A reader writes:
I recently had a job interview for an entry-level program coordinator position. I walked in and there was a panel of interviewers sitting behind a table but there was no chair for me. This was the third of five interviews as part of an all-day interview process, and every other session had a clear chair for the interviewee. There was a chair shoved into the corner, and after I introduced myself to everyone, I said something along the lines of “If it is alright, I’m just going to grab this chair” and pushed the chair into the proper position. It made the whole interview process feel like a mind game.
As a candidate who had been through two phone interviews and was enduring a 15-hour in-person interview process, games like this just seemed ridiculous. I thought I really wanted this job, but the interview process was full of games like this. They also made the 20 final candidate cook dinner for and entertain the senior staff at the executive director’s house. We were given 2-1/2 hours to plan, shop, and cook for 40. We also had to find the address of the director’s house, which turned out to be a 30-minute drive away.
Do I have the wrong attitude? Are these tricks and games really a good way to test candidates and, if so, what is the best way to respond?
Wait, what?! The chair thing is weird, but the cooking dinner thing is even odder. I wrote back and asked for more information. The letter-writer said:
When they invited me for the final interview, they made it clear that it would be a whole day affair. A few days before the interview, I asked for an agenda/schedule and was told “All I will share is that interviews will last from 8:30 am to at least 9:00 pm, and you will have individual interviews as well as time to mingle with fellow candidates during the day.” When I arrived at the interview, I was given the schedule for the day, which included five individual interviews and said that from 5 pm onwards, there would be a group activity. At 5, they simply announced that our group activity was to shop for and prepare a meal for 40 with entertainment, to be served at 7:30 at the director’s house. We were given a budget of $350 and information about food allergies in the group. No other information was given (we even had to figure out the director’s address) and they didn’t give any sort of reason/context. It wasn’t clear if it was supposed to be an evaluation of our skills, but the senior staff spent the majority of the night drinking and dancing. The evening didn’t end till 10:30 pm, when it moved to a local bar.
That is the sound of me being shocked into silence.
These people are partly insane, partly sadists, partly narcissists. No, this is not a good way to evaluate candidates. Nor is it a good way to treat people in general.
The chair situation is the least of the problems here. It’s weird, sure, but it’s nothing compared to the rest of this buffoonery.
First of all, 20 finalists? This isn’t an audition for drill team. This is an entry-level job. And even if it were senior level — even if it were for the CEO of The World — it makes no sense to have 20 finalists. You have 3-5 finalists. Maybe a few more in some cases. You don’t have 20.
Second, what’s up with the group meal preparation? This isn’t Top Chef. (Wait, was it? That would make it make sense.)
Third, why the hell did they have you cooking a meal at all? The job doesn’t sound like it involves cooking or entertaining.
Fourth … no, I can’t even go on. It’s too ridiculous.
All you can do is accept that you somehow got mixed up into a group of loons or maybe some sort of delusional cult, and count your blessings that you escaped before they made you perform an interpretative dance (choreographed with the 19 other finalists) and give them massages.
These people are whackjobs. Do not engage further.