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Hiring

Why This Woman's Awful Job Interview Experience Went Viral

Employers should swap out 'stress interviews' in favor of realistic questions and scenarios.
Why This Woman's Awful Job Interview Experience Went Viral
Image credit: David Woolfall | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
5 min read

Have you ever had an a job interview that just proved without a shadow of a doubt that the company was not the right fit you?

Olivia Bland, a 22-year-old writer and marketer from Manchester, England, took to Twitter to share a recent job interview experience at a software company called Web Applications UK.

After a two-hour interview with the CEO, she left feeling uncomfortable and upset. That might of been the end of it, but she was offered a job as a communications assistant. She turned it down and posted her email explaining why she wouldn’t be taking the job, and the tweet went viral.

“I understand the impact that Craig was trying to have, but nobody should come out of a job interview feeling so upset that they cry at the bus stop.” Bland wrote. “I’m very aware of what Craig was trying to do and what he was trying to get out of me. I’m also aware that by sending this email I am failing his tests and proving that I’m not the right fit for his company. There is something very off to me about a man who tries his best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman, who continues to push even when he can see that he’s making somebody uncomfortable to the point of tears.”  

Bland wrote that she didn't want to be a part of a culture that emphasized tearing people down.

And while the company’s board of directors released a statement that it would call for an independent investigation, Bland shared online that she had not received an apology.

Going off of social media engagement -- more than 4,000 responses, 39,000 retweets and 133,000 likes -- Bland’s experience is unfortunately one that resonates. The company said that as a matter of course, it conducted what it described as a “robust, multi-stage interview, which included simulating challenging, work-based scenarios designed to help identify the best candidate.” These are often known as stress interviews. But are they effective tools, or more likely to alienate any potential new hires?

"The rationale might be good. They want to find somebody who can handle the stress of a high-pressure job. But their approach or their tactics are terrible,” said Dr. David Ballard, the head of the American Psychological Association’s Office of Applied Psychology and Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “It's not good for the candidate and it's not good for the organization. And just because somebody could handle the pressure of a stress interview doesn't mean they could handle the stress that's part of the job and vice versa."

Related: As Your Company Scales, These Are the 8 Keys to Hiring the Right Team Members

Ballard noted that if your inclination is to keep someone off balance during a job interview, either by trying to stump them or maintaining an aggressive stance, you’re not going to get the results you want. So what does an effective job interview look like? It starts before you get in a room with a candidate. Establish a baseline for the characteristics and skills needed to succeed in the job and then tailor the interview experience to those needs, and keep it consistent for all the applicants you see.

“All of that works so that you're applying it consistently, you're reducing the chance that bias is going to creep into the hiring process,” Ballard said. "You hear all the time that people hire job candidates who are like themselves. Well, that's not always the best choice. So being consistent helps you minimize some of those biases because you're holding everyone to the same standards.”

He also recommended not dealing in hypotheticals or odd critical thinking puzzles, but rather presenting job candidates with examples of actual employee experiences.

“Stress interviews make people more guarded. They make them less likely to be open and give you the kinds of information you need to make good decisions," Ballard said. "They interfere with your ability too, as an interviewer to accurately assess the candidate because you're worried about creating and maintaining this artificial scenario and then the end result is you may be chasing away good candidates. And even the people you do hire may be starting off on the wrong foot, if it left them with bad feelings or if it somehow challenged the trust that they feel in you or feeling like the culture there is sort of aggressive and bullying, then even if they do get the job you have to undo some of that negativity that you've built in from the very beginning."

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