“Is This a Person I Want to Work With?”

“By working faithfully for eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” – Robert Frost

A recent article at MarketWatch discussed the current state of interviewing in today’s job market. It detailed how weird things are getting with all the questions, personality tests, puzzles and video game simulations companies are increasingly making their job candidates go through.

Here’s one crazy example with a not-so-helpful piece of advice for job seekers:

“People can be asked to sing a jingle,” she says. Her advice to job seekers in 2014: “Have one ready that’s relevant to your industry. It shows that you’ve done your homework and react well under pressure.”

So people looking to land a new job should come prepared with a song about the company they’re interviewing for? That’s what’s going to land you a new job these days?

OK, sure, thanks.

I understand that companies are trying to gauge the problem-solving abilities of potential hires to see how they react under pressure.  Yet between these whacky interview exercises and the usual HR strengths and weaknesses questions, you’d think there would be a better way for companies to choose future employees.

To wade through the usual made-up answers and resume tricks I think every interview should involve a component outside of the office. That way you get both parties out of their comfort zone and allow everyone to relax and show their true personalities.

You can see if you can get along and carry on an actual conversation to get a better sense of who they are as actual people.

The New Tycoons by Bloomberg reporter Jason Kelly profiles the heavy hitters in the private equity industry. The book gives a historical perspective on the bigger private equity managers and how they run their organizations.

Kelly details the hiring process of KKR, one of the largest and most well-known private equity managers in the business.

KKR goes through an exhaustive process when hiring new employees. The interviews can number as high as 40 separate meetings before a final hiring decision is made.

When meeting with co-founder George Roberts, many times the interview questions involve no talk of business at all. According to the book, it’s usually more of a talk on a personal level about past failures and the structure of a candidate’s personal balance sheet.

One of the final tests KKR put their prospective hires through is a simple lunch or dinner. The hiring managers actually count the number of times the candidate says “please” and “thank you” to the wait staff.

They described situations where would-be employees went through months of interview rounds only to fail this final test because they wanted to know how well they would treat the people they’d never see again to judge their character.

One employee described the idea that they were much more concerned with, “Is this a person I want to work with?”

Doesn’t this seem like a logical way to hire a new employee?

You’re going to be with these people 40, 50, 60+ hours every single week. This could include roads trips, lunches, meetings, after-office get-togethers, etc.

At a certain point in the interview process most of the candidates will have similar resumes and work experience.  Shouldn’t one of the deciding factors essentially be, “Can I stand being around this person for long stretches of time?”

This goes both ways for those looking for a job, as well. People looking for a job should seek out employees of the companies they are interested in working for and ask to take them out for coffee, lunch or dinner. You get to show how great you are and pick their brains about the culture of the organization and make-up of the current employees.

People love bragging about themselves. Asking questions is the easiest way to learn about potential employers. This also separates you from the robots that simply shoot out resumes to every single job that gets posted on the web.

Everybody wins by learning more about the compatibility of personalities before the actual hiring decision.

It’s not like this is trivial process either.  The cost of hiring and training new employees can cost companies thousands and thousands of dollars.

What do you think is a more logical way to choose new employees?

Asking them, “What is the average weight of a Friesian cow?” (This is a real interview question from the MarketWatch article)


Asking yourself, “Is this a person I want to work with?”

Job interviews are getting weirder (MarketWatch)
The New Tycoons


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