Job candidates with enough time on their hands can script and rehearse answers to just about any interview question imaginable, because so many books and online resources provide the “right” responses. But employers are usually a few steps ahead, devising ways to catch candidates off-guard. One such tactic is to take the job interview out of its usual setting.
Candidates generally understand that a lunch or dinner invitation is an extension of the interview process, not a signal from the employer that a job offer is just a rib eye steak and champagne toast away. But what about a facility tour led by a receptionist or summer intern? What if the office softball team is short a player, so the candidate gets pressed into service, seemingly on the spur of the moment?
These may be “stealthy” interview tactics, designed to learn more about a candidate than is typically revealed in more formal settings.
“A lot of people are only ‘on’ when they think they’re directly in an interviewing situation or with people they think they need to impress versus people they think are beneath them,” says Jeff Haden, a writer for the CBS News business blog www.bnet.com. “What tends to happen is the person is really polite, courteous and engaged in front of decision-makers.”
But leave them in the company of an underling and they reveal themselves to be power mongers, complainers, gossipers or worse.
Haden learned about “stealth tours” some time ago, when he was a manufacturing supervisor. His boss asked him to show around a candidate who apparently thought Haden was “just a shop floor guy.” The candidate said he thought the boss was a jerk and asked if there were policies against dating fellow employees. The boss had planned on hiring the candidate until Haden reported how the tour went.
Hiring managers may enlist tour guides and subordinates to ask seemingly innocuous questions about personal interests and goals. “One candidate went on about wanting to get her master’s degree in an unrelated field,” says J. P. Sniffen, a San Diego-based recruiter for Orion International, Cary, N.C.
Sniffen recently invited a job applicant to play Frisbee football with his office mates. It wasn’t so much a fraternal gesture of acceptance as a test to see if the candidate would fit in with the competitive corporate culture. Playing enthusiastically but poorly would not have been a deal breaker. But standing on the sidelines would have called his candidacy into question.
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