I’m Not an FTE

There’s often a deeper meaning behind job applicants’ responses.

October 13, 2011

Lately I’ve been interviewing job candidates because our credit union’s executive assistant had the audacity to follow her military husband to a new duty station.

I hadn’t interviewed anyone in a while. So I’ve been surprised by applicants’ vocabularies. Rather than pitiful begging, the air has been full of buzzwords, which proves—at least with today’s worker—the thesau­rus is not a dinosaur.

James Collins
James Collins is Credit Union Magazine's humor columnist.

After the billionth or so applicant, I found my mind wandering. What did their phrases really mean? Here are my guesses (tongue-in-cheek, of course):

  • Team player: Got fired at my last job for playing team video games during work hours.
  • Positive attitude: I positively think managers are dumber than a box of rocks.
  • Self-motivated: There’s no way anyone else can motivate me.
  • Leader: People would follow me even if I were on a sinking ship, which basically describes how my last job went.
  • Multitasker: Managed to keep three different conversations going on e-mail before mixing up Heidi with Stephanie (disastrous results).
  • Outgoing: I wander away for hours.
  • Work long hours: I’m in at 9 a.m., and work right up to 5 p.m.
  • Work well with deadlines: And I love to hear them whizzing right by.
  • Community-focused: I can identify happy hours at every bar within a 12-mile radius.
  • Excellent coach: I spend long hours at work watching
  • Fluent in foreign languages: I’ve successfully ordered food at “Taco Del Mar.”
  • Proven track record: Back in 1983, I once ran a mile.
  • Entrepreneurial: I’ll sell stolen office products.
  • Fast-paced: At 5 p.m., I’ll sprint to the parking lot.
  • Detail-oriented: Forest? Who sees a forest?
  • Dependable: Well, it depends.
  • Strong communicator: I like to share my opinion. A lot.
  • Customer-focused: “You want fries with that?”
  • Hard-working: Add “ly” to the first word.
  • Cross-functional: Managers pass me around like a bad cold.
  • Calm under pressure: During stressful situations, I typically roll up into the fetal position.
  • Financially savvy: I spend hours shopping online during the work day.
  • Motivated: I need a job.
  • Strongly motivated: I really need a job.
  • Seasoned professional: I do all my work just like I did it in the great war—the Civil War, that is.
  • Out-of-the-box: Sometimes I forget to take my medication.            

There was one conversation with an applicant, however, that had a much deeper meaning. The woman had worked for a local government agency.

We were a bit perplexed, not grasping the logic of quitting a good job with great benefits and low turnover for something inherently more risky.

At her interview, our human resource manager asked her this question directly: “Why do you want to work for us?”

She stretched out her hands, sighed a bit, and responded carefully: “Because I want to be known as a person, not as an FTE [full-time employee].”

I thought about that comment for the next few days. As a CEO, I look at FTE reports weekly and sometimes daily. I question why we had overtime last week, and overlook the fact that perhaps someone stayed late to help a working family fill out some paperwork.

For all the buzzwords people think we want to hear, sometimes it’s the simple truths that mean more.

This credit union doesn’t have 52 FTEs. It employs 52 unique people.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.