In the February 4, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we consider the meaning of a stress interview.


stress interviewMy daughter just went through what’s called a “stress interview.” She said she held it together, but came home and burst into tears. She didn’t know this was a thing. She’s had three such interviews in a row that left her feeling worthless in some unknown way. WHY is this a thing? It’s just mean. Why would anyone want to work with such awful people?

Nick’s Reply

Please tell your daughter there’s nothing wrong with her. What she went through is the corporate equivalent of getting mugged. The victim feels that they somehow did something wrong to put themselves in that position.

Many employers’ hiring methods are rooted in HR consultants’ reports that advise using “best practices” – like stress interviews – in the name of “HR science.” But there is no science in intimidation, and abusing job applicants is not a good practice!

Is a stress interview a hiring method?

Let’s make an important distinction from the start. There is a difference between asking a job candidate to consent to participate in a work simulation that models the pressures of a job, and subjecting the candidate to an unexpected personal attack as part of an interview. Even in the former case, an employer is obligated to disclose the stressful nature of the job and give the applicant the option to decline any interview at all. For our purposes, the rest of this column refers to the latter scenario.

Job applicants like your daughter strive to be cooperative during the highly bureaucratic hiring process. I’m sure she trusts that, even if job interviews are fraught with anxiety, employers will conduct themselves with integrity. There is no business without trust, though we sometimes get hurt for trusting. Tell her to be careful around people who lack integrity, but not to stop trusting.

Many online resources purport to teach how to handle the pressure of a stress interview and how to prepare for it. But I don’t think a stress interview is ever justified. If it’s a “method” of testing applicants, then someone doesn’t know how to assess job applicants. I’m in agreement with this BBC article on the subject: The ‘stress interview’: a technique that goes too far? If an employer wants to give you a “front-row seat to the ugliest side of the company,” that’s your signal to run to the fire exit.

Stand and deliver

My advice to anyone who finds themselves in a stress interview is to calmly and politely stand up and deliver a message like this one:

“I’d never subject a fellow employee or a customer to such treatment for any reason, and I don’t tolerate it myself. Good luck finding someone who does.”

And walk out.

What kind of people do you want to work with?

Of course, that means no job. But there was no job there to begin with; just abuse and nasty people who have no clue that business is about trust, integrity, and respect. If the explanation is that the company wants to prepare you for working with abusive customers, for example, you should reconsider the job entirely. Would you consent to being tortured, so we could see how durable you are? Ask yourself, what kind of job do I want and what kind of people do I want to work with? (See Never work with jerks.)

Please tell your daughter to hold her head high and move on – to companies that have a standard of behavior as high as her own. To accept anything less is to debase and devalue herself.

In answer to your question, no one should want to work with awful people. Walk away from them. They are never worth the torture they inflict. Just because “it’s part of the interview process” doesn’t make it legitimate or acceptable.

I wish your daughter the best and I compliment you for not remaining silent about how she was treated. Good for you for letting out your ire. Sharing experiences like this is how we help others avoid them.

Now it’s time for your daughter to go find smart people worth working with.

How far should an interview go? What’s the wildest “test” you’ve encountered, and was it justified? Is there any way to conduct a legitimate stress interview? Is there a better way than I suggested to deal with one?

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  1. If you get home and realize this is what happened write them a brief polite letter telling them you don’t want the job and why. Then BCC the CEO. They get enough of these letters and they will take a “personal” interest in finding out why.

    • I had several stress interviews as an IT contractor doing contract work. My area of IT was going strictly contract during the Great Recession and has remained that way. I put up with it for awhile because I loved my job and was used to crazy stressful deadlines anyway. But it got worse and then it got weird. I ended up changing careers.

      • @Jennifer: So, YOU are the reason there’s a talent shortage in IT! :-)

      • I left IT also during the Great Recession for the same reasons you mention.

  2. Any business that believes they have to abuse a job candidate in order to evaluate how they will survive the job is not worth working for. There should never be stress as a result of management style or work culture. There could very well be stress intrinsic in some jobs, for example, emergency room nurse, police officer, inner city school teacher, soldier, customer service representative. It is necessary to evaluate how candidates will handle the stress. Even army recruits are not stressed during the recruitment process … only after they are signed up and are going through basic training to prepare them for what could happen in active combat. I know someone who applied for a job at Home Depot and during the interview they provided some scenarios about dealing with abusive customers. He was asked questions like, “How would you deal with …?” It even involved some role playing, but it was always clear that this was role playing for something that very well could happen on the job. At no time was the interviewer abusive. If an interviewer is being abusive in order to prepare the candidate for working at that company, it is a clear sign that the company culture is abusive. STAY AWAY.

