“Well, a university degree is not required, exactly, but it helps if you have one. Do you?”
“Yes, I do and it’s given me a lot of trouble in trying to find a job. No one wants to hire someone with a university education, or so it seems.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place, then. The top brass really like to see their junior execs with a university degree of some kind. It doesn’t really matter in what field of study.” Now, the smile on my face grew into a genuine show of joy. “Here is one of the applications. Fill it out and I’ll give you the test to do.”
“Test? Is this something I should schedule for later and go study a bit?”
“No, not at all. It’s not that kind of test. It’s a test of character, and nothing you can study for, really. You either have the right character to work here or you don’t. You’ll be fine. Here, take the application form. You can fill it out over there at that desk.”
I took the paperclipped pages and walked over to the spot in the corner, next to several student desks. Writing with the best penmanship I could muster, I completed the forms, happy that I had no other appointments for that morning.
Next, the clerk swapped my completed form for the test and ushered me into another small room. This one had no windows, no decorations of any kind, and only a couple of wooden, square tables with two straight-back chairs. Actually, it reminded me of the room I used to record the numeric codes of research questionnaires, hour-after-hour, as part of my job during my last year at university. The main difference was those tables had been piled high with thick questionnaire forms and these were clear of all papers or books.
There was no correct answer for the test questions, according to the clerk; I could take my time with each scenario presented. I prayed for the Lord to help me understand and answer the questions. I really needed a job!
Each set of questions began with a particular situation that might present at the finance office. Though there were many situations in the test, I’ll just give you a couple of examples here:
Situation 1: A little girl came into your grocery store to buy milk and a loaf of bread for her mother. In the process of paying for the goods, the child sees a piece of candy she would very much like to have. Her mother had told her she could buy one piece of candy if there was any change back after she paid for the groceries. The little girl’s face brightened as she opened her small hand to receive the change from the grocer.
The little girl pointed to the piece of candy she would like, but she was two pennies short of the price of the candy. What would you do, if you were the grocer?
A. Give the girl the candy, and forget the loss.
B. Take the two pennies out of your pocket, put it with the child’s change, and hand her the candy.
C. Tell the little girl, you were sorry, but she didn’t have enough money for the candy, and give her the change from the bread and milk purchase.
Well, that was a no-brainer to me. The correct answer was “B. Take the two pennies out of your own pocket.” I mean, the kid had walked all the way to the store, bought just what her Mom had on the list and would need to struggle with the sack all the way home. Why not get a little treat for her efforts? On to next scenario.
Situation 2: A couple comes to you with plans to add a detached, single-car garage at the end of their driveway. They present their plan, and include their financial information. They have a clear plan to pay off the loan they were requesting in only one year, though the actual construction should be completed before the winter snow. You can see that they have a well-thought-out plan, and even see how it may be paid off sooner than one year. As the loan officer handling this request, what would your counsel be to the couple?
A. Grant the loan, and send them each home with a pen advertising your company.
B. Show them how much less they would need to pay a month if they would spread the loan out over a three-year period, instead of paying it all off in one year.
C. Grab your sketch pad and copy their single car garage on it. Now, erase the lines of the garage facing the house and extend the width of the garage to make it an attached garage with a door right into the kitchen. Mention the cold, wind and weather of their long winter months and the convenience of the attached garage. Next, draw out plans for an apartment on top of the now-two-car garage, explaining that renting out an apartment over the garage could help them pay for the additional improvements. The loan could be spread out over ten years so that they would only be paying the same amount that they had originally planned to pay for that smaller structure in only one year. Stress the increased re-sale value of their property if they elected to go with the larger garage and apartment.
This situation was harder for me to answer. I knew what I would want to do, but it was easy to see how the finance company would want me to answer. After all, they loaned money to make money; not because they were good Samaritans, right?
In truth, I would have answered A to the question, if this job was not riding on my answers to this test. The thing is, I figured the couple probably had some kids, or would have, and I didn’t want them to get bogged down with a three-year loan if they really could manage to pay it off in only one year. Nobody ever knows what will happen with a job or if health issues will surface to trash one’s finances. One year sounded really good to me and they would get what they had wanted when they came into my office.
I could also see how the answer C could, definitely, have its advantages on re-sale of their property. In this extra-bitter winter climate, an attached garage is a lot easier. I wasn’t convinced that the over-the-garage apartment was a good idea, though; but I did see where the company was going in making such a suggestion…more money in their coffers, as well as the potential for re-possessing the property if the couple defaulted on their ten-year loan. Could I really advise them according to answer C?
At last, I circled the A, hoping it was a test of my integrity or willingness to see that the company gets their loans paid back in a timely fashion.
At the end of the test, the clerk took it away and asked me to stay put. I waited for the invitation to enter the executive’s office for my interview.
