“My first interview after graduating was with Alan Dabbiere, founder of Manhattan Associates. It was the strangest interview I was ever on and, I’m sure, will ever be on,” said Ted.
I was meeting with Ted to help him out with his next step in life. He worked as a consultant for Manhattan Associates for five years. He then joined an early stage software company for the next sixteen years. He was a great success and eventually was running some of their businesses.
Getting the Interview
“Who came to your university to interview you?” I asked.
“It was somebody from human resources. Of the 20 people who interviewed, three of us were selected to go to the next stage,” he said.
“So tell me why this interview was so strange,” I said.
“The three of us drove down to Pennsylvania from New York to meet the founder Alan Dabbiere. We met him at his sales prospect’s factory. When we got there, he said, ‘Sit in the sales presentation and listen. I’ll talk to you at the end of the day.’
“Then he took us into a conference room where he was about to give a presentation. He introduced us to his prospect for what we were, employee candidates.
“We spent the rest of the day watching him. Alan asked lots of questions in the conference room and later on the plant tour.
“Try Again” Interview
“We finished the day at 8 pm. That’s when he took us into the company’s cafeteria and interviewed us one on one. The whole interview took twenty minutes,” he said.
“What did he ask you in the interview?” I asked.
“There were three questions, but I can only remember two of them,” he answered. “His first question was, ‘Tell me about a complex system, and as you explain it, convince me it is complex.’
“So I thought of a complex system and began explaining it. He stopped me and said, ‘That’s not a good example. Try again.’
“I tried again, and the same thing happened. Then a third time, and he cut me off again.
“His second question was, ‘Explain my product to me.’ And I don’t remember the third question.”
“So what happened?” I asked.
I Blew It…
“Well, I left the interview after that long day and figured I had blown it big time. A couple of days later I got a call from someone who said they were with Manhattan Associates. They said, ‘Congratulations, you got the job.’ I started laughing because I thought it was a prank my friends were pulling on me. But it wasn’t.”
“Then there was my first day on the job. I was sent to a client after receiving no training. I got there, and the guy I was to meet said, ‘Wait in this conference room, and we’ll be right with you.’ In a few minutes, the CEO, the CFO, and the plant manager showed up. The CEO said, ‘What do we do now?’
“What did you do?” I asked
“I did what Alan did. I asked for a plant tour and asked a lot of questions. That was my first day,” he said.
How long did it take for you to feel competent?” I asked.
“Six months,” he replied.
Alan Dabbiere’s 3 Types
He said that Alan once said this about the hiring process: There are three types of people in this world.
- The people you tell what needs to be done, and with your guidance, they will get it done.
- Those who will never get it done.
- Those you instruct to plant a flag on that hill, and you know they will do it.
Startups need the third type to get out of the ground and build a fast-growth company. Alan Dabbiere made over $1 billion hiring them. It must work.