    • Earlier in my career, I was unexpectedly subjected to a stress interview. The cretin who organized this interview retained some Big 4 consultants to be sure it adhered to “best practices”. Unfortunately for me, I was the best performer among the interviewees and was offered the job. I lasted 6 weeks and decided I had to leave. A total waste of time and energy.

  3. I’m not sure I understand what a “stress interview” is after reading this. I’ve certainly never encountered – nor given – one.

    • Typically, it’s an interview where the employer is attempting to cause duress for the potential employee to see how he or she responds. This is beyond the normal interview stress. For example, a manager may yell or curse at the candidate, storm out of the interview, tell the candidate to get out but then call him or her back, etc. Sometimes, it will be a group interview and the interviewers will fire rapid questions at the candidate without giving time for a response. Sometimes it will be the old good cop/bad cop routine with two interviewers.

      Basically, think of anything that can stress the candidate through humiliation/anger/disrespect but has nothing to do with the job.

      • That is just wrong in so many ways.
        Thanks for the explanation

        • @Doc: Sorry the article wasn’t clear enough!

  4. In my opinion there is only one acceptable “stress” portion of an interview, and that is dealing with angry customers/employees but only when done under an obvious role playing scenario.

    I once had an interview process that involved going through a “simulation” of a typical day at the job. It was done by some outsourced testing company, and they clearly explained that this was a role playing scenario. They would be playing supervisors, subordinates, customers, etc…..and they disclosed that some of these people would be angry or have attitudes. They clearly stated that they wanted to see how I would handle these situations.

    And, yeah, one of these characters was an angry person I had to deal with.

    I felt this was ok because:

    1) It was directly relevant to the job.
    2) It was clearly disclosed what would be happening ahead of time.
    3) They said that while the characters might be angry or mad, they wouldn’t threaten me, act violent, use any slurs, etc.
    4) I could stop at any time.

    For those who’ve participated in research studies before, yeah, they were basically following the ethics guidelines for human test subjects.

    Anything beyond this, IMHO, is just bullying by management.

    • @Chris: Thanks for 4 good tests of a job interview.

  5. I agree tell her to move on and try to forget this.. She and everyone deserves better treatment. This happened to me in the early 2000’s at a real estate training company. The guy was abusive from the beginning (he was the abuser I had to get past). I got up, walked out and never looked back.

    • @Peggy: My compliments for knowing what to do the very first time it happened to you.

  6. I had an interview for an internal training position a number of years ago that included the company flying me to their corporate office for interviews and “teaching” a trial “class”. When it came time to teach, the “class” was made up of HR and training staff, and soon after I began, they started to “misbehave”–talking and other mildly disruptive activities, obviously done to see how I would handle it (though not disclosed prior to the class). First, I wondered if they had even read my resume to see that I had well over twenty years in management, training, and HR in Fortune 100 companies, and was probably experienced in handling such situations. Secondly, I wondered if that was how their employees really acted in classes! (We were training adults here, not third graders.) Thirdly, I wondered if class management was more important to them than instruction and content. When I had my interview with the director of HR later in the day, I knew it was over when he asked me the out-of-the-book strengths/weaknesses and other pre-fab questions that even he admitted were “the most commonly used”, and that I was probably familiar with them. After that interview, the director of training suddenly had a meeting she had to be in, so I as handed off to a staff trainer for the return to the airport. I never heard from them again. This was a retail business, so I chose to never do business with them in the future. (And, I had been a customer to that point.) THAT was something that I taught managers in interviewing classes. –Even if you don’t hire them, you still want them as your customer, and you might want to hire them in the future. Treat the candidate with respect so you don’t burn the bridge.

    • School teachers are routinely required to present a model lesson. And often that lesson is in front of actual students. This makes sense. But, I am sure they do not ask the students to deliberately misbehave in order to test the teacher candidate. For a corporate trainer to be presented with deliberately misbehaving students is just rudeness for no purpose. It would be appropriate to ask the “students” if this is how the employees actually behave during corporate training.

