Like many of you, I read an article last week about a 22 year-old graduate, who had gone for a job interview at an IT company and came out feeling interrogated and humiliated enough to the extent that she was in tears at the bus stop. After which, she was offered the job but turned it down and followed up her reasoning with a Twitter post that went viral and has subsequently been criticised both in favour of, and against the company and their interviewing process.
Clearly she was subjected to what would be known in recruitment terms as the “stress technique” – interviews which are designed solely to assess how one would operate during a highly pressurised working scenario. These may include references to previous examples of work, criticism on certain career moves, criticism of the CV in general, online footprint or even personal circumstances. In addition they may ask questions which are designed to put the candidate on the spot or test levels of emotion and the response.
Whilst controversial, it could be argued that this style of interview is completely necessary in some organisations or roles. It scratches beneath the surface more than that of a typical competency based interview and overall can serve as a great judge of character; crucial particularly to roles which could be deemed as highly pressured or emotionally challenging; Military, Public Sector, Directorship or Senior Sales roles, for example. We’ve all seen how a tough interview can unravel on TV programs such as The Apprentice (our favourite!) or The Job Interview. The way in which you conduct yourself in an interview is completely unique and regardless of skills or career background, companies are more often than not assessing the cultural fit of the candidate against their own environment and colleagues. From our previous blog posting, we highlighted the importance of communication and how sometimes the more awkward or probing questions can prove to be of great value and mitigate any longer-term risks.
In this instance however, it sounds as though the candidate was not prepared for an interview of this type but equally was not made aware of who would be attending the interview or the format. Is it reasonable for a graduate to expect this type of interview or should this style of interview be expected at 2nd stage as a matter of course? The key is to always be prepared, regardless of the level of the role or interview stage. Read the company reviews on Glassdoor, check their social media and speak to the HR team or agency. Ask questions. This is something that can easily be overlooked by a jobseeker who has a number of interviews lined up. In addition, these are factors that unfortunately are not common knowledge, particularly for graduates or candidates who have not experienced a corporate interview before. As competition for roles increases, I feel it is reasonable to expect, or at least be prepared for the tougher stages and questions designed to put you on the spot. Should a line be drawn between a reasonable process and what this candidate has deemed as brutal and intimidating? Interestingly, it’s a very balanced argument with this particular candidate, the company in question and the individual comments following the post. However, only those sat in on the interview will have the full picture of how it unfolded and only the candidate will know how it truly left her feeling. Traditional techniques and the modern candidate were always going to clash at some point, and it is doubtful that this will be the last time.
The advantage of working with an employment agency is that expectations can be set. The recruiter will have a good relationship with the company or even better, the hiring manager themselves and be able to assist in the preparation for the interview. They can give a thorough insight as to the expectations of the hiring manager as well as the wider business; the reason for hiring; exactly who you will be meeting and how long the interview is likely to last. Granular details should be avoided when setting expectations for an interview; the aim is to simply point a candidate in the right direction allowing them to enter the interview with a good level of confidence, regardless of the style of interview.
In conclusion, interviews are designed to be tough. We’ve all heard horror stories. The purpose of an interview is not only for the company to assess a candidate, but also for the candidate to assess whether this is the company they want to join. The style of the company should be reflective in the interview techniques and hold a level of professional etiquette when dealing with candidates. The candidate in turn, should expect a challenge and be prepared. Both parties should embrace the opportunity to meet and network regardless of the outcome, the rest comes down to character and the relationship built between both candidate and interviewer within that crucial first meeting.
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