Mean job interview tricks to look out for (and one to use yourself)

Journalist Colette Sexton on why many interview tricks achieve nothing but an ego boost for the interviewer.

Anyone who has ever been to a job interview knows what a nerve-wracking experience they can be. You worry about everything from how to shake hands — was the handshake too soft? Too firm? Are my palms sweaty? Do I go in with the wrong hand? —  to the answers you gave — did I mention XYZ? Why didn’t I say ABC?

Yet, some people seem to think they become god-like when interviewing candidates for a job. Not only do they want you to extensively prep for the interview, but they also want to play mind games with you when you get there. Some employers say they do a “sweet wrapper test” when the interviewer drops a sweet wrapper beside the door of the room and then judge the interviewee on whether they pick it up or not. Others say they won’t hire anyone unless they send a thank you email after the interview. In an article for Business Insider, Jessica Liebman, executive managing editor at Insider Inc, wrote that a thank you email  “shows resourcefulness, too, because the candidate often has to hunt down an email address”.

Testing interviewees

Erika Nardini, chief executive of Barstool Sports told the New York Times that one of her tests for interviewees is to text them about something at 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. on a Sunday just to see how fast they’ll respond. She said the right response time is “Within three hours. It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you to be responsive. I think about work all the time. Other people don’t have to be working all the time, but I want people who are also always thinking.” Yikes.

While the job of the interviewer is to see how an interviewee will cope under stress, an interview room is often not the best place to determine that. It is likely that in some cases, the more nervous the candidate, the more they care about and want the job. If someone being interviewed is as cool as a cucumber, it might not mean that they will be like that day to day; it might just mean that they are not very passionate about the role or company. Likewise, if they spill their coffee or do not spot a wrapper on the ground or do not send a thank you email, it does not mean that they will not be a great fit for the job.

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Related: These are our top tips on how to ace that phone interview

While most interview tricks might only achieve a little ego boost for the person in charge, there is one that I heard of that seems like a great idea to make sure a new hire fits the culture of your company. Online clothing retailer Zappos used to have someone from their company pick up an out-of-town candidate from the airport. During the drive to and from the airport, the driver would ask them questions politely about the job and how the interview went. How the candidate treated the driver and speaks about the interviewers and the candidate can tell a lot. Zappos never hired anyone who was rude to the driver. You might not have people flying in from out of town, but everyone will talk to the receptionist or the door person or the secretary arranging the interview slot. Find out what they thought of the candidate before you offer the job.


  • Related: This is why you should ALWAYS accept the drink offer in an interview
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