I know a lot of Drones are out of work right now, and these are tough times for many. Employers hold the cards, and the stories I’m hearing from friends, colleagues, and people I don’t even like indicate that employers feel that they can abuse, infantilize, and demean prospective employees. The tales range from the ridiculous, to the petty, to the offensive.
However, the most bizarre interview I’ve ever had was in 2005, so this was before the economy, and the job market, crashed. I received an email inviting me for a phone screen with the HR drone of a small, boutique consulting firm (translation: no recognition in the marketplace, and no one has ever heard of them). I had spent a number of years at a huge, ginormous consulting firm that everyone knows of, so I figured I knew the drill.
I remember that the HR drone portion of this story went on for an exceedingly long time–maybe close to an hour–and that one of her “questions” was, “talk to me about teams.” I must have come up with some kind of bullshit response to her line of bullshit pseudo-interviewing because at the end of this non-conversation, she asked me if I’d like to come in, not for an “interview,” but for “career day.” WTF is career day, you ask? Well, I asked the same thing. Career day is when potential recruits come in and spend half a day with the team, and ostensibly learn about this fine organization, and vice versa. Ok, what the hell, I’ll come in for your career day.
I was then informed that I would need to prepare and to deliver a presentation to the first group I’d be meeting with. I merely updated some existing slides I had, threw in some management bullshit, because consultants live for that kind of crap, and, most importantly, made sure that my slides had animation. Animation is key to the success of any presentation. People like pictures. Think of it as Corporate Cave Drawings.
I show up, meet with the first group, who seem to be the type who really enjoy a good PowerPoint deck. I’m thinking this whole thing is a bit hokey, but I’m here, so WTF.
Now here comes the pinnacle of the day. After the PPT session, I’m placed in a little room where I’m instructed to read a faux case study, draft a plan, and come back and present it to the group. At this point, my ire is beginning to flare. (Here’s a hint employers: you’re going to piss off good candidates if you make them do academic work as a trial during the interview. I don’t care what your b-school professors told you. This is a bad idea on your part.) I read the case study, and now I’m wondering if this is for real, or if this is a joke. The case study is about a fictional nation called Trevonia (so named because one of the managing directors had a kid named Trevor–the name itself was so stupid that I had to inquire). Trevonia is plagued with problems. It has a high rate of illiteracy. There is poor infrastructure, and roads are crumbling and public transportation sucks. It’s also been at war with a neighboring country, of an equally stupid name which I now forget, for years. Trevonia’s GDP is in the shitter. However, Trevonia is strategically located and is rich in natural resources. If I were advising the Trevonian government, what would my top-level plan of action to turn around the GDP be?
Luckily, I have much experience in creating effective solutions for these types of problems, because when I was an undergrad, I had a philosophy professor who was a huge Star Trek nut. He would make us watch episodes of The Next Generation and then discuss the ethical issues faced by Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. Substitute “Trevonian” for “Cardassian” and it’s all pretty much the same thing. Don’t violate the Prime Directive; you’re only here to observe.
Good little Drone that I was, I came up with some tripe about investing in education because with an illiterate populace, you’re pretty much screwed. In retrospect, I should have said that the Borg was coming, resistance is futile, and the Trevonians will be assimilated!
I never heard back from these clowns, which was a relief. Don’t waste people’s time with your nonsense. Don’t ask them why manhole covers are round or what kind of tree they would like to be. Treat them with respect and courtesy. Most importantly, do not expect that candidates are going to respond favorably to your little “tests.” We won’t. We will be pissed off, and will be telling the story of how ridiculous you are some ten years later. And if, at some point, we might have occasion to hire a firm like yours, we will make sure that the engagement is awarded to Anyone But You.