Truth in the Workplace

Director Mitch pointed me to an article
on the interview twists and turns some HR people will inflict upon candidates. (Further commentary is available on Newmark’s Door and Just Procastinating. Guest blogger Dr Bob makes some general HR rantiness.)

I decided it might be fun to spend next week blogging about some of the bizarre workplace rituals I’ve seen from both sides of the desk. For example, I already have something written on the concept of “Schedule Chicken.” I’ve been hoping to work this in some way. 🙂

If you’d like to share an anecdote, please contact me. I’m happy to post it anonymously. Or, if I know you, support guest blog entries.

In the meantime, there were a few points that I wanted to make regarding the Jane Lance interview above:

Jane says:

Some interviewers have been known to call job seekers at home and pose as telemarketers to gauge how those candidates react. […] How a candidate deals with an annoying telemarketing call tells the company something about how you would deal with an annoying client.

Jim states the obvious: this might make sense if you were being interviewed for a telemarketing position. However, telemarketers typically do not interact with existing customers like customer support would.

Her scheme wouldn’t work particularly well. Here’s my algorithm for telemarketers:

  1. Check the caller ID box – if it’s “Private Caller” or “Unknown Caller” or “Joe’s Pestering Home Alarm Sales” (you get the idea), I ignore it and let the machine pick it up. They rarely leave a message. However, since this is an election year, I expect a lot of computer-made calls from candidates.
  2. If I do answer it and it’s a phone solicitor, I will politely say “no thank you.” The conversation is over. The phone is on the way to its cradle. (Telemarketers are still human beings, but if they are at all discourteous, I will hang up. Working in Oracle’s support center has taught me how to deal with angry customers, but I have a razor thin skin for tolerating disrespect.)

Jane says:

One of Lance’s favorite behavior tests is to drop her pen at some point during the interview and see how the candidate reacts. She makes sure to drop it an equal distance from herself and the job seeker.
“When they are telling you that they are customer-oriented and you drop your pen and they don’t notice or they don’t pick it up, it’s a disconnect between how they are and what they are saying,” she said.

Jim responds: Jane can apparently alter the laws of physics in ways I could only dream of. I don’t think she’d be able to consistently place the pen at the mystical halfway mark. But what I’m most concerned with is something more subtle. If I, a male, were interviewing with her, a female, and she deliberately dropped her pen at the halfway point, I’d feel uncomfortable at reaching under the table to fish for a pen. I would think: This is so inappropriate for an interview.

Jane says:

Lunch or dinner meetings also are ideal settings for giving away hidden personality traits. Lance said she has heard of hiring managers who spill something on a candidate to see how he or she reacts.

Jim responds: Wow. Is that extremely pathological behavior or what? I think Stanley Bing should field this one.

Jane says:

Some hiring managers will have a potential candidate drive them to a lunch meeting to see what kind of driver he or she is: hurried and aggressive, or courteous and careful?

Jim responds: I wonder what they’d think if the candidate bicycles or uses (gasp) public transportation. I’m sure the same “hiring managers” are also looking over the car. Let’s listen in on the thoughts of one of these “hiring managers”

Ahhh… Subaru. Boring, but a good, functional choice. Excellent reliability, too. Oh, what’s this undergarment lodged between the fold in the back seat? Oh my God, it’s… a diaper! The candidate has a life outside of work!!”

Jane says:

Some hiring managers will purposefully change the time or place of a meeting at the last minute just to get an idea of how well the candidate can handle change. Or they may keep candidates waiting for as long as an hour to see if they handle it calmly, if they find something to occupy their time during the wait or if they fly off the handle.

Jim says back:
Here’s my rule of thumb: if you’re more than 10 minutes late, I’ll call you. If I can’t reach you, I’m assuming you’re not calling. I do expect you to apologize — that’s just courtesy. If you were to do it a second time, I’d conclude you were a flake and this would be a symptom of worse behavior.

During interview day, if I went 20 minutes without seeing someone I expected to see, I’d find the receptionist (or whomever coordinated the interview) and ask. I usually bring plenty of reading material, so I’d certainly amuse myself.

Jane says:

“The intent isn’t to frustrate them or make them angry; it’s to see how they react when change happens,” Lance said. “They are testing the person’s behavior at the moment.”

Jim says: The intent is to give you a power trip. (Oops, I didn’t realize the microphone was still on!)

1 thought on “Truth in the Workplace”

  1. A large telecom company in San Diego that begins with the letter “Q” pulled the last minute change AND made me cool my heels for an hour, but in this case it is because their HR group is totally incompetent. Yes, they are also evil, but in this case they simply didn

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