The Danes put their families first – literally. At least the five who we interviewed this week did.
First up was Matias who proudly handed us each a carefully constructed A4 sheet all about himself. His life (so far) – on a page. “Age 37” he stated, then “Live with Helene, together we have Jonas – 2 years”. Two lines down “Voice : Hoarse, never a problem”.
Matias had a quite, whispering voice due to a restriction in his larynx. Only in Denmark could that be explained on the agency brief as “Matias has some physical damages from a premature birth”. In fact, it didn’t impair his presentation nor his confidence. He made light of it with a smile. I find I listen to quiet people easier than to loud ones.
Unfortunately Matias was rather process-oriented and despite his warm nature and strong values, he didn’t have an instinct for dealing with tricky, unpredictable people. He probably wasn’t tough and street-wise enough for our organisation. His life-page concluded with, “I dare to say, I am the most motivated candidate”. Unfortunately, he probably wont be our most employed candidate. We have to recruit with our heads as well as our hearts. He left with a smile, proudly telling us stories about his son, Jonas. Who is two, he reminded us. Lovely.
Next up was Mikkel who bounded into the room with more energy than any two year old.He began by describing with great glee his family. His wife is Lisbeth and they have two children, Sofie 18 and Emil 16. Emil is disabled and Mikkel has a keen interest in disability politics and the local school and enjoys playing his guitar.
He enthusiastically spread out six PowerPoint pages which summarised his life and values in words and pictures. “If you have ability you have a responsibility” the first one offered. “Is that why you play the guitar?” I quipped, and he laughed energetically. He had a picture of an ice-berg to illustrate that he preferred to work strategically above the water, rather be submerged in the detail. “Think global, act local” he enthused with such passion, that I almost believed he had invented the phrase. “You have to have big dreams to make deep change” he gushed. Who can argue.
I could not help but like the guy, with his unabashed and unembarrassed conclusions about life. We would never be so bold in England. “My personal strengths are” he concluded “visionary, enthusiastic, motivator and team player”. Lots of people write such things on their resumes, and they usually illicit my predictable English cynicism. I had never met anyone who lived up to what he claimed so clearly in an interview. Whatever he is on, I need some. He left undiminished, leaving us feeling both inspired and exhausted.
Tobias, in contrast, a major in computer science, simply stated “Single, 3 children”. Very concise. One wondered how much access he has to the children compared to his emotional pain. He interviewed very well, until we asked him a question he could not easily answer, when he unraveled a little. Who would he repair and relax with at home, we wondered. Anders also was simply “married to Anna with two grown up children aged 21 and 23”. he was teasing us with enough information to stimulate our curiosity, but not enough to satisfy us. I felt unfairly cheated of information until I remembered my own CV, which is even more reticent – “married with three children” . Some have said even this is unnecessarily personal.
Finally we met Erik, who gleefully handed out his printed equivalent of a facebook page. He proudly took us through three colour photos framing his priorities. The first showed Erik kicking a football at a diving goalkeeper. He didn’t lose any points for putting football before his family, who came up next. This photo showed his four beautiful children. His wife had to be more attractive than him, I thought unprofessionally. I glanced at his CV for the detail.
Spouse Pemille, year of Marriage 2009.
1. Child – Magnus, year of Birth 1995
2. Child – Kathrine Freja Mathilde, year of Birth 1998
3. Child – Trine-Signe, year of Birth 2011.
4. Child – Patrik, year of Birth 2013.
Apart from smiling at the variable length of names, a cursory analysis of the dates revealed that this was a man with not one family, but two. 1. child and 2. child, followed later by 3. child and 4. child. He explained, with a particularly big smile, that he had made it easier for himself by choosing a second wife with the same name as his first.
He pointed to the third picture – which showed a large red sports car. “And there she is”, he concluded. And there she was indeed, his pride and joy. And, tucked behind her a picture of spouse Pemille (one assumes, the second, not the first). Hidden as she was by the car, it was impossible to see how attractive, or otherwise, she was.
He talked in detail about how he had sorted out the support of IT at Copenhagen Airport. Somehow, that seemed less important to him than his family. It seemed a bit more important to me – my flight was leaving in 4 hours.
And so ended the interviews, and we summed-up, mopped-up, washed-up and made our decisions up.
“Who says that only mother’s talk about their children?” I joked. Yet, underneath, my amusement at this procession of family-men, was a more important reflection.
We employ human beings, not resources – men and women with personal lives, values, hobbies and real families. If these things are a priority for them, well, good for them. If this reminds us that our employees are rounded, unique and complex people, and we engage with them and care for them accordingly – all the better for us. And all the better for our working relationship. We will do better, and more enjoyable, business together.
Thanks to Erik, everything worked correctly at the airport, and my plane left on time with all its parts in place. I flew home to my lovely English wife and family. Even as we speak I am updating my CV with the ages of my children, a picture of my spouse (in front of my bike, I think), the date and location of our marriage and a couple of selected poems.
It would be nice if allemployers saw their employees as real people with lives rather than automatons.