Subtle condescension techniques

by Dan

Not that I’m job-hunting or anything at the moment (in fact I’ve managed to avoid anything resembling a formal job interview for about a decade now)… but I somehow came across this list of 50 common mistakes people make in job interviews during my morning procrastinatory internet warm-up routine. Most of them are pretty banal, but it was somewhat fun to imagine combining various ‘mistakes’ together into one grand train-wreck of an interview. Let’s say you went into an interview wearing sunglasses (violating rule #9), accompanied by your mother (#28), and indulged in all the forbidden behaviors outlined in #30 (‘Laughing, giggling, whistling, humming, lip-smacking’).

Still, even this amalgamated uber-faux pas can’t touch the example that reader JS once told me about reading in a Wall St. Journal article written by a veteran headhunter outlining the worst telephone interview mistakes she’d encountered in her professional experience. At the top of the list was some guy who was audibly listening to Roadrunner cartoons in the background during his interview. There’s something so sublimely apathetic about this behavior that it seems a great stunt to stage on purpose in order to subtly undermine colleagues and clients in a conference call, or in any telephonic situation that calls for a roundabout display of contempt. I’m adding it to my shortlist of ‘best ways to elaborately and subtly condescend to someone’, the other two dream scenarios being:

(1) trying to bribe someone in a petty position of authority with an unacceptably tiny amount of money (discussed here in greater detail)

(2) pretending to constantly mix up the name of someone with that of his or her pet. This idea occurred to me when we were subletting a house in Prague from a guy named Dennis who had a cat named Noe. Imagine that you constantly call him ‘Noe’ and then slap your forehead with feigned chagrin every time he points out the mistake– “Oh right– you’re Dennis… the cat is Noe. Sorry, sorry!”– but then repeat the ‘mistake’ a few moments later.

3 Responses to “Subtle condescension techniques”

  1. Great term–’sublimely apathetic.’ One time we used to do teleconferences with this guy on the West Coast. To protest the early hour he would take the call at home and appear in his bathrobe.

  2. johnny0 says:

    I once fell asleep on a conference call some silly person scheduled for 8AM east coast time. My west coast self decided it would be most efficient to not actually get out of bed for the call, but just rest the phone on my ear.

    I of course fell into a semiconscious pseudo dream state which I advertised to the rest of the call by uttering some completely out of context statement a la “But the penguins are out of listerine!” Someone asked what the hell that had to do with things, but having woken up enough to have my wits about me I (with aplomb) responded “it’s complicated, I’ll explain offline.”

  3. Dan says:

    canny escape!

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