Finding A New Clerk Was Quite A Challenge


I needed to hire a sales clerk for my antiques shop in North Florida recently, and, once again, this task was made easy for me by the applicants themselves. I’d like to say it was because of the stunning number of qualified hopefuls, but in fact it was just the opposite.

The field was narrowed sharply to four the moment I tossed out all inappropriate (or downright ridiculous) applications — or those brought in by people who had obviously never heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

For instance, dirty jeans, a ripped T-shirt and flip-flops are probably not the best fashion choice when you are trying to show someone that you would like to represent them at their place of business.

I would also suggest that you try not to breathe alcohol on them when you lean in, asking to borrow a pen. Or how about this? Bring a pen with you! I think we could agree that a pen is the one thing you will definitely need in order to fill out a job application.

If you’ve spent time in jail for possession of cocaine, at least learn to spell the phrase.

I have an optional question on the application — “Do you smoke?” — and the most intriguing answer I got was “only socially.” What does that mean? And what are you smoking?

I had several applicants that I felt truly sorry for, but one in particular stood out. He came in with his wife pushing a baby in a stroller.

“We’re here to apply for the job!” she announced.

“All of you?” I asked, looking at the baby.

“No, just him.” She gave him a shove toward the counter. I handed him a blank application, but she grabbed it before he could blink, then began rummaging in her purse for a pen. “Here, take this.” I was happy that together they had a pen, but still…

Next followed a scene so uncomfortable I had to leave the area. She stood there and told this poor slob what to write on each and every line. That completed, she allowed him to hand the paper to me, and wandered off as he did so, but I could feel her circling back behind me during the interview process.

Feeling that as much as a raised voice might cause him to flee (or burst into tears), I tried to be gentle as I asked, “Is there a reason you needed help filling this out?”

“It’s just because my penmanship is so bad,” he mumbled.

I looked at the paper. It was the printing of a third-grader, but it was neat. “This isn’t bad. I can read this,” I said.

We talked a bit about his previous employment, and then I said: “I’m going to keep this on file, but let me give you a heads-up. It would help if you filled out job applications on your own. A boss needs to know that you can handle something like that by yourself.”

He nodded, but, behind me, I heard the control freak huff out. She knew she — I mean he — hadn’t gotten the job.

In the end, I found what I was looking for — a reliable, honest, experienced clerk who would be a real asset to the store.

I just had to kiss a lot of toads to find her.