The Board-of-Directors Interview

Say what you will about the newly passed California legislation AB-979 requiring board of directors to have three or more “diverse” members — members who self-identify as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as female, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Love or hate it, one thing is undeniable — the law does away for good with the timid and uninspiring job interviews, in which politics, religion, or sexuality — that is, anything worth talking about — were taboo. With the new legislation, recruiters can finally add a bit of spice to interview conversations, like this one:

SCENE

[Final interview for the coveted position of corporate director at 21st Century Artificial Intelligence Inc. the latest Silicon Valley tech unicorn. Recruiter putting the strongest offensive and charms to close the candidate for the team.]

RECRUITER: So, just to wrap things up — you seems like a great match for our board of directors. Your experience is exactly what we need. Your credentials are impeccable. Your references speak so highly of you, and yet with a touch of envy that it’s us and not them that will be working with you in the future.

[Sam, attempting to hide the excitement at the almost promised job]

SAM: That’s very flattering, I am so humbled by their words.

[Recruiter, suddenly]

RECRUITER: Hm, interesting.

[Sam, alert]

SAM: Yes?

[Recruiter shuffles papers, frowning]

RECRUITER: It seems we missed some of the basic questions. I am surprised we didn’t ask you these before bringing you for these interviews.

[Sam, apprehensive]

SAM: Oh.

[Recruiter, smiling warmly and instantly putting Sam back at ease]

RECRUITER: Nothing to worry about. Just a few minor details. Mere formalities. We’ll knock them off in a minute. Let’s go through them and get them over with.

SAM: Certainly. Anything I can help you with to make sure we have the right match.

[Recruiter, smiling]

RECRUITER: Absolutely, thank you for your understanding.

[Recruiter, upbeat]

RECRUITER: Wonderful, let’s get started. First off, do you self-identify as Black, Latino, or Asian?

SAM: Um, I don’t.

RECRUITER: How about Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native?

SAM: Nope, not either.

RECRUITER: Alrighty. Let’s try something else. Do you self-identify as gay, lesbian, or transgender?

SAM: No, sorry to disappoint.

[Recruiter smiling reassuringly]

RECRUITER: That’s totally fine, no need to apologize. Not everyone is or even has to be… How about bi-sexual? Perhaps just a little bit?

SAM: Excuse me?

RECRUITER: I mean, do you self-identify as bi-sexual? Fully, moderately, or perhaps just somewhat?

SAM: Wow, that’s a question I didn’t expect? No one ever asked me about my sexuality at job interviews before. Talking about insufficient preparation for the interview…

[Sam smiles playfully. Recruiter makes a “you got me” gesture with index finger pointed at Sam like a gun. They both chuckle.]

SAM: No, but, seriously, I don’t think I ever put much thought into that. I just went through life thinking of myself as straight, and that was that.

RECRUITER: I understand. But you are so perfect for this job, your whole career has prepared you so well, and yet, due to the new legislation that just passed, we couldn’t hire you unless you self-identified as one of the above. We have two diverse members, and we need a third. And to be completely honest with you, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, not that it’s a problem or anything, but you strike me as completely Caucasian, so ethnicity won’t help us here…

[Candidate shifts uneasily in the chair , starts making a slow motion as if to stand up]

SAM: I understand. So, this is it, then?

[Recruiter, visibly worried]

RECRUITER: Oh, no, no, no. Please, let’s not be hasty here. I am sure we can find a solution. I was just exploring the options we may have.

[Candidate relaxes somewhat]

SAM: The options?

RECRUITER: You say you are straight. How straight would you say you are? Ninety percent? Seventy percent? Research tells us that no one is 100% straight or 100% gay, it’s really a spectrum. So, ignoring zero and one hundred, what percentage straight would you say you are?

SAM: Um, I don’t know, let’s say 95%?

RECRUITER: Really? That high?

SAM: Well, I don’t know, I never measured myself. How do other candidates self-evaluate?

RECRUITER: I cannot comment on other’s responses, but…

[Sam, interrupting hurriedly]

SAM: I am sorry, that’s not what I meant at all.

RECRUITER: …of course not, of course not. But, I can tell you this — if we can lower your number to about 70%, you’re in. But we have to do that in an ethical and truthful way.

SAM: Of course, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

RECRUITER: Of course not. So, let’s go through the BAQ.

SAM: The BAQ?

RECRUITER: Oh, um, that’s our Bisexuality Assessment Questionnaire.

SAM: Your what?

RECRUITER: It’s just a set of approved questions that help us reduce… um… sorry, get to a more accurate bisexuality score. Nothing difficult or tricky, just a few simple questions. Ready?

SAM: Sure. Shoot.

RECRUITER: Have you had a close friend — in your childhood or in your adult life — of whom you have thought that you loved them — today or in the past?

SAM: That’s kind of personal, isn’t it?

