An Argentine Job Interview, For a Kiwi
Jorge never asks to see my CV. Apparently it’s good enough to know that I am from New Zealand and have four years’ experience in the country’s biggest market research company (probably a fact one shouldn’t be too proud of). After only a brief chat about who I am he seems satisfied and promptly offers me an interviewee position in his call centre. He promises that I will be made supervisor should the other candidate pull out. It appears that my being recommended by a friend of a friend of my boyfriend was sufficient for me to not only be offered an interview, but also a job.
Tired of talking about his soon-to-be new employee, I find that I am about to learn some personalised facts about Argentina’s history. “You see Josie, I fought in the war of the Islas Malvinas” (go around Argentina calling these the Falkland Islands and you won’t be making any friends fast).
Jorge leans back in his chair, displaying the spread of a middle-aged man. He looks wistfully around his dingy, narrow office, running a finger across his thick, greying moustache. “See these certificates?” I’d spotted them as soon as I had set foot in his office, cloudy with cigarette smoke. They are proof of his time spent on the harsh landscape of the Falklands. Having been poorly equipped in the frigid conditions of the Falklands, as all of the Argentine soldiers were, no doubt contributed to his weathered face and cynicism of the current state of the country. As he places yet another cigarette in his mouth, I decide that I’d give him 55 rather than the 45 years he says he has.
Another job candidate knocks at the door. I’m asked to stick around – there’s more war talk to come soon I guess – and a sloppy student is brought into the office. Track pants, sneakers, a t-shirt. The guy slouches in his chair and doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic. Jorge doesn’t bat an eyelid at what I consider to be completely inappropriate interview attire. He flicks through the candidates CV – the mandatory photo, and information about marital status and children is included, and he promises a call back soon.
Tossing the CV on to his basic, no-frills desk, Jorge returns to our chat. “After the war I was a mess”, he explains, “so I did a few years in Europe”. He connects to Google earth. I’m shown maps of the towns where he lived – look at this, look at that. I’m told story after story about his time in Europe. I glance at my watch. I’d been in his office for an hour and a half already, but I guess this process was all about developing relationships.
Another candidate comes in. “Give this one an English test”, I’m ordered. Our job at the call centre would be to call retirees in the United States. Cheap Argentine labour makes international outsourcing from these types of companies very worthwhile. Andrés speaks good English, and seems more enthusiastic than the last guy. Jorge starts chatting about the war again and Andrés ends up staying for a while, thanks to his polite small talk.
After more than two hours, and more secretarial work, I’m released with a string of promises and great ideas for the future from Jorge.
I’m later called back and offered the supervisor roll with a great pay package – more than 3 times my rent. Jorge seems to find me very trustworthy – probably due to the fact that I’m foreign – and accepts everything I say at face value. It means a lot around these parts. I help to select other interviewers and conduct English tests. I’m then asked to run a one-week refresher course for the people that haven’t spoken English in a while. The fact that I have no English-teacher training and don’t speak with the American accent that the interviewers need doesn’t phase Jorge – the fact that I speak English at all is enough.
Three weeks later we’re advised that not enough interviewers spoke English with a proper American accent and we lose the campaign. Jorge drops his head in his hands, greatly disappointed but sure that this won’t break his company. I find myself, once again, amongst the many Argentines struggling to find work. Well, at least I learnt a bit about Argentine history.