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Is Big Brother destroying your job prospects?

Firms are turning to increasingly outlandish methods to identify talent

Attending job interviews can be a daunting task for anyone, but what happens when the interview process goes from mildly nerve-racking to downright surreal? In the quest to develop techniques for sourcing outstanding candidates, firms are turning to increasingly outlandish methods to identify talent.

Axing traditional job interview techniques

Before the days of psychological profiling, regular interview techniques were uncontroversial. The rules applied to the question and answer element of an interview tended to focus upon discussing how a candidate may resolve an issue or making mild enquiries about their sickness rate, professional approach and career history. As more and more firms adopted psychometrics to determine individual personality profiles to match applicants to roles, recruitment experienced a gradual shift towards more complex assessments.

Over the past decade or so, it is likely that most job applicants have been faced with a question that seems illogical at best or completely pointless at worst; for example, the Oxbridge entrance interview notoriously presents questions with no solution. Questions such as ‘What can you tell me about this image of a cactus?’ bypass common sense and instead take candidates straight into a surreal state of panic.

We have come to expect this from academia, but it is now becoming standard practice just as much in business. An alleged interview for Facebook led to the candidate being asked ‘What was your best day at work?’, for example, while Airbnb reportedly asked ‘What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?’.

From surrealism to surveillance: the Big Brother culture of recruitment

In addition to presenting outlandish questions for interviewees, some firms within the tech industry are resorting to less scrupulous methods. As more people globally are expressing themselves through social media, organisations are realising the benefits of some pre-interview data gathering to assist the recruitment process; for example, Squarespace and many other firms use applicant-tracking software to collect as much information about the individual as possible before the interview takes place.

Harvesting information pertaining to someone’s social life, history, outlook and career progression affords firms the opportunity to conduct pre-screening to a level that would have been impossible even a decade ago.

Job networking site LinkedIn has a strategy of making personal attributes and traits a much higher priority for selection than academic achievement and qualifications. This insistence upon identifying candidates with the right attitude and outlook in preference to conventional academic achievement is intended to identify individuals with talents not necessarily translatable into certificated skills.

Interview processes both within and outside of the tech industry are increasingly changing to accommodate a whole new set of criteria and attributes. No longer the domain of pre-rehearsed responses to predictable questions, interviewing has evolved. Successful candidates will remain ahead of this evolution and ensure that they prepare for the unexpected and sanitise their online brand before applying for their dream position.

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