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“Let Me Try on that Jacket,” an HR Romance

“Let Me Try on that Jacket,” an HR Romance

chanel jacket

The WSJ ran an article last week on office romance and the disruption it can cause small businesses.  How sweet just in time for Valentine’s Day, such romantics.  Who wouldn’t love a letter from HR asking for a detailed account of their relationship?  Not surprisingly, I would tell HR that I’d only accept it from someone wearing a diaper, wings and an arrow strapped to their back.  I’d not recommend that approach but the mental visual is entertaining though. Then I thought about saying that to my favorite person in HR and image her slapping me with an arrow and calling me an asshole.

This stunning creature (also who’s softest edge was on the corner of cut glass and a razor’s edge and maybe dipped in acid) was a no-nonsense Asian woman. I say respectfully, she makes the ‘Tiger Mom’ chick look like a girl scout.    I’m not sure how it is with other fields but in my former, the hiring manager and regional usually had final say on a candidate.  That was not the case when I was interviewing (dating) for ‘The Prince,’ HR could make or break someone.

I’d been warned by reps in my potential region, from the hiring manager and oddly enough the limo driver*, Om, who picked me up at the airport, she needed to like me.  I was almost half expecting the room service guy from the Sofitel in Redwood City to spell it out in sauce on my dinner plate.  It’s good when people are obvious we me, subtlety is not for people in sales.  We don’t get it.

*the previous startups I’d worked for couldn’t afford to pay our expenses so this was a nice perk.

The big day had arrived, and I was ushered around the compound (I always think prison or a Kennedy when I hear the word ‘compound) by the hiring manager.  I’d jumped through the hoops with IT, Training, Regulatory, Sales, Marketing and the final step was HR.

I loved that my Area Director was a woman, VP of Marketing was a woman, Director of Reimbursement was a woman, and Director of IT was a woman; and despite, not being sold on the CEO (https://www.killingmycareer.com/fairy-tales-for-the-not-faint-of-heart/gods-among-mere-mortals/) it was shaping up to look like this was ‘The Prince.’  The pressure was on once I realized that I wanted this position.

Oh and the Director of HR was a woman.  I remember thinking this was such a progressive company and not what I was expecting from the horror stories I’d heard about from the neighbor to medical device startup in Menlo, technology startup.  And this company had more women in executive and senior management positions than my last three companies combined.

I walked into her office, and before I even had a chance to extend my hand, or open my mouth (you have to be fast to beat that), she said, eyeing me up and down, ‘Is that a Chanel suit?’ Not your typical first interview question, but I was willing to roll with it, ‘It is,’ I said wondering if I’d made a mistake being so honest (never a good idea to wear a suit that expensive, but no man had ever asked before, so it had become my interview suit (you know like basketball players with lucky socks or whatever?)), but no going back now.

‘Let me try on that jacket,’ she said, while she was slipping me out of it with the skill of a high school quarterback with a cheerleader’s bra. I was thinking, ‘Jesus, at least buy me dinner first lady,’ but for once it remained inner monologue (wow I must have really wanted this position). And to the male recruiter who told me to take Chanel Ready to Wear Specialist (because it made me look like a ‘shop girl’ his words, not mine) off my resume-mistake, big mistake (channeling Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, apparently.)  She told me that she couldn’t wait to meet me since she saw that on my resume.

I was leaving the compound (it eventually became a little of both, prison and Kennedyesque), and Om was waiting to take me back to the airport.  I was told they’d call me in a few days and let me know on the position. I’d never left a final interview without securing the job. My big cheesy line of, ‘What other information do you need from me to make all the other candidates go away?’ hadn’t worked this time.

Just as I was to walk out the doors to the limo, she and the hiring manager came flying down the stairs to catch me before I left.  I signed that day, and the rest, as they say is history.  Well, history in the making.

For years after that, reps would call or ask at meetings what I did to get her to like me so much. ‘Easy, we had an office romance,’ (watching eyes widen), ‘we both spoke the language of love, fashion, specifically Chanel.’ I was waiting for the day that some dude desperate enough would rock Chanel in the interview (oh the visual again).

I’ve not always been smart enough to leave the office romance at just fashion, but that’s a story for another day.

Thanks for reading-Melayna Lokosky


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