      • Why has everything in the field of hiring been reduced to gimmicks? I’m so sick of this type of crap. Do these companies not care about their reputations?? Nick, why does the business world condone this nonsense? I have never heard of “stress interviews”. This is absurd and ridiculous.

        • @SAG: I’d love to hear another side of this from HR folks, but my contention is that, outside of HR, the C-suite has no idea how its HR department treats the professional community from which a company needs to recruit. This is more on the board of directors than anyone else. The rule of conduct for boards is “Nose in, fingers out.” That is, a board needs to know how the executive team is running the joint, but must not get involved in the day-to-day management.

          My guess is that most boards find HR’s business “icky” and want nothing to do with it. Hence, they keep their noses out and have no idea what’s going on.

          • Yet another gutless act by the responsible parties sticking their heads in the sand. That certainly is refreshing to hear :(

    • @Sam: “Even if you don’t hire them, you still want them as your customer,”

      This is why I suggest every company should have its PR department review the practices of its HR department. While PR and Marketing are working to build a company’s image with the public, HR may be tearing it down. The pool of job candidates is likely the same as the pool of customers.

      • “The pool of job candidates is likely the same as the pool of customers.”

        I’ve had so called recruitment agencies/head hunters be completely unhelpful to me as a job seeker for various reasons, usually relating to bad behavior (like ghosting, spamming, etc.) or being unable/unwilling to appropriately gauge my talents and how I can help an organization.

        But, I’ve had these same folks/organizations then try to pump me for business (i.e. do I have any open jobs they can take a crack at). Or if I knew of anyone looking for a job they can harass.

        Oh, the horror! You’d literally be the LAST person I’d call.

        • I’ve had people (who it’d be a stretch, IMHO, to call “recruiters”) contact me to inquire if I had anyone who could fill any of the following jobs they’re trying to fill. These are worded in such a way that they, apparently, think I’m running a staffing firm and that I have a bench full of consultants waiting for me to find them positions. I’ve replied back to them to ask what on earth made them think I was in a position to work with them in this manner. No replies. Other than receiving yet another plea for consultants a few weeks later. I’m at a loss as to why they think I’d pass along to them the name of someone I’d want to continue having a business relationship with.

          • @Rick: This is clearly the dominant model in the “search” biz now. Send spam to people you don’t know and ask them to give you names of people who might want a job. WTF?? The real joke is that HR execs pay for these “services”!.

            More to the point, HR pays for these “services” because HR can’t do the job itself! WHY HR?

            None of this is “search.” It’s “wait for who comes along.” And anybody wonders why American business is so screwed up?

  7. Several things come to mind.

    One, forget for a minute about this interview and let’s just talk LIFE.

    Are you or your children trained to deal with stressful situations, like being attacked, intimidated, bullied, or being threatened? The likely answer is no!

    Did you get trained in a martial art that deals with the above? Not likely. Most martial arts for kids is treated as a game which doesn’t help.

    Today’s children and most adults are easily triggered and offended, and one of those reasons is they have no training to get used to being under fire. Sounds like this interview got out of hand, but if an interview by strangers totally upsets you–then that’s life giving you a message that you need to become stronger.

    Because life is full of jerks and rude behavior. Even worse, the likelihood you’ll be challenged by someone stronger, with weapons, is getting all the more likely. The police won’t be there in time to help you.

    People lack self control and self confidence…none of that is given in school.

    All this coddling is making weak people, from children to adults.

    And you need to be taught ethics, compassion, and the ability to have empathy–NONE of this is being taught out there. The young used to respect their elders.

    And respect is something you earn, but at first it’s a given. Not in today’s culture where the customer is always wrong, and we use the alphabet to confuse others in how to address us, leading to more conflict.

    Every human is responsible for their own self control. Learn from others…figure it out.

    Or you won’t be able to handle life’s surprises.

    • Jack, this sounds a lot like “blaming the victim” mentality. We should be strong enough to take whatever crap HR is giving out even when it is abusive and demeaning? Getting used to being under fire sounds like people ought to be able to take abuse like this. Nice people, good people tend to self blame on this stuff which is the intent of the abuser. Yes, it is helpful to learn the tricks and know when to walk away but the daughter is not wrong for being upset and crying. She was abused at this interview and let’s call abuse what it is instead of saying people should be able to suck it up and take it.

