Interview the new inquisition

The U.S. Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishments but oddly continues to permit the existence of the inquisition in the form of a job interview.

Now okay, perhaps these environments aren’t always specifically designed to humiliate applicants but sometimes they can do so unintentionally.  The results can sometimes be funny but more often sickening and infuriating.

Take the guy invited for an interview who took the opportunity to freshen up in the restroom a couple of minutes before he was due to be called in. As he turned on the faucet,  it gushed out at an absurd pressure, splashing a significant volume of water on to his pants in the process.

Unable to do anything about it, he went into the interview with a large and spreading damp patch running down from his leg. Hugely embarrassed, he explained the circumstances.

The person interviewing him had a good belly laugh, saying “yeah, that happens all the time. It’s real funny to see people’s faces”.

Another guy, let’s call him Paul, had a horrific and lengthy drive through very heavy traffic to get to the interview. Worse, parking was almost impossible and he was faced with a fairly lengthy walk through the pouring rain to get to the office.

Arriving soaking wet but still on time, before he had even had the chance to remove his raincoat he was ushered into an office and handed a clipboard with about five pages of psychometric tests on it. The young woman, who had handed it to him, then picked up a stopwatch and said in a very impatient and self-important fashion “you can start this immediately”.

He hadn’t actually sat down since entering the building. He wasn’t invited to take of his wet coat, given the chance to visit the restroom or offered a coffee.  So, that’s a caring employer for you!

Chloe was a top IT professional.  She’d been asked for an interview and went along expecting to talk about, well, IT. Maybe that was unreasonable.

When she arrived, she was met by a secretary and handed three pages of what looked like a spec for a construction project on a building site. The document went on to say she had 15 minutes to study it then deliver a presentation on it to the ‘selection board’. None of this had been mentioned in advance.

Absolutely baffled, she read it and was then subsequently called in to find three suits (none of whom had anything remotely to do with IT) who started grilling her on how many bricks would be needed in the hypothetical building and how she could shave 5% off the building-site labor costs.

After indignantly asking what the hell was going on, she was told this was a ‘lateral thinking test’.

She walked out. Maybe that was the sort of initiative they were looking for.

Xavier was really looking forward to his interview for a position as a senior contracts buying manager.  He arrived expecting to meet the Head of Contracts and was greeted by a very young, just out of college guy, who said he was the Head of Contracts’ admin assistant.

After a minute or two, it became clear to Xavier that the young man concerned had started to try and ‘interview him’ – very badly. After a clarifying question or two, it transpired that the Head of Contracts had double booked himself and chosen to go to another appointment, asking his admin assistance to cover for him.

Yep, you guessed it, Xavier walked out too.

Prize of the bunch though goes to poor old Mike. He’d driven for 5 hours to get to his interview for a senior position in a telecoms company.  Upon arrival, he was treated well and professionally by the reception area but noticed lots of scurrying around and frantic phoning.

After a few minutes, he was told the recruiting Exec had apparently forgotten the interview appointment and was currently away on an ‘interviewing skills refresher course’.

Mike was asked if he could go back the following morning.  You can imagine his response to that one.

OK, one or two of these might raise the odd fatalistic smile but they’re symptomatic of the way job applicants are sometimes viewed as the lowest form of expendable life.  Instead of being seen as professional and capable individuals, they’re too frequently regarded as supplicants who can be treated with a mixture of contempt and indifference.

This is no doubt partly due to the wondrous economy we’ve been gifted by our industrial leaders – an economy where it really doesn’t matter very much if you ridicule and humiliate applicants because after all, you’ll have several hundred others to choose from. You see, high unemployment does have its advantages.

Sure, not all employers are as appallingly unprofessional as those above but the bad ones are more numerous than you might think.

When things like the above happen, perhaps a few firings of those responsible might just focus attention a bit more.

Interview the new inquisition
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