parents with their business. Plus I can’t work nights because my mother won’t let me. And I can’t start before 9 am because your school is too far from my house.”
“The position requires you work either Saturday or Sunday.”
“Then I can’t do it. Sorry.”
In the first instance, the caller has circumnavigated the entire interview process. None of this trivial business about what the job entails. She just wants to know if I am able to support her millennial lifestyle.
As for the second caller, she too has cut to the chase, ensuring the job fits in to her plans, as opposed to the other way around.
They were just two of perhaps a dozen phone calls along the same lines. My textbooks are hopelessly outdated.
I yearn for the olden days when potential candidates explained their talents and abilities, as well as asking about the scope and responsibilities of the vacant position. Such are the perils of living in a country with next-to-zero unemployment. No wonder we turn a blind eye to the Cambodians and Burmese who filter into the country looking for manual labor. If they weren’t doing such filtering, Thailand would literally implode.
Could it be millennials are just doing what we older folk have done but in a less blatant way; seeking out the best deal for oneself? I still think it’s an offshoot of near-zero unemployment. There was a bit of a controversy last month when a major Thai bank advertised vacancies, and in the ad they publicly announced they would only accept applicants from certain allegedly “better” universities. Why would a bank do such an un-PC thing? The answer — because they can.
Last Wednesday I had an extraordinary walk-in at my school.
He was a well-dressed young man in his twenties who appeared at the front counter asking if there was any work available. Anything. Security guard, driver? He was perhaps not as handsome as I am but he was certainly very presentable. He wore a white shirt and tie and black slacks, an outfit traditionally required for a job interview, and spoke impeccable English albeit with a strong accent. In his hand he held a one-page CV with no spelling mistakes whatsoever.
I would have given him a job on the spot if it weren’t for one thing. He was Filipino, a nationality I am unable to hire as office staff for legal reasons.
As I send this column to my editors, an email has just dropped into my inbox. I kid you not; one of my sales girls is quitting. That means I have another job vacancy here in Bangkok that needs to be filled.
I can’t get depressed over this. I cannot. There is no more hair to tear out. And, as Bloomberg claims, this is as happy as I’m gonna get on this earth.