Assuming you are not a member of the royal family, a reality TV star, or the heir to a hotel empire, the chances are you have, at some point, had the interminable experience of squirming your way through an excruciating job interview. And you may well have wondered if there was not a better - and less painful - way for employers to assess candidates.
The good news is that it seems many companies in the IT channel are moving on from what is increasingly seen as the outdated model of asking potential employees to submit their CV, before calling them in for an interview process that has become somewhat staid and formulaic. The bad news is that some are subjecting applicants to even more demanding - and discomfiting - pursuits.
One daunting prospect that is increasingly unleashed on candidates is a so-called ‘topgrading' interview. The process is designed to create a comprehensive behavioural and personality profile, as well as covering employment history and aptitude for the role. Applicants are scored across a range of competencies, and only those placed in the top 10 per cent across the board are deemed eligible for hiring.
A number of channel firms are known to have at least dabbled with topgrading. Tim Davey, associate director for infrastructure at recruitment firm Stott and May, explained that the process is often favoured by HR professionals - invariably to the chagrin of line-of-business managers, who may find their preferred candidate disqualified.
"It is sometimes used as a final stage, with HR managers wanting to put [candidates] through a full HR process and topgrading," he said. "Sometimes this creates a battle between hiring managers and HR managers."
Marc Sumner, managing director of recruiter Robertson Sumner, claimed that many firms are eschewing traditional interview styles in favour of a more competency-based engagement that invariably includes some form of psychometric testing. The recruitment firm boss added that, in this social media age, employers were also taking it upon themselves to research prospective recruits thoroughly.
"They will do a bit of due diligence, especially for IT salespeople [and their] past performance," he explained.
Sumner stressed that best practice is to develop a recruitment process that effectively combines competency-based testing and online research of candidates, as well as traditional interview methods - which he asserted remain a key component of the process.
"You still need to put them under pressure face to face," he said.
One firm that - rightly or wrongly - has something of a reputation for putting candidates under pressure is ThoughtWorks. In 2013 the software and consultancy specialist was named the world's second-toughest firm at which to interview.
The study, published by employer benchmarking and review site Glassdoor, found that prospective new starters at ThoughtWorks could expect their interview process to take an average of 43 days.
The IT firm's interviewing techniques were awarded a difficulty rating of 3.9 out of five - the joint highest of any business, matched only by management consultant McKinsey and Company, which was rated as the most testing interviewer of them all.
Amy Lynch, recruiter at ThoughtWorks, stressed that the firm does not see its reputation as a tough interviewer as a badge of honour, preferring to think of the process as being thorough and thoughtful.
"We like candidates to show, rather than tell, and we have quite a big practical emphasis for anybody who is coming in for a developer role, [for example]," she said. "We spend a number of hours with [applicants] so we can make a more informed decision."
Lynch estimated that candidates would have to commit something in the region of six or seven hours to interviews and tests, which they could choose to undertake in one working day, or spread over four or five visits. In addition to assessing an applicant's aptitude for the job, ThoughtWorks also uses interviews to try to ensure candidates are a good fit culturally and supportive of the firm's corporate social responsibility agenda.
"We want to drive positive social and economic change," explained Lynch.
Anyone applying for a sales role at MTI is unlikely to have to spend a similar amount of time at the reseller's offices. The first stage of the recruitment process sees candidates sit down for a filmed 10-minute chat with the VAR's recruitment firm of choice, and asked three or four questions about their career history and opinion on the role in question. This is submitted to MTI in place of a more traditional CV or application form.
"A CV does not really tell you why someone is [looking to] change roles, or the challenges they have had to contend with," explained senior vice president of sales Ian Parslow. "If someone comes across extremely positively and articulately, and has a very polished manner, it is a way of differentiating them."
The MTI sales chief added that his company has also dabbled with psychometric testing.
But, ultimately, often you just need to trust your instinct.
"Sometimes you make a decision based on gut feeling rather than a set of metrics," said Parslow. "We are looking for people who have that energy."
