6 Stories That Prove Job Interviews Are Pointless Nonsense
Companies use two methods when hiring. Both are terrible. First they feed thousands of resumes to a computer, which rejects most of them instantly. You will never know the reason, because computers use secret algorithms. Next some applicants are invited for an interview, and most of them are also rejected. You will never know these reasons either, because interviewers use secret shenanigans.
But sometimes interviewers find themselves being interviewed, whereupon they share these secret hiring criteria. They're very proud of the tricks they use, and as you'll see, they absolutely shouldn't be.
Business Insider Won't Hire You If You Fail To Send A Thank You Note
No, I don't mean a handwritten letter with Elven calligraphy. The interviewer isn't completely crazy. But Insider Inc. does require (without asking for it) a thank you email, in which you repeat that you want the job, remind them what makes you so qualified, and of course thank them for interviewing you. Lots of other companies look for this as well, and now that I look around online, tons of websites offer letter templates so you can write your thoughtful note of gratitude without putting too much thought into it.
How The Company Sees It:
According to BI's executive manager, Jessica Liebman, plenty of people who join companies eventually flake out or leave. They never wanted the job in the first place. But if you're one of those candidates who sends a thank you note, she'll know you truly want the job. Plus it shows you're organized and well mannered. "At Insider, Inc. we look to hire 'good eggs,'" she says, distinguishing her company from all the ones who look to hire bad eggs. "The thank you email is a mark for the 'good egg' column."
Let me reassure hiring managers everywhere: If I come in for a job interview, I want the job. Maybe someone, somewhere, doesn't really want to work and goes job hunting only because their dad makes them, but in general, assume that if I've chased the position this far, it's because I want it. Sending a follow-up email isn't some significant extra effort from the best among us. It's extremely easy to do (once I know I should). Dragging myself all the way to your office for the interview was the hard part.
A thank you note doesn't show someone's well mannered; it shows they know your personal view on what good manners are. And to be fair, that's true of most "manners," but the writer isn't emailing you because they're courteous. They're emailing you because they want news on how they did and want to plug themselves again. I want that too, only I thought pestering you so soon was bad manners. If I could, I would definitely end every interview by saying, "Oh yeah, and I really need this job. Let me stop in the elevator for a couple minutes to reiterate how amazing I am, and also, did I ace the interview? Can you tell me?" I just assumed I wasn't supposed to.
Related: 5 Ways Applying For A Job Is Hopelessly Stacked Against You
PayPal Rejected An Engineer Because He Said He Plays "Hoops"
When PayPal began and wanted new employees, founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin looked to grads from their own colleges of Stanford and the University of Illinois. The company could try a few straightforward tests to see who was basically qualified, but they also wanted to find people who would fit the company's culture. Levchin asked one hopeful applicant about what he did for fun outside of work stuff, and he replied, "I really enjoy playing hoops." That settled it. Levchin rejected him.
How The Company Sees It:
As Levchin put it, "Everyone I knew in college who liked to play hoops was an idiot." And it wasn't only that this guy played basketball, it was how he described it. "No PayPal people would ever have used the word hoops. Basketball would be bad enough. But hoops?" Levchin didn't want jocks invading the place and ruining things. PayPal was founded by nerds, and they were going to stay nerds to the bitter end.
Plainly, Levchin once deeply envied a basketball-playing classmate who was much cooler than him. This bitterness festered into a bias that will haunt him for the rest of his days. And I don't know, maybe some of the programming students he knew who played basketball at the University of Illinois -- ranked fifth in the nation for computer science -- really were idiots, but this candidate was not. His scores (engineering scores, not basketball) proved this.
Even workaholics should do something fun to recharge, and basketball is as good a hobby as any. Better, actually, if you want to live long enough to enjoy all those millions you're making. Nerds tend to be really protective of their culture, but we're learning more and more that it's not a culture worth preserving. Feel free to search the web for "Silicon Valley culture" on your own time, and see what other industries think about how toxic it is. And while athletes may not be the single most oppressed minority, trust me that bragging to crowds about how your company insisted on hiring only people like you isn't a good look.
Related: 6 Bizarre Forms Of Discrimination That Can Lose You A Job
Google Asked Their Interviewees To Solve Bizarre Puzzles
You walk into your Google interview, prepared to answer questions about your skills, your experience, and exactly what percent you're willing to give. But then your interviewer hits you with "Why are manholes round?" Next they ask, "A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?" This is getting so weird that it's almost a relief when the next question is the comparatively grounded "How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?"
How The Company Sees It:
Every company seeks candidates who are intelligent, driven, productive -- all that good stuff. But to really separate the special folk from the rest, Google had to test if you're able to think laterally. Manholes are round so the cover can't fall into the hole, because square covers could if you tilt them the wrong way. You need to be able to twist things in your mind to solve a problem like that. And you'd need to be even craftier to answer this question: "Every wife knows when a man other than her husband has cheated. Any wife who can prove her husband cheats must kill him that day. The queen visits this village of 100 couples and says at least one husband has cheated. What happens?"
I know the answer to the manhole question. I know it because I liked reading puzzle books as a child. As an adult, I also know that in reality, a round manhole cover will totally fall into a round manhole, which is why the hole contains an inner lip to hold the cover up. And a big enough lip could also keep any other shape from falling in, which is why many grate covers are square, after all. Round covers are more for easy transport and installation. But I still know the "correct" answer is "so it won't fall in," so I'll say that if Google ever asks me. However, I cannot say or hear the word "manhole" and maintain a straight face, so maybe I'd fail the interview anyway.
