Here's the introduction to the article:
Melissa & Doug LLC, a fast-growing toy maker in Wilton, Conn., puts applicants through an interview process so grueling that one job seeker says she left in tears and felt psychologically traumatized.
Candidates must bring their lunch -- plus three years of W-2 statements. They spend hours on simulated work tasks, several with tight deadlines. They complete a lengthy survey, where they rank their interest in chores such as fixing a leaky faucet and changing the fax machine's toner. Some prospects walk out right after the all-day screening starts.
I'm hearing of employers letting positions go unfilled because the perfect hire is always right around the corner, and the applicants they do eventually hire are being put through interview after interview. What's interesting to me is that companies don't seem to realize the extent to which applicants are assessing them, too.
Years ago, I went through rounds of interviews for a sales job at a small firm. It was a job that would have offered me a terrific starting salary that was more than I'd ever earned in my life. On the surface, the job seemed like a hard one to turn down, if it were offered to me.
My first stop was an interview with the hiring manager, who I knew tangentially through a mutual friend. It went well. A few days later, I was asked to come back to meet the head sales manager in his office. I sat across from him as he asked me general questions about my sales background while simultaneously scanning spreadsheets for each sales person's up-to-the-minute metrics. I got a weird feeling.
Next, I was asked to come to the "Fun Day Monday" meeting the following Monday at 7:30 a.m., where I sat through the weekly staff meeting with my potential coworkers. It was an odd experience to sit with people I've never met, but might work with. The owner and his wife, who also worked for the firm, were both there, too. I remember them saying how important it is to get an early start to the day. There was an awkward silence around the table. The stress level was palpable.
Afterward, I was told to shadow one of the sales guys, who seemed very nice. I sat with him in his cubicle and watched him make cold calls. It turned out that on Monday mornings -- er, "Fun Day Mondays" -- the sales team had a cold call competition. A manager kept a running sales tally on a big white board, and walked around encouraging people to make more calls. The manager rang a bell every time someone made a sale. The salesperson who made the most sales in a two-hour period won something. I don't remember what, exactly.
What I do remember is watching the sales guy I shadowed. His cheeks were red and sweat dotted his forehead. He talked about how he had brought work home that weekend so he could have leads ready for Fun Day Monday. He mentioned, almost in passing, that his wife had hoped he'd take care of some projects in the yard instead of working on his prospect list. His right leg bounced up and down nervously as he made calls. He left a lot of voice mails. I didn't ask if he liked working there. I already knew the answer, and I didn't want to add to the poor guy's stress level.
I was offered the job the next day and I turned it down. The hiring manager seemed to think I was crazy for walking away from such a great opportunity. I know this because our mutual friend told me. Later, I heard things about this company that confirmed my doubts.
Applicants are observing a workplace in action when they're put through these multi-stage interviews and they're looking for anything that doesn't add up. While employers are busy pondering fit, applicants are busy wondering, "Would I really want to work here, based on what I'm seeing?" As I found out, sometimes it's the things that aren't said that offer the most insight.
Multi-stage interviews actually open employers up to a higher level of scrutiny, and employers who use this hiring strategy would be wise to think about the vibes they're giving off.