Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. When he came for interview, he noticed that the office was filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. The receptionist instructed him and all the other applicants to wait until they were called to enter the inner office.
After a few minutes, the young man stood up and walked right into the office. The other applicants were confused as they didn’t hear anybody being called. They assumed the young man went in by mistake and that he would be disqualified.
Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled.”
The other applicants grumbled, and one spoke up saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!”
The employer said, “I’m sorry, but the last several minutes while you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his.”
When I read this story, the one thing that really struck me was how the other applicants missed their one chance to get the job just because they weren’t paying careful attention. They could have been sitting there thinking about the interview questions, wondering how they’re gonna impress the interviewer and how to position themselves above the other applicants. Some of them may have been mustering all the wits they could summon, concerned about how to make an excellent first impression. They were too ready, they were too focused. Unfortunately, they forgot to listen.