I know the answer to the hotel question. The man is playing Monopoly and landed on Boardwalk. I read that one in a book too, and if I were to guess it on my own, well, that simply means I think more about board games than about anything that matters. The answer to the queen riddle is that every wife kills her husband on day 100, and the explanation is too long and nonsensical to share here. Just know that it ignores how people act in the real world, so it isn't a good test of anything. Questions about estimates, like the window washing one, were maybe a little better, but in the end Google realized that all of these lateral thinking questions were stupid and finally got rid of them.
Related: 6 Ways Companies Are Secretly Screwing Job Applicants
Loads Of British Firms Reject Anyone Wearing Brown Shoes
People who apply for jobs in British finance might come prepared with every educational qualification an employer could want. But then they show up for the interview and, whoops, they're wearing brown shoes. Formal dress shoes, of course -- they know it's a business interview and tried to style themselves accordingly -- but the shoes are brown. Nothing else in the interview matters. This applicant is out.
How The Company Sees It:
The interviewer doesn't necessarily care about shoes. But fashion is all about your knowledge of unspoken rules, and if you wear brown shoes, that shows you don't know how to represent yourself around clients. "Brown in town isn't done," said one person The Guardian interviewed on the subject. "It's just sartorially wrong." Another said, "I'll put on my black shoes. You're looked at like a bit of a spiv if not."
I have this strange mental picture of an England in which most people live in helpless, quiet poverty. Unless you come from 20 consecutive generations of wealth, success is impossible. Ordinary people wake every morning in their council flats and wash their faces by putting a flannel under the cold tap, and then they take their ration card down to the home office to get their weekly allotment of Brexit. The privileged look down on them for silly reasons, like the color of their shoes. But surely I have no idea what I'm talking about, and in reality the situation there is much like anywhere else.
Or maybe I'm right? Because this disdain toward brown-shoe folk sounds as dumb as anything in my head. If I lack "polish," you'll choose someone else, fine. You can't easily drill polish into someone. But if I'm otherwise perfect, and the shoes are the only problem, how about you just tell me to wear my black shoes when I next come in? I'll put on black shoes, I promise. If I don't own any black shoes, I'll buy some. I can afford to because you recently gave me a job. Hire me. You don't have to act like the parodies of 1960s Brits who were villains in Mad Men.
Related: 7 Helpful Do's And Don'ts When Interviewing For A Job
Xero Software Watches To See If Applicants Take Coffee Cups Back To The Kitchen
Xero Software's Trent Innes has a secret way of judging job applicants. He invites them to the office, and during the tour, they pass through the kitchen. He gets them a coffee. The interview comes to an end at a totally different part of the complex. Then comes the test: What does the applicant do with their cup? Leave it at the table where they were sitting? Or do they go back to the kitchen and wash it?
How The Company Sees It:
First off, the coffee test is a good way of seeing whether applicants literally clean up after themselves. Staff like a clean kitchen over at Xero, so if a prospective employee seems averse to washing dishes, that could spell trouble. But there's a broader concept being looked at here. Innes wants to see how conscientious the applicant is, and if you don't care enough to wash your cup, there's probably a whole lot else you'll readily stop giving a shit over. "It really does come down to attitude," Innes says, "and the attitude that we talk a lot about is the concept of 'wash your coffee cup.'"
When I'm working, would I wash my coffee cup in my employee break room? Yes, and feel free to praise me for this. But will I march back to the kitchen to wash my cup after an interview? No. Because this isn't my office. And I don't mean that in a "not my problem" way; I mean that I have yet to ascend to the role in which the office and its kitchen is part of my dominion. I want to be able to go to the kitchen, and to my desk after that, but I have not yet been granted the right to do that, which is the whole reason I am interviewing today.
The coffee test really only gauges whether someone is confident and already feels at home in the office. And while those actually might be good qualities, that doesn't seem to be what Xero is testing for. Again, if I have coffee when visiting someone I know well, I might take the cup to the sink and wash it, sure. Would I go, on my own, to the kitchen after being served coffee at a White House meet and greet? No. That seems like a good way to get shot.
Charles Schwab Takes You To Breakfast And Bribes The Kitchen To Mess Up Your Order
Keeping with this idea of feeding people only as a secret method of judging them, Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger will take you out to interview you over breakfast. Beforehand, he'll talk to the staff and have them fuck up your order in some way. He assures them that it's a job interview and the victim won't be able to retaliate, and in return, he promises them a good tip. Now he just has to wait for the bad food to arrive and see how you react.
How The Company Sees It:
Every boss wonders how potential employees handle adversity. In fact, many straight up ask in the interview, "Tell me about a time you had to deal with adversity." If you know a thing or two about interviews, you have an answer ready, and the boss has no idea if what you're saying is even true. To know for sure, they instead have to witness you responding to something real. "Are they upset, are they frustrated, or are they understanding?" says Bettinger about the applicant receiving the wrong food. "Life is like that, and business is like that. It's just another way to get a look inside their heart rather than their head."
If I respond to receiving chocolate pancakes instead of strawberry ones by unsheathing the combat knife I always keep handy and driving it into the waiter's heart, you'll have learned something important about me, I'll grant you that. And you'll have dodged a bullet / evaded a stabbing by removing me from the applicant pool. But short of that, I don't know how much information is to be gleaned from this test. This is simply not a level of adversity comparable to anything meaningful I will experience on the job.
My reaction doesn't even reveal how polite I am, or how considerate I am to subordinates. It instead reveals what I think the appropriate reaction during a job interview is. Even if I don't know the boss arranged the mistake (I don't yet know he is a psychopath whose only pleasure derives from deception), I still know he's listening to everything I say, and tailor everything I do accordingly. And if that logic means that anything else a boss learns in an interview is also unreliable, well ... yes, yes it does. I don't know what companies should do instead of job interviews, only that what they do now sucks.
Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see.
For more, check out How These 'Entitled' Millennials Want Jobs That 'Pay':
Follow us on Facebook. It's free.