    • So what’s your point?? Any person who has ever held a job will come up against jerks: be it colleagues or customers/clients. I know I have. And never in my life have I been subjected to a “stress interview”. Nor would I ever work for a company that behaves in this manner.

  8. I have been through 2 in my life. One was to see how I would react in a No Win situation, the other was just a massive Jerk.

    I was going for Corporate VP of Quality at an Aerospace company. The VP of Manufacturing and the CEO were at the table. They presented a situation that basically had no solution. They wanted to see how I would handle it and as I started to formulate an answer, they would throw a curve ball, over and over. I got a lot of Yea, But If…..

    I was doing the 5 Why’s in my mind with each of the curve balls. I was still in my suit and that was good because I sweat through the shirt. In the end I stated something like “we plan the outcome, but must remain agile with each step. Then I explained how I used the 5 Why’s and to adjust the road map but keep the goal in sight. Even the HR VP said I did well. But the position went to another guy who had worked with one of their other VP’s in the same role.

    The second position was years earlier at a Microsoft interview. They guy had his feet up on the desk at an angle away from me, keyboard in lap, looking at the monitor. He never made eye contact, just asked the typical dumb questions. Towards the end he pointed to some X Box main boards on the wall (still didn’t look at me. and one of them had a very complex cooling coil He explained that was their solution to the Red Ring of Death and wanted my opinion. I picked it up, and it took 20 seconds to tell him that the cause of the problem (which had not been released) was the underfill being used was expanding slightly which fractured solder joints and broke the connection. When the chips cooled, connection was temporary reestablished. THAT stopped him cold, and he turned toward me and demanded to know how I came up with that information, basically accusing me of spying. I let him know I was a BSEE, with a lot of manufacturing experience and also understood the complexities of the materials being used. I told him I couldn’t work for him, got up and walked out. HR tried to apologize, but if there was one ass.. like him, there would be others, so I moved on.

    • @Joseph: Good call. Wonder how many good hires that guy cost the company?

  9. Nick,

    I believe you gave this week’s writer solid advice. Although the writer may be more sensitive than other folks (or maybe she just got into a room of cretins), your message is still true.

    In the world of electronics and systems, a “stress test” is performed to understand the limits of the system. It is purposely overloaded until it breaks down. Although this may be good for inanimate objects, there is no analog for human beings.

    As many readers have pointed out, there are careers which involve high levels of stress. In these cases, it is legitimate for the company to determine that the employee can still do their job when subject to an environment of elevated emotions. But there are humane ways to determine that without abusing your potential employee. For example, UPS or the Post Office requires the employee to be able to lift a 70 pound package, because that’s what they’ll encounter in their work. But screaming at you while you struggle to life a 250 pound package doesn’t tell the employer anything about your ability to do the job. And that sounds like what this week’s writer went through.

    I believe your assertion that work involves mutual respect is spot-on. Gracefully depart any interview that doesn’t live up to that.

  10. First I agree with Jack that stress is part of life and too many parents/grandparents attempt to shield their young from life.
    In one situation as a print journalist, I was quickly involved in the stress side of the profession. No one prepared me, nor mentored me about this commonality. I chose to learn how to deal with the varied stress situations involved with the job. 10 years later as an investigative journalist what I learned about stress proved priceless in performing this aspect of the profession. I’ve since reflected on this with my children and also as an employer. Too many qualified people fall through the cracks AFTER THEY ARE HIRED due to ignorance and lack of training to properly deal with stress. I’ve taught my kids to expect stress in every aspect of life. How they deal with it is their choice. Based on this situation I believe the father of this young woman needs to back off and let her deal with life in her way. He obviously hasn’t prepared her for life. His continued interference will keep her weak. Why did he initiate the question and not allow her to do it on her own?
    I’ve also learned that what some people call “abuse” really is testing how to deal with stressful business situations. Not to say that abuse doesn’t happen but my experience (45 years in business) has been over half the people who cite abuse are not really abused. Too many times this becomes part of the political correctness aspect of our society. A high percentage of people emotionally jump on the bandwagon of whatever movement is in vogue until such time the next latest/greatest cause comes about.

  11. I had a stress interview over the phone a few years ago. I was scheduled to be interviewed by one person who became a committee of 5. I couldn’t understand the questions because they would keep interrupting each other and arguing among themselves. Apparently this is how the team worked with each other. I realized later I should have hung up and not wasted my time. Truly Lord of the Flies.