“Good morning, Miss…uh…Sojourner, is it?”
“Yes, Sir.” I stood straight and tried to look serious but not desperate.
“I’ve taken a look at the scores on your test, and have reviewed some of the answers myself. I’m wondering…why do you want to work for____ Finance Company?” He was smiling, but he tapped his steepled fingertips together in that unnerving way executives have.
“Well, Sir, actually I just saw the sign as I passed by this morning. I have tried hard to get a job and find it isn’t as easy as the university recruiters led us to believe. Having a degree can be a hindrance, more than a help; or so it seems to me, at least. I just need a job, and I’m willing to work hard to learn the business. I’m an aggressive competitor, once I learn the ropes, and have my sights set on advancing in whatever field I gain employment. You won’t be disappointed, if you give me a chance, Sir.” The executive smiled, nodded, and pointed to one of the chairs placed in front of his expansive desk.
“I see. Well, there is just one problem with adding you to our Junior Executive team. If that hurdle can be overcome, we may be able to offer you a provisional position. It’s expensive to train people, so I would need to be sure that you really can make the adjustment.”
“Yes, Sir, I’m sure I can do whatever is asked of me. What problem do you see; is it from my test?” I was already sitting on the very edge of the chair. I needed to be careful not to move a millimeter closer to his desk, or I’d fall right off the chair.
At this point, he took out my test and paged through it. Stopping at the Situation 1 mentioned above, he asked me why I made my choice to pay the child’s debt out of my own pocket.
“Uh, tender-hearted, I guess. I mean, it was only two cents and I didn’t think the company would mind, because they got the full price for the candy. Was that the wrong answer, Sir?”
“There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. What it shows me, though, is that you may be sucked in by a sob-story, trying to decide how to get the money for a client, instead of just letting them know they cannot afford the payments on any loan at that time.”
Sadly, he was right and I knew it. My personality was a bit of a crusader for the down-trodden and if the amount of money was higher, I may still try to get the money for the client, though not out of my own pocket. “Yes Sir, I see what you mean; but isn’t that good for the company. You would still have the finance charges, regardless of how the client happened to come by the money, wouldn’t you?”
He didn’t appear to hear me and just thumbed the page to the next example he wanted to bring to my attention. Situation 2 mentioned above was repeated to me from the test paper.
“Why did you choose to just grant the loan for what the couple wanted and not try to earn more for the company?”
“Well, because it was obvious to me that this is what the couple could afford, and it’s also what they wanted to do. Isn’t it a good thing to have clients able to pay back their loans and not spread it out longer, in case something would happen and they couldn’t pay it back, Sir?”
“No, Sojourner, it isn’t. We are in this as a business; we’re not a nonprofit organization. The longer it takes for the client to re-pay their loan, the more money the company makes. If something happens and they can’t pay back their loan, we get the property, which is worth much more than the interest on the loan. Do you see that, Sojourner?”
“Yes, Sir, I do but is that fair to the client, Sir? I mean, isn’t it a good thing to have a satisfied customer, who can tell others of the company and encourage them to apply here for their loans? I can see that dealing fairly can pay off, in the long run.”
“We’re not dealing in the long run here, young lady. We’re here to make money, as well as to loan it. Do you think that you can change your position to favor the company’s best interest; or do you think you would find it necessary to give the client just what they want and nothing more…in the interest of fairness?” His hands came down, palms flat on the desk. “Frankly, I don’t think you have it in you to be competitive in this business. You are just too honest for this kind of work, Sojourner. You’re not really ready to put the company’s interest first, especially if it conflicts with your personal integrity, are you?” The executive closed my test booklet and stood.
I stood, as I gave him my reply. “No, Sir, I don’t think I could ever put the company first, if it meant asking people to borrow well-beyond their means. I do think I could suggest some improvements in their home re-modeling plans that they may not have considered, but my suggestions would be in line with what I saw their financial statements could absorb, nothing more. Thanks for taking time with me today; I’ve learned that this is, definitely, not the business for me.”
I shook his hand and allowed him to lead me out of his office, his hand on my elbow.
I left the ____Finance Office that day with both disappointment at coming so close to a job, and relief that I would not be compromising my own beliefs to keep that job. I had asked God to help me answer the questions, and He had. God would find me the right job; I needed to keep looking.
In fact, God did lead me to a job for which I was much better suited. I had no idea, however, what darkness lurked in my heart that God had planned to expose. When I committed my whole life to God, He took me at my word. The new job would lead me right into the snare God had set for me, that His purpose in rooting out the darkness would be accomplished.
But, now, I’m getting ahead of the story. First, I need to introduce you to the new job, and you’ll see just how well God understood me…definitely, better than I had understood myself!
****Field Medicine: Humbling Introduction…Next Post