Ready, Set, Surprise!

You walk into a room in your freshly pressed power suit, sit down nervously and prepare to answer the common questions about what makes you the most ideal candidate for a job. You expect to detail your strengths and weaknesses or describe a situation in which you took a risk, but instead find yourself solving puzzles, drawing diagrams, or even participating in a keg relay race.

In a time where being “different,” “unique,” or even “weird” is the new norm, what is the last straw when it comes to finding an ideal candidate for a position? Companies are more and more frequently differentiating themselves based on measures of innovation and creativity by conducting unconventional interviews, but do these processes really ensure that the right candidate will be selected?

As the world is becoming increasingly more connected, competition among interviewees is fierce, and application processes have evolved into complex, multi-stage tests of skill, knowledge, creativeness and overall eccentricity. Phone and video interviews feel relatively “normal” compared to the cultural fit and numerical reasoning tests, behavioural and informational interviews, and case studies that have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Your passion and qualifications for a position might just not be enough anymore. An interviewee’s aptitude might shine through in these unconventional methods, or it might get lost in the process.

On the more alternative end of the spectrum includes companies like PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which both use multiple stages of interviews to select the newest additions to their teams. The processes are similar, involving the initial online application, preliminary behavioural, cultural, and reasoning testing, and then a phone or video interview. But things start deviating from the standard procedure after the first human interaction.

A friend applying to PepsiCo went straight to a panel interview with three people: two senior executives and one recent campus hire. The interview included behavioural questions, a case study and finally, the more unconventional stage. For the last task, one of the senior level managers turned their laptop around and asked my friend to log into their Facebook account. With nothing to hide, they did, but the strange and somewhat invasive assignment may have been the deal-breaker. Although my friend did not get the job at PepsiCo, they did gain a perspective on just how far a company will go to ensure the quality of their future employees.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the parent company of brands including Labatt, Budweiser and Stella Artois, uses a talent agency to recruit applicants until the final in-person interview. From my own personal experience, it was expressed to me on the phone that the next step would be a group interview process, with time for an introduction, beer garden setup, and keg relay race. My performance in these unusual events will be the deciding factors for the final stage of the interview process, where I would meet with actual company representatives one-on-one. As excited as I am to be tested via a keg relay, I am nervous that the right skills will not shine through during this process, and I will not have a proper opportunity to prove that I am the most qualified applicant for the job. No amount of homework will ever truly prepare me for some of the unconventional interviews I know I will face in near future.

Even websites like Glassdoor that provide an inside look at jobs and companies’ interview processes cannot properly train candidates for some of the strange experiences they will encounter. You can research ideal personality traits, alternative interview processes and abnormal or creative questions all you want but, in the end, there will always be some element of surprise inherent in job interviews, and apparently they are becoming more surprising than ever!

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