    • I had a one-on-one phone interview that turned into a stress interview though I’m certain it was never intended to be one. The interviewer, apparently, didn’t tell his co-workers that he was going to be unavailable during the interview. (Mind you, this was an interview that was re-scheduled after the interviewer ghosted me the first time.) There was interruption after interruption the entire time we were on the phone. Eventually, I’d be asked a question and the phone would go silent as he put his phone on mute while he dealt with whatever new distraction walked into his office. I was actually a little glad that I didn’t get a call for an in-person, figuring that the environment was going to be non-stop chaos if they’d hired me. No shortage of schadenfreude as I saw job postings for the position I’d interviewed for being re-posted for many, many months.

      • @Rick: I believe in Roadrunner cartoons that’s referred to as dodging a bullet.

  12. I had one recently. Did not realize right away what it was going to be about, but when it started and I believed it would become contentious, I decided to turn the tables and asked why my potential co-workers were so hostile? Is this a natural state of the corporate culture or an edict handed down from top management. My response was you must push back at hostile orders from management. Leadership is saying no to those above you in such situations. Look for soft spots in management to strike back at. Needless to say, I was not offered a job at a firm I did not want to work for

  13. Sounds like a preemptive defense for abusive behavior. “Well, we told her it might be stressful”. I keep reminding myself that work/a career used to be enjoyable. Not a madhouse for moronic behavior. Yikes!

  14. I wish that you would address the problems of people seeking employment in public agencies. It’s fine to talk about just getting up and leaving, but so often if you want to be a cop or a librarian, there is only one local agency to employ you. Especially in 2 career families, moving to another community with greater job prospects isn’t always possible. You talk all the time about HR in the private sector, but you REALLY should investigate what it is like in the public sector. It’s very diffierent. Hint: There ain’t NOTHIN’ civil about civil service!

    • @Theresa: I have never been able to fathom public service employment. I once did a workshop for a federal agency to teach employees and managers how to use private sector methods to advance their careers and to hire more effectively. What I learned shocked me. The managers took me behind closed doors afterwards and begged me to help them design some methods to avoid hiring “the worst candidates” that were forced on them by “patrons” who were gaming the very strict procedures and rules of government HR.

      You won’t want to hear this, but I don’t sugar-coat reality: If public service is so bad, get out. Otherwise, in 5 years you will look back and say, If only I’d started changing my career 5 years ago I’d be somewhere else now.

      I’m not knocking civil service jobs — there are many successful people doing good work. But the underbelly of that beast is one we’re not allowed to see or examine.

      If you’d like to post some examples of the problems you refer to, I’d be interested in reading them. I’ll point out that you a free to use a screen name if you prefer.

      • Nick,

        Don’t stress over “strict procedures and rules of government HR.” They’re not.

        I’ve worked for one of the largest governments in this part of the US, and HR system manipulation to greenlight political appointees is the rule, not the exception. Later, I was excluded from one senior management position with another NE US city when my paperwork mysteriously disappeared. I had been in touch with, and interviewed by, the hiring manager, so I was not anticipating any difficulty with the hiring process. But the hiring manager turned out to have a hidden agenda, and decided he wanted to hire someone else with connections who was less qualified and that was his easiest solution.

        Sometime later than that, this time a civilian management position for a large US military agency, I was again perfectly qualified for technology with which I had been working (i.e. an experienced electrical engineer with an EE degree and graduate honors wouldn’t have stood a chance against me). But as I was completing a detailed questionnaire that looked like a machine-scored midterm exam, it became obvious to me that that position was wired for someone else who already had well-established management relationships within that particular group. History proved me correct, they hired someone that was already working for that particular group. Really getting tired of this.

        But to address Theresa’s question, often in public sector toxic employment situations, the only way to deal with it is to transfer to another agency, even in some of the largest cities in the US. As an example, one of my former co-workers wanted to transfer to another agency, but our assistant commissioner refused to let her leave. By then pretty much all other agencies knew that this guy was a dirt bag. So she arraigned with her new agency to quit her job at our agency on one day, and start her new job (across the street) the very next day, and with seniority and everything else continued as if nothing happened. Former agency couldn’t touch her any longer. That’s one way career civil servants deal with situations like that.

