We’re looking to hire a clerical assistant at work. Having just gone through a job search (vicariously) with #2 daughter, I was particularly aware of the process. The first thing that struck me was how little time we spent with each application. The ad had listed specific skills, including machines and software the person needed to be able to use, and anyone who didn’t mention that specific set of skills or experience was out right away. Grammatical errors and such — gone. We are, after all, looking for someone highly accurate. The Empress looks for a stable job history, so spotty experience crossed them right off the list.

This is the right way to do it, of course. The whole point of the applications is to winnow down the field quickly to just a few to interview. In our local job climate, job-hunters aren’t available for long, so there is no time for lollygagging. But I thought about the hours the candidates had probably spent working on their resumes, and the bare minutes we spent reading them, and it seemed a little poignant.

Later, a customer was talking loudly on his cell phone. People do that all the time, and it doesn’t bother me, but I also cannot help but hear what they say. “He doesn’t understand,” the man was complaining. “He doesn’t believe that bipolar disorder exists. He doesn’t understand that I was so depressed that day that I just couldn’t function at all.” Shortly thereafter, he ended that call and began another. “I hear that you are looking to hire people,” this one started.

Is he planning to tell his prospective employer that there are days when he just can’t function at all? Probably not.

The Empress said we need someone without dramas, someone who will join the group smoothly and make things easier. I pointed out that we needed someone who would enjoy sitting in that office and working with the numbers. “They can’t be coming out here and talking to me,” I said forbiddingly.

You know I was joking. Sort of. The Empress also knew it, but recognized the reference to JJ, our most recent hire. They have been working together at the other store. “She probably has the skills we need,” said The Empress. “I bet she does,” I agreed, “but she’s not discreet enough. She’s too emotional.” We are very glad to have her, and she does a good job, but we were in agreement that she wouldn’t be what we needed for the new position. Nor would she want that position, fortunately. But thinking about it helped clarify for us what we are looking for in a worker.

So we need someone who can run the machinery and the programs we need them to, and enjoy it, and not require a lot of emotional investment from us. Someone discreet and honest and capable. Someone who will not have to support a family on what we can afford to pay them. Someone who will stay long enough to justify our investment in training them. Where can we find such a paragon?

That Man intends to hand the candidates a stack of checks and have them prepare and post a deposit. If they can’t do that right off, they will have shown their lack of fitness for the position. The Empress thinks there is a bit of pressure there, but I agree with That Man. I think their eyes ought to light up at the prospect of getting their hands on his ten-key. I could do the task, but my heart would sink at the thought that such a thing would be the center of my work, and it would show. That Man can watch their hands and see if they have that real accountant rhythm, and I will watch their faces for that love of numbers, the appreciation of repetitive tasks, the pleasure in doing everything right.

It isn’t any easier to be the seeker of an employee than it is to be the seeker of an employer.