Most Cutthroat Interview Question Ever
Toward the end of the interview I had no business attending, our potential employer asked all of us in the group interview all of the basic questions. What qualifies you; what’s your strength; what’s your weakness. At the end, though, he added a particularly devious question:
Besides yourself, who in this room would you hire?
Twenty-three job candidates in a cramped classroom suddenly became very nervous. Even the lady who had graduated from this correspondence school seemed uncomfortable.
In true group interview form, our interviewer asked for the candidates in the back to go first. I was in the front, and I would be almost the last person to answer the question.
Candidate the First had prepared quickly. After a confident pause, she answered the question by making what seemed to be the obvious choice, choosing Cindy, the graduate of this correspondence school. Most of the rest of the room affirmed that decision. As one put it:
She knows the product.
Cindy was a good choice. Cindy was probably the best choice. However, Cindy was almost certainly the safe choice. Seldom do I make safe choices at job interviews. Blending in is a marvelous apocryphal adaptation of chameleons in the jungle of Madagascar, but it won’t help me get a job. Besides, Cindy looked like she tired of the all of the attention.
Looking toward the back, I saw a man in a blue shirt. He had spoken about having been a listener for years, and how that would help him telemarket to students who had already expressed interest in the program.
He was a wide man with graying hair and Latin features, and his warm smile radiated genuine satisfaction. He looked competent; he looked quiet.
I chose him.
He didn’t have to talk about spin selling, or being a great salesman. He talked about listening. That’s a skill hard for adults to develop if they haven’t already, and if he is that good of a listener, he’d do excellently in sales. He has to match what this school has with what the client wants.
In addition, I think that he’d make an excellent mentor figure to the correspondence school students trying to get restart their life, too. He’d make an excellent father figure, or grandfather figure …
That’s where my 30-second soliloquy stopped, broken by laughter of the interviewers and the other candidates. The wide man in the blue shirt smiled quietly.
Given my defense of my youth earlier that day, I supposed they thought I was trying to undermine his chances of getting hired. I wasn’t trying to make it a dig at his age, though. With age comes awareness, comes respect.
Appearing like a grandfather figure doesn’t make him a bad candidate — it makes him the best candidate. As I began to talk myself through this, I began to believe this, and I never meant to use my opportunity to help out someone else to take someone else out of the running. I don’t know whether the laughter was because they thought I was being a jerk, or whether because they recognized that I didn’t meant to harm the wide man’s chance of getting hired.
Either way, I didn’t get a callback.