The job market is highly competitive right now in these uncertain times, and potential employers are choosing from a large pool of qualified candidates. Here are a few tricks that hiring managers may be using to secretly test you (if we ever get back to the office).
1. The coffee trick
Trent Innes created a simple test to determine if a candidate is a good fit. Here’s how the coffee trick works: When someone comes in for an interview, Trent takes them to the kitchen and makes sure they come away with a cup of coffee or tea. After the interview is done, Trent watches to see if the person offers or attempts to take the empty coffee cup back to the kitchen. If they do, he believes they’d be a good fit for the workplace. If they just leave their cup at the table and walk away, they won’t get the job.
So if you find yourself sipping a beverage, make sure you at least ask what you should do with the empty cup, or take it with you when you leave.
2. The silent treatment
Another trick an interviewer may employ is a technique used by journalists when they interview a subject: Leaving silence. In a journalistic situation, the reporter may leave a pause so the subject feels so uncomfortable they try to fill the silence by saying something else, or elaborating further on the previous topic.
In a job interview, the interviewer may be trying to see how you handle the situation. Do you remain calm, or do you rush to fill the awkward pause? As career expert J.T. O’Donnell explained, “If there is a silence, we don’t want to take over the situation and try to fill it. Sometimes the hiring manager is taking notes. Whatever the case, we need to just be patient, take a deep breath, and wait for them to re-engage.”
Instead of word-vomiting whatever you can think of to say, allow the pause to happen. If it’s still quiet, you can ask, “Did I answer your question or would you like me to elaborate further?” This puts you in a position of control and shows that your feathers aren’t easily ruffled.
3. The sit and wait
The waiting period before the interview begins is surely the worst part, but some employers actually want to make it harder. Interviewers might leave candidates sitting in the waiting room longer than they need to in order to assess how well they handle uncomfortable situations. Try to remain calm and focused, but don’t be so absorbed in your phone that you seem nonchalant. Breathe!
4. Drop the pen
It’s possible that at some point during your discussion, the interviewer might “accidentally” drop their pen on the floor.
As Anurag Mehta of Gravity Analytics explained, “Part way through the interview, while they were mid-conversation, he would intentionally ‘accidentally’ drop his pen on the floor in between him and the interviewee. If the interviewee instinctively bent down to pick up the pen, he/she passed the ‘jerk test’ and was a keeper.”
His contention was that a lot of people prepare well and can put up a charming front, but how they react instinctively, when the opportunity to help someone or be kind presents itself, is what can be truly telling.
5. Meet the team
It’s usually a good sign if you’re asked to leave the interview room and meet the team in the main office. But this also might be a way for the hiring manager to crowdsource their opinion of you. If the interviewer likes you, but the team gets a bad vibe, that is not going to bode well for you.
And remember, “the team” can extend to the person who checks you in at the door to the barista who works downstairs. Be friendly and warm with everyone and don’t let your guard down until you are several blocks away from the building.
6. The receptionist intel
You may have heard the story about the waiter rule, which is attributed to the CEO Bill Swanson. Swanson notes how potential employees treat waiters when he takes them out to lunch. “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with. Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.”
This same rule can be applied to the receptionist who greets you when you arrive for the interview. Often receptionists are relied on for their opinion about office politics, so make sure you are courteous upon arrival.
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