Have you seen the article floating around about the CEO of Charles Schwab and a breakfast job interview? Basically, he takes candidates out to breakfast and, on the sly, asks the server to intentionally mess up the candidate’s breakfast order so he can see how they respond. Oh, and he promises to leave a big gratuity for the server.
On one hand, I get it. The CEO wants to see how the candidate handles the situation. Do they get angry and fly off the handle? Or are they timid and just take it? But there’s a problem with the logic:
The way that a candidate handles this situation is not a signal of how they will handle things on the job.
Why? Because it’s a job interview!
First off, we have no idea what “messing up” the breakfast order means. So I’ll try to give the CEO the benefit of doubt. But, I certainly hope that messing up a person’s order doesn’t involve putting something in it that they requested not be included. I’d hate to think that some candidate ended up ill or had an allergic reaction because a CEO thought it would be provocative to mess up someone’s breakfast order.
Next, we can’t minimize the purpose of the meeting. It’s a job interview. The candidate is trying to create a good impression. If the toast is a little burnt, so what…I don’t have to eat it. We can push food around on our plate to give the impression of eating. My sister did it all the time when we were kids when she didn’t want to eat her vegetables. The bottom-line is there are times when it’s appropriate to go to battle. Breakfast interviews are not necessarily one of them.
Lastly, and to me the real takeaway from the CEO’s admission, is this is the culture of the company. A trick about messed up breakfast orders decides whether or not you get the job. Candidates have to ask themselves if that’s the type of company they want to work for. Because if that’s how you get the job, then what activity will you be subjected to in order to keep it? Does this create a culture of distrust?
The CEO is quoted as saying that the purpose of the activity is to recognize that we all make mistakes. The question becomes how people react when others make mistakes. I get it. Great point. Instead of messing around with someone’s breakfast, ask the question: “Tell me about a time when someone on your team made a mistake. What was the mistake and how did you confront the issue with them?”
In today’s job market, the best talent have choices. Organizations need to present an employment brand that candidates want to engage with. That includes making decisions about the recruiting process and the little “tests” candidates are being subjected to. IMHO, taking a candidate out for a meal is totally cool. It’s a great way to relax and get to know someone. Interviews are conversations and having a conversation over a meal makes sense.
Messing up someone’s order to gauge their reaction? Well, you can decide if that sets the tone for an open, honest conversation or the next episode of Punk’d.1