Interview Tales – I Got Job Rights

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Building a new facility in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was when I had my first foray into work that is considered HR. Brought in as a technical trainer, I started working with the new work teams and helped design the concepts around balance of skills that we utilized to make this self-managed team facility work.

I was developing skills in operations management as well, as part of my development plan to become part of plant management in the future. So I frequently was given some odds and ends sort of tasks, like coming the lobby the day that James Roy Birdwell came to office.

Gloria, our receptionist, called me to tell me that Mr Birdwell was in the lobby and wanted to speak to someone about his new job. We hired in groups at the time, and we hadn’t sent out offers for the next group. Plus, I knew all the names in the new recruitment class, and this wasn’t one of them.

I walked into the little two-chair lobby, an alcove really, and came face to face with James Roy. He was a broad shouldered man, looked to me to be in his mid-forties (not that that matters or that I was considering that for any reason whatsoever), and he reached out his hand and offered what proved to be a very strong handshake. After the “nice to meet you’s”, I asked him what I could do for him.

“Well, sir” he said, “as I was tellin’ Miss Gloria here, I’m here to find out when I start.”

“Start”, I asked?

“My job” he responded. “I want to work here.”

“Ok, well let me tell you how you go about applying for a job here. I can give you an application now, but you can’t take it with you, you need to fill it out here.” Our hiring process was actually pretty-well known. We were the first tenant in a new industrial park, and everything about us was frequently in the paper.

“I don’t need to apply here Mr. Tim. I got job rights.”

I was stumped. My HR boss never explained this particular claim to me, so I was hoping maybe Birdwell was going to help me fill in the blanks. He did.

“This here plant is built on the land my granddad sold to the city years ago. He told me that when they build anything, I should by rights get a job there.”

He really believed he had “job rights”.

I again explained our process, and I took his application, which he reluctantly filled out. He was polite but a little peeved, and told me he would be contacting the Mayor’s Office to let them know that we were making him apply just like everyone else.

But City Hall never called. And Mr. Birdwell never showed up for the interview we eventually called him in for.

But I have thought about that as an original, noble effort to get a job. I think it ranks right up there with clever use of QR codes that lead you to video of the candidate. Wait, that is so 2011.

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