The Interview Panel: how not to get a job (Candidate No. 4).

Whilst the responsibility of being a panel member on the Firm’s  Interview Panel is an honour and a privilege, sometimes that responsibility weighs heavy and we have to find ways to lighten the load. A common way for Interview Panel members to relieve themselves is to set bear traps for candidates and enjoy the unwary candidate stumble, fall and finally be gobbled up by the large black bear waiting for them in the deepest recesses of aforesaid bear trap.

Bear traps take many forms and sizes and are often frequently installed within seemingly innocuous interview questions.  My favourite is the one that starts “What do other people think about you / your hair style / shoe size / communication style?

Of course, asking anyone what they think other people think about them is asking for trouble – and that is precisely the point of the question.

We set this particular trap for Candidate Number 4 this afternoon.  After coming over slightly cockily and much too big for his size 16 boots, I asked him, “What do other people think about your personality?”

The Candidate stopped short for a moment and looked around, slightly haunted, as if someone else had just entered the room.  (He was right – it was the bear). You could see him thinking:  ‘Personality?  They want to know about my personality?  They want to know what I think other people think about my personality?  Which other people do they mean? My friends?  Enemies?  The people I pissed off last week? The ones who think I can do no wrong and who love every bone in my body?

The silence was crushing as the Candidate shuffled on his seat, head held high, listening like he was lost in a forest of his own making, trying to smell danger but not succeeding.

“Other people?” he asked feebly.

Yes, other people.  Those you have worked with for example.” I smiled, beckoning him forward, a step closer to the bear trap that was slowly opening up in front of him.

It is quite a moment when you see a candidate make three diametrically opposed psychological decisions in as many minutes.  With this one you could see him mouthing to himself, I’ll tell them about that… no, I’ll tell them about this… no, I’ll tell them about the other” and before you know it he had leapt forward into the void that was the bear trap of the question which asks the interviewee to think on behalf of other people about themselves.

There are usually two responses to this bear trap.  The candidate will either bluster it out and present him or herself as something approaching Jesus – all good will to all men and women but eventually self sacrificing for the greater good: or something out of the Rough Guide for Sado-Masochists in which they present themselves as fawning, incompetent imbeciles who have always deserved a good whipping and can do nothing but harm in the eyes of a rationale, adult world.  Either way, both answers are the wrong answers and the candidate ends up suffering multiple agonies.

Candidate 4 took the latter choice and before long had turned into a gibbering idiot, foaming at the mouth in self recrimination over all the wrong things he had done throughout his life.  Thankfully, the bear at the bottom of this bear trap made quick work of him and he was escorted from the premises in the time it took to shake his hand, smile at him and say what a wonderful interview it had been.  We won’t be seeing him for some time to come.

Whilst the responsibility of being a panel member on the company’s Interview Panel is an honour and a privilege, sometimes that responsibility weighs heavy and we have to find ways to lighten the load.  The Bear Trap is our friend and our salvation during those difficult times and provides relief and sustenance in continuing the good work of the Firm, in all its glory.


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