‘Gaps are what you make of them.’
That’s how I concluded what I wrote about gaps a few days ago (Posts and Gaps). And gaps as lacunae have been on my mind ever since. One space holds a story a colleague told me a few years after he retired. It’s a topic that didn’t come up at his funeral though it passed though my mind on the way to the service.
‘I see there’s a gap in your CV’ is what he said to a very strong candidate during an interview for a senior management position.
‘Yes.’ came the careful reply. ‘It’s a matter of public record so I have to tell you I was in prison.’
‘What for?’ anyone would ask.
‘I killed my wife’ is not the response anyone would expect.
I don’t know the circumstances of the death. I do know that no job offer was made to the convicted spouse killer. I also recall that our corporation modified its application screening process to catch the criminals before they got into the office. And we did catch a few and there’s another story for another day.
Meantime, I know that the lid of a Pandora’s box of corporate ethics never quite fit as snugly after this interview.
What questions you must have? Since I have no answers, let’s take a lateral leap. As comedian and poet Spike Milligan suggested:
There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in
But they’re ever so small
That’s why the rain is thin.
I suggest that a job interview in 1821 that featured ‘I killed my spouse’ might have had a different outcome to the same interview in 2021. It might have a different response in Riyadh today than in Helsinki. Or China and Switzerland. Yes, the Swiss topped the global family killing tables in the early 21st century. ‘I killed my spouse’ might even elicit a different response if the genders were reversed.
In the glass-half-empty world of presumed recidivism, rejections are hard for Human Resources. In a world of half-full glasses, does the lapse in judgement becomes reason enough to distance ourselves from a killer? I’m pretty sure it was the judgement call that ended the application from the highly qualified candidate in this story. But I don’t know for sure.
I never heard why or how the interviewee killed his wife. Nor how long the career break lasted. My colleague was very tight lipped on the details. But we can speculate here. Euthanasia is as illegal (in some countries) as a bullet fired in anger (in peacetime) though custodial terms may honour the difference in our perceptions of the act. A road traffic death involving a moment of negligence (or a skin full of booze) might carry a prison sentence. Perhaps the candidate failed to install proper fire detection systems and therefore went down for dereliction of duties of care.
I asked what the referees knew. After all, you don’t even get in the door for an interview without references. There was a sardonic shrug and we turned back to our meal.
I don’t know any of the answers let alone how anyone might respond if the candidate had been female.
I love your line “the lid of a Pandora’s box of corporate ethics never quite fit as snugly after this interview”. Thanks for that.