Oct 10, 2021

This Guy Got Hired Because of a Pair of Shoes

Random street shot in Yangon I took from my ride to work

It’s been months since I neglected this blog. I’ve not traveled anywhere lately, and I hardly go out of the house too. Hence I don’t have much content to share here. But I figure out, I should write something related to my work. Prior to this, I tried very hard to keep my profession as private as I can, at the same time, I want to share some interesting stories of people I met along the way. Here’s one…

A few years ago, I went to Myanmar to interview about 100 pax of blue-collar workers (due to government policies, the employers required to hire all contract workers directly, hence I had to interview the candidates myself). The candidates are from remote villages in Myanmar. The agent was kind enough to arrange bus transportation and provide one-night accommodation for them to be in the city for the interview. It saved me some time too because the journey could take up to 2 days. 

When I was at the 10th or 11th candidate, I got bored with the interview because they were repeating the same answer, I figure out that the agent gave them some tips and script to memorize, so most of them ended up telling the same story. And at 10th or probably 11th candidate, I did not go with my usual interview questions, instead, I scrutinized each candidate from head to toe and post to them random questions.

This one had a tattoo - I asked him about his tattoo.

This one wearing a Manchester United t-shirt. I asked him if he's a fan.

This one wearing a spectacle. I asked him what happened. (Most people that are blue-collar do not wear spectacle in Myanmar, so he was an odd one).

And then, there's this guy with a brand new shoe. It's Nike, but I couldn't tell what model. But he went on about how he came from a poor farmer family. They didn't have money to buy food, so the family just ate the left-over corps, and sometimes his father will take up odd jobs in the city to drive forklifts and trucks. So I asked him, "If your family is so poor, how do you afford the brand new shoes."

He replied, with a huge smile but some tears in his eyes - his parents and brother dug out their savings to buy him the shoe when they knew that he has to travel to the city for the interview. The saving was supposed to help them to upgrade their electrical wiring in their house, so they can have electricity for longer hours. At that moment, they can only turn on the lights for at most 2 hours before it starts to heat up. Now that they have spent the money on the shoes, it might take another one or two months before they can afford to pay the contractor to upgrade their electricity. 

I asked further, what if he didn't get the job? He said it's ok. They have been living in the same condition for years, so another one or two months with a lack of electricity won't make any difference for them. But his sister (the only one who went to school) will be mad that she can't do her homework at night. The most important thing is, he likes the shoe. And what matters the most to him - that is the first present his family bought for him. 

Let's talk about the shoes. It's Nike. But the price he told me, it's obviously fake. Before you get so judgmental over counterfeit products, he didn't even know what Nike was. To him, it's just a pair of new sneakers. I doubt he knows the difference between sneakers, sports shoes, skateshoes, high top, etc. To him, it's just a pair of shoes that he loves. 

With my usual stern face, I told him his half-hour is up and he can leave. But on the paper, I gave him a tick. 

Fast forward 3 months later, he came to the office to look for me. There it was....... the same shoe that accompanied him from his village to Yangon for the interview, and now, in Malaysia where he starts his new job. 

I hope that by giving him a job, his family will have never-ending supply of electricity, his sister is able to study comfortably, and his parents can build up more savings for the family. 


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