        But don’t assume for a moment that anyone will be doing anything about the toxic managers who perpetuate it. The political power that got them hired will protect them until they go way overboard.

  15. I hadn’t heard of stress interviews for years. thought it was something companies had gotten away from. Are they coming back or did the woman in question just meet a jerk. They never completely go away.

    • @Jim: Oh, stress interviews have not gone away! Not any more than jerks have!

  16. I’ve had two stress test interviews, both of them with lawyers (small law offices). I was hired for both jobs, and lived to regret it. Those interviews should have been a clue that this was the culture and the attorneys behaved, not just a simulation for so they could see how you’d deal with stressful situations and people.

    Some of their comments were nonsensical; chiding me and making fun of me for wearing a black suit to the interview, when all of them were dressed in black suits, that kind of thing. Mirror, anyone?

    I do think that stress is part of life and work; learning how to cope with stress is what matters. That said, I don’t see the point in the kind of abuse written about in the article about the young British woman who interviewed for a job. If they truly want to see how you’d react under pressure, why not give people examples or simulate times and circumstances when you would have to deal with nasty clients or customers, or how you’d handle pressure when you’re faced with deadlines. But the name-calling, criticizing how you sit, your parents’ marriage, etc., that is way out of line, and irrelevant to the job.

    Some jobs and professions are inherently more stressful than others–I’d want to know that a trauma surgeon can handle the stress of the ER when there are casualties and that he won’t shut down and be unable to do his job. Law offices can be stressful too–high pressure, high stakes. So are retail jobs and jobs in the service sectors. Anyone who works in the those jobs has to be able to handle stress. But there’s a big difference between warning candidates that the job is high-stress, telling them that they’re going to simulate stressful situations to see how you’d handle a nasty customer, for example, and being abusive.

    So yes, if they’re going out of their way to be nasty during the interview, I see it as akin to a bad date. If he yells at and swears at the waitress, belittles her, then that’s not the kind of man I want to be with. Same goes for an employer. If they’re this nasty during the interview, imagine how bad it would be to work there.

    • @MaryBeth: Your comparison to a bad date is apt!

  17. I have to agree with some of the poster’s analysis of “toughening up a bit”, “that many young people, and even adults, are easily triggered”, or “life is hard”. As much as I want to be honorable and noble in life , I can’t argue these points on their face value. I do think there’s a fine line in the sand one must draw of how much vitriol, nastiness, personal and character assassinations, and abuse they’ll endure from a narcissistic and/or sociopathic total stranger/strangers conducting such interviews, and knowing full well that they’ll never see them again, and will not get the job (nor want it). I’ve lost track of all the stress and degrading job interviews/job interviewers I’ve faced in my long and arduous employment journey (I’m turning 62 in early March). We are taught to take the high road, to be cool, or to be professional. My moral compass, work ethic, faith tradition, “do unto others”, and traditional upbringing totally oppose and war with what I’m about to say. When I’ve encountered such interviews, I’ve now turned the tables on these types of psychotic mental gymnastics, and I’ve grilled them equally back, then walked out, or been thrown out. Or, I’ve played the clueless “deer in headlights”, or been pathologically evasive to there questioning and commentaries. Either way, it’s a fool’s game to try to play nice with these types of employers, or try to salvage something so incredibly toxic. There’s no shame in walking out. I’ve done it before. No handshakes, pleasantries, nor warnings. I’ve just got up and walked out. They don’t extend basic civility, and while I’ve not been willfully combative, I don’t reciprocate with basic civility either. I’ve actually had abusive interviewers call me out to fight, or followed me out into the lobby, and even out to my car in the parking lot. There’s a lot of mentally unstable people out there. BRIDGES ARE MEANT TO BE BURNED!

    • @Antonio: I agree. This is one of my favorite quotes, and it explains why sometimes we must dispense with the idea of “taking the high road” when the entire landscape is lined with mines.

      “A man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and his life.”
      -Henri-Frédéric Amiel

      It applies to women, too, of course.

    • Antonio,

      I didn’t think could be possible, but I also agree. An abusive interview environment can only lead to a bad employment situation. That’s 100% consistent with my experience.

  18. Many people of my generation mistake the empathy the Great Generation have for others as “ weakness” or “ snowflake behavior”

    In fact, their practice of daily intolerance of intolerance is a quality that I admire.