RECRUITER: It is, I know. But these questions have been carefully researched by our legal team and vetted by the California Bureau of Employment.

SAM: So these are good questions, so to speak?

RECRUITER: Precisely.

SAM: Sounds good. So, what was the question?

[Recruiter, helpfully, reads from the list]

RECRUITER: Have you had a close friend — in your childhood or in your adult life — of whom you have thought that you loved them — today or in the past?

SAM: Of course, I do. I did. Who doesn’t.

RECRUITER: Wonderful, that’s 5 points off, we are down to 90.

SAM: Is that sufficient?

RECRUITER: No, our bar for accepting someone as bi-sexual is to be at most seventy percent straight as I mentioned. But the lower we can bring this score below seventy percent, the better. And we need to get to seventy percent first…

SAM: Of course.

RECRUITER: Next question. Have you ever hugged a person of your own gender who was not family.

SAM: Of course. I am a big hugger. I hug all my friends all the time.

RECRUITER: Great, another 5 points. We are making good progress.

[Sam looks almost at ease now. Recruiter makes a note and continues.]

RECRUITER: Here goes one that may feel a tiny bit uncomfortable, but it’s for 10 points, so it can help us significantly. Again, we mean no disrespect by this question, and we understand that people are diverse. We value diversity very much. Research has shown that diverse boards perform better than non-diverse boards, and…

[Sam, with a cocky grin]

SAM: Well, if they perform better, why enforce the diverse boards by law? Won’t companies just do what’s in their best interest?

RECRUITER: Ha-ha, I know, you know, you have a good point there, I am with you on that one, actually. But, I think the thinking is that companies sometimes don’t fully think through what’s best for them and their shareholders. So I think of this regulation as something that is intended to help companies think better.

[They both chuckle]

RECRUITER: So, here is the question, are you ready?

SAM: Sure, I’ll try my best.

RECRUITER: Have you ever enjoyed adult video or photographic content with three or more actors contemporaneously appearing in one scene in an advanced degree of deshabillage…

[Sam, with a shocked look]

SAM: What???

RECRUITER: I am sorry, I know this is not an easy question to answer, but it’s for 10 points, and it can get us almost to the crossing line…

SAM: No worries, it’s actually an easy question to answer. I am shocked because it’s a hard question to ask. Or, it should be…

[Interrupting]

RECRUITER: It is.

SAM: …I am applying for a board of directors position of a major technology company, after all. How could it matter what I and my husband may be watching or enjoying…

RECRUITER: Wait, your husband? Did you say — husband?

SAM: Yes, I have a husband. Is that important?

RECRUITER: Is he male?

SAM: Does he need to be male? Is that going to count against me?

RECRUITER: I didn’t want to make assumptions by inferring that he needs to be male in order to be a husband. There are plenty of husbands who are not male, and that’s totally fine, by the way. But it would be helpful if your husband were male.

SAM: Uh, yes, he happens to be of the male kind.

[Recruiter, sighing a big sigh of relief, leaning back, with the quiet self-assured smile of victory at last.]

RECRUITER: Well, then that makes you a gay. So, problem solved. You have the job.

[Sam, looks confused at first, then relaxes, and finally bursts out laughing.]

SAM: Um, or, perhaps, it makes me a… woman?

[Recruiter, with a look of disbelief]

RECRUITER: What?

SAM: No one asked me so far if I was a woman. I am. I just like having a crew haircut and wearing a baggy sweater and jeans. I guess I’ve been around mostly guys for so long, that I started dressing and looking like one...

RECRUITER: I am so very sorry.

SAM: No need, I quite enjoy them…

RECRUITER: I mean, I am sorry about the whole misunderstanding. You were saying?

SAM: Oh, nothing, I was saying that just the crew cut saves me so much time and money… Guys have been so ahead of us for centuries with the whole wash-hair-wipe-with-towel-and-done-in-5-minutes for ages. I feel like I’m just starting to catch up…

RECRUITER: Wow, talking about giving yourself an edge.

SAM: I know. It’s amazing, isn’t it. All that extra time and money.

RECRUITER: Amazing, I should try it, I remember when… But, I digress, we need to wrap up our business here.

SAM: Oh, of course, certainly.

RECRUITER: Given all your outstanding qualifications, and since you self-identify as a woman…

SAM: I am a woman.

RECRUITER: … and since you are a woman, therefore meeting our diversity criteria, this job is yours to have. We’ll send you a formal job offer within a few days.

SAM: That’s wonderful.

[Recruiter, pensively, to herself]

RECRUITER: And our diversity numbers are now met…

[Sam, beaming]

SAM: That is really wonderful, thank you so much for the trust and for the opportunity.

[Recruiter, with a warm smile.]

RECRUITER: Welcome to the team, Sam.

[Curtains fall]

Software engineer, investor, opinion(ated) writer.