Psychometric tests are designed to quickly construct a profile of a person's personality that offers an insight into what areas and roles they are best - and worst - suited for. It can also be used as a guide into the strengths and weaknesses of a potential or current co-worker.
A typical test might consist of 40 questions, each containing four descriptive terms, such as ‘argumentative', ‘playful', or ‘submissive'.
For each question, test-takers are asked to rate which of the four is most and least applicable to them.
In the interests of journalistic rigour, this correspondent sat one such test, and there are certainly no easy answers or cop-outs. Without wishing to comment either way on the validity of the results, it is certainly fair to say that, if you attempt to answer the questions truthfully, you will have to undergo an often uncomfortable amount of self-examination - which may well be the point.
Candidate due diligence
Anyone who has ever been handed the moral hot potato of a friend request from a prim and humourless uncle will know that social media can be a minefield. And this applies to your professional as much as your personal life. A candidate's LinkedIn profile can hinder or enhance their chances of landing their dream job, with prospective employers able to check up on career history and client and co-worker recommendations - or lack of them. Companies are also more savvy when it comes to double-checking easily falsifiable claims about past salary, bonuses, and the smashing (or otherwise) of sales targets.
Edward Bell, managing director of tech recruitment specialist Cordant Dynamic, claimed that Klout scores can provide a brief insight into a candidate's social media standing, but that more high-end tech is making it easier to analyse people's online presence.
"Big data analytics allows people to do that more effectively," he said.
With the name SelfieJobs, a mission statement to give jobseekers a Tinder-like experience, and the slogan "Apply with a Like!", the latest company aiming to remodel the IT recruitment process has clearly taken pains to keep its finger on the zeitgeisty pulse.
The firm has pledged that candidates can apply for jobs having submitted nothing more than a few bullet points covering their work history, a 22-second video pitching themselves, and details of their favourite Instagram picture. The process is designed to take less than two minutes, and thereafter users can put their name forward for roles they like the look of simply by swiping approvingly, in a manner not dissimilar to the aforementioned dating app.
"The best young talent in sales and services just want to get to the interview to showcase their skills to sell, promote or provide the best customer service," said SelfieJobs chief executive Martin Tall. "Service companies need outgoing young professionals to hire in positions where self-expression is the biggest or only requirement."
Snapchat may be better known for those users who utilise the service to offer others a brief glimpse of their nether regions, but it is also being deployed by some firms as a recruitment tool.
Cordant Dynamic's Bell claimed that "Snapchat interviews" are being used by some of his clients as an introductory stage of the hiring process.
"Companies are looking to find more innovative ways of engaging with employees," he said.
And the ugly...
Drawing on your experience
Asking candidates where they see themselves in five years' time is a job interview staple. But one well-known cloud firm allegedly gives this all-too-familiar poser a novel twist by asking candidates to draw an image of their future self not with their words, but
with a pencil and paper.
The request has reportedly left many applicants stumped - particularly if their artistic skills do not even stretch to a convincing stick man.
The sales profession does not tend to attract that many wallflowers and those who do apply may find themselves rooted out before they have even sat down with the hiring manager. Currys found itself in hot water last year when potential hires went public with complaints about being forced to participate in a mass dance-off during the interview process.
But the high-street heavyweight is reportedly not the only tech purveyor to ask candidates to unleash their inner performer: one channel firm allegedly hands prospective sales staff a chicken costume and asks them to don it, before picking a karaoke song to perform in front of their rivals for the job.
Our moles tell us that second-stage interviewees for graduate sales roles at one IT firm were brought together in groups of five, with each person in the group asked to jot down the name of a celebrity. After the quintets of well-known names were brought together, applicants were asked to stand in front of the whole room and explain in what order they would throw the famous folk from a fast-sinking hot-air balloon - and why it was right that they should be spared while all five stars were sacrificed.
We hear that candidates who found themselves flying with, say, Spencer from Made in Chelsea were suddenly grateful not to be in the position of having to justify chucking Sir David Attenborough to his untimely demise.
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