    We normalize abusive behaviour by saying that since we had to put up with it, so should everyone else. Would we say the same about racism in the workplace?

    • That’s putting a nice, sharp point on it.

  19. I’ve personally found one way to help avoid the stress interview, is to head it off at the pass to begin with, and thus avoid it completely! One asset we have is our time, and take it from a guy who’s wasted valuable and irreplaceable time, and valuable PTO time, and out of pocket $, on toxic and dead end job interviews. The ROI isn’t there, and the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. Some of us have been taught that the employer is infallible, and always right, and that we should grovel in an interview for a job, and a job that often is misrepresented and has a “hidden agenda”. This is why I first listen to the inflection of the initial caller’s voice (generally let the call go to voicemail to screen it). If the caller sounds annoyed, like a punk or a jerk, angry, pretentious, sketchy, disingenuous, way too friendly (like a lot of headhunters and recruiters who come off like used car salesmen; I’m your friend when I need something), unprofessional, or like a half-wit, I’ll ghost it. If I do talk to them, I’ll ask about their interview style, who’ll be conducting the interview, how the process works, if there’s multiple Interviews, etc., and I’ll try to push for a phone interview initially. I’ll also ask for a description of the job and compensation range before agreeing to a face-face. If I don’t get reasonable answers to reasonable questions asked in a polite and professional manner, I now walk and end it there. Granted, I’m employed currently, and discreetly looking, so I’m fortunate to have this luxury, and for once be in the “cat bird’s seat”. A friend of mine has years of Operations Management and Warehouse Management. Like he says “always remember that you control the interview process, and you can end it”. Late in life, I’ve finally implemented this. Too many of us let interviewers control the process, get away with egregious and bad behavior, and attempt to define us. Trust your gut!

  20. Allow me to give an example of a “stressful job.” (one that just might require such interview techniques)

    Your job is that of an network operations engineer ..

    Your job might consist of the following:

    Install LANs (local area network) at select businesses nationwide ..

    You do this via assisting onsite install techs (contract, not employees) via remote tools ..

    In other words, you accomplish this via using/relying on someone else hands, eyes, and ears ..

    Your tools are remote desktop sessions and primarily — a telephone ..

    Now normally you would be doing this one at a time ..

    However, the occasion could arise that you could be performing three (3) of these ..

    Simultaneously (that is all at the same time) ..

    Yes, it has been done before ..

    You are literally switching between three (3) telephone connections ..

    With three (3) onsite install techs ..

    You have up to three (3) remote sessions displaying on your screen ..

    One for each site ..

    Each with distinct install parameters (IP addresses, etc.)

    Visualize this ..

    To add to this, during these three (3) simultaneous install sessions ..

    You get two (2) more calls for maint/support questions/issues ..

    That you must put on hold for the moment, during these other three (3) simultaneous ..

    Install sessions ..

    Then all of a sudden, the phone software freezes up and you lose ALL five (5) calls ..

    Your employer knows they are using outdated telephony software that they either ..

    Cannot/will not update ..

    You are installing networks that use Linux as the primary operating systems ..

    However, your production tools at home base is Apple hardware/software ..

    The CTO is not just an Apple fan ..

    He is literally an Apple bigot!

    Now imagine attempting to prepare an applicant for this in the interview process ..

    This actually happened to me between 2011 and 2012 ..

    When I got this job, there was one (1) opening ..

    There was literally 1000 applicants submitted nationwide .. (though they specified a local candidate and/or expect one to relocate at own expense)

    100 resumes were retained for review ..

    Out of that 100, 12 interviews were called ..

    I was #1 applicant .. (I was referred to this job by one college classmate, and interviewed by another college classmate that was the “hiring manager.”)

    During that year, I had stomach problems throughout ..

    I had much better jobs in the past ..

    This may be more of the case of employers refusing to hire sufficient staff ..

    For reasons from anything from lack of proper budget to [fill in your own answers] ..

    This was a startup financed primarily via the three (3) partners own funds, with no bank financing or venture capital used (primaries were against VC based on previous experience) ..

    Their “previous experience” involved them being pushed out of another startup that has since been bought out by AT&T ..

    It is not just hiring and recruiting at systemic risk ..

    There is a far more systemic cancer going on here ..

    Hiring and recruiting being just one of many symptoms of a failed system ..