Job Interviews: Would You Pass This Test?

Lisa Rowe smiling at the Java Junction coffee shop she operates.

Imagine this scenario: You have an important job interview for a position you are well-qualified and suited for. The day of the interview, you wake up a few minutes late, dress, gather your interview materials (resume, pen, notepad, research notes and list of questions) and head out the door. There is traffic. Not bad traffic, but enough to make you stressed.

You find a parking place in the lot attached to the company's building. Great! Tossing cash at the parking attendant, you park and head inside.

You have time for a quick cup of coffee at the freestanding coffee shop on the first level of the building. There's a long line ... You tap your foot impatiently to let others know you are short on time. Finally, at the front of the line, the cashier does not understand your drink order. You repeat it a few times, growing more sarcastic with each try. You mockingly offer to write the drink order on their little cardboard cup sleeve.

As you wait for your coffee, you remark to the patron behind you in line, "Geez. Not the fastest, are they?" as you roll your eyes in frustration.

Drinking down the coffee, you head to the eighth floor where your interview will take place. You are greeted by a friendly receptionist who mispronounces your name three times. You calmly (but admittedly also curtly) correct her until she gets it right. Taking a seat in the lobby, you wait for the interviewer.

You are brought to a small conference room with an amazing view of the city. You enthusiastically smile, extend your hand in a confident greeting and put on your best "interview face" to greet the hiring manager who walks in to conduct the interview.

Her first question to you is, "What do you think of the interview so far?"

Confused, you ask, "Aren't we just getting started?" to which she replies, "Your interview began when you parked your car with Henry, our parking attendant. Then, when you met Amy, the cashier at the coffee shop, and Jeff, the patron in line behind you. Your interview also included your treatment of Rebecca, our front-desk team member."

You sink in your chair and realize you likely failed the test.

Employers expect you will present your best self in a job interview. They recognize you will come prepared, polished, confident and well-rehearsed. In some cases, employers go to extreme measures to evaluate you by observing how you are when you think no one is watching.

One executive takes interviewees to lunch and has their order intentionally messed up. The executive is curious as to how the candidate will handle the mix-up: Will he correct the server and request his meal be served accurately? Will he overlook the mistake and just eat the wrong meal? In either case, the job applicant's character qualities are being assessed: Does this candidate lack confidence to stand up for himself and his needs? Is he respectful and compassionate of people who make mistakes?

Other examples of innovative interview techniques:

  • Group interviews where the decision maker is not obvious or known
  • On-the-spot problem-solving of complex scenarios
  • Role playing and role reversal
  • Job interviews at sporting events

Employers are not trying to trick or mislead candidates callously. They are finding it harder to assess true character and values in well-coached job candidates, and they might consider an unconventional interview technique to uncover the genuineness and authentic motivations in their applicants.

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