THE INTERVIEW
“Well, that concludes the first part of the interview.” His kindly brown eyes regarded me across the desk as his left hand sought and found a bell-push to his right. “Miss Smith will escort you to the executive tea room. She will fetch you back here in twenty minutes. I think we have earned a break, don’t you?”
Miss Smith had silently appeared from the outer office and indicated that I should follow her. As I did so I looked back at the bearlike figure of the interviewer who had risen to his feet. Full marks, I thought, his appearance was ideal. He was dressed in well worn but expensive tweeds. His ruddy countryman’s face exuded good humour despite the lines that betrayed a life of rich experience. As I left the room I had the sudden thought that all he lacked was a briar-pipe and the rich smell of tobacco. Fat chance of that! in this air-conditioned modernity.
Sipping my Earl Grey tea, I reviewed the interview so far. Miss Smith, as colourless as her name, had left me after quickly providing the refreshments. We certainly did deserve a break. Mr Jones, the interviewer, had taken me remorselessly through my CV. His questions were penetrating, showing a good general knowledge of some very technical aspects of my specialty. I was very glad of the intensive cramming I had done in preparation for this. Doubtless he too had spent the previous evening boning up on the necessary questions.
I thought once again of my task, reviewing my objectives. I must appear sincere in my desire for the position of senior technical director (R&D) whilst concealing my real role. My secondary task was to evaluate the interview, the interviewer, his methods, his skills, the ambience he created, his use of props, and above all, they had told me, his RELIABILITY!
There WAS something wrong, I felt it. Something not quite right about the set up. It evaded me, so I deliberately relaxed, going into a meditation mode, but conscious of a need for caution. I didn’t want Miss Smith to come back and find me apparently asleep.
Then I got it. Jones was left handed. He wrote with that strange upside-down crab-like motion that left-handers use. I remembered thinking that it was peculiarly effective in concealing what was written from those of us capable of reading inverted script. Why then was the bell-push on the right-hand side of the desk? Perhaps he is using someone else’s desk. But no; the whole room, the whole decor, has been tuned to this man. It was HIM. Not just the family photo showing a younger Jones and an attractive open faced woman holding a toddler on her hip, the pictures on the wall, the colour of the carpet even the furniture; everything reinforced the image that was Jones. And yet the bell-push was on the right.
Was Jones really Jones? Or was he someone role playing a real, but right-handed Jones. Wild possibilities raced through my head. Had “Jones” been planted; and, if so. by whom? Us or Them?

If Us, then why. Who was being tested? Perhaps I myself was being evaluated. I suddenly felt like a real interviewee. Were my masters testing my ability to spot anomalies such as the bell-push. Or Them! If They had succeeded in substituting their man for Jones, why choose a left-hander. It might deceive me, but all the other staff would be quick to spot something so obvious. What if they had replaced the whole staff? I pulled myself together before rampant paranoia took over. And just in time; Miss Smith had made her usual silent entry. “Mr Jones is ready, Sir” She turned and led the way, maintaining her lead to avoid an attempt at conversation.

Jones came from behind his desk and indicated a couple of easy chairs near a low coffee table. “Our conversation corner.” We sat down. “Well, Mr Brown, I’m pleased to tell you that you are on a short list of three. Perhaps I shouldn’t say so, but as far as I am concerned you head that list and I have recommended accordingly. Shall we drink to your success? Single malt scotch?” He raised an eyebrow and smiled. As he poured the drinks he spoke over his shoulder, “Just a few details on your salary package. We like to tailor it to suit your own financial management scheme. A company car is, of course, understood, but the type of car is open for discussion. I’m afraid Rolls Royces and Bentleys are reserved for top management but we can do you a nice line m Mercedes!”

Things seemed to be rushing ahead. Somehow Jones was taking the initiative, as, indeed, as the interviewer, he had a right to do. But there was something more, a hint of mockery. There was a gleam of amusement in the blue eyes that regarded me over the rim of his glass. Blue! His eyes were blue! As .1 looked at him in amazement, he took a small notebook from his breast pocket and, with its tiny pencil, he wrote a short note, with his right hand!

“Right, then. Mercedes let it be.” I raised my glass. And let us drink to a successful decision by the selection committee. May the Ayes have it!”
His eyes flicked a quick glance at the security camera blinking evilly from a corner near the ceiling. Eyes everywhere!”
I made my decision; he, or they, have passed the test. I hope that I have.

H.St,V,Beechey
1993