If you are a Penn student, odds are that you have probably experienced the mid-year predicament that plagues most upperclassmen at pre-professional colleges and universities: the summer internship syndrome.
You have dialed more numbers than a telemarketer, searched the internet for countless hours and edited your resume a few dozen times. But these are all prerequisites for the most important event: the interview. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get one in the first place.
“Anyone who is invited for an interview is considered qualified for the job,” Career Services Associate Director Claire Klieger wrote in an e-mail. “As such, much of the interview is about seeing if you’d be a good fit for the organization and especially what kind of person are you — would they want to work with you?”
But these scheduled, formal interviews could be forcing students to produce superficial self-presentations. A number of companies have found a way to gauge creativity, improvisation and thinking under pressure without disrupting the traditional job-search process, such as on-the-spot interviews and questions that seem to come out of left-field. Although use of these tactics may come as a surprise, these methods are beneficial not only to the employer but also to students.
On-the-spot phone interviews are not unusual. According to Klieger, prospective employers for the most part use this method “to pre-screen candidates before they decide if they want to bring [the candidate] in for an in-person interview.” However, these interviews have also been used as informal, final interviews to determine whether a candidate is the right for the job.
Imagine this scenario: you are mid-lunch in Houston Market or 1920 Commons and upon hearing your phone ring, you answer the call only to realize that it is a prospective employer calling to ask if you would have time for a phone interview at that very moment. Before beginning to list the cons of such a practice, you should know there are pros to these interviews too.
Yes, the on-the-spot interview could be deemed unreliable as most college students have hectic schedules and availability is ever changing. However, these interviews provide employers with a method for rooting out the possibility of insincere character portrayals and force students to react to unexpected situations as they would need to in their future work environment.
Other employers surprise applicants in a different way. For example, at the end of an interview with a financial services company, College sophomore Chudi Motanya was initially “thrown off” when he was asked to answer a number of unexpected brain-teasers.
In addition to the expected questions, Motanya was asked to determine how many chessboards were sold in the United States in 2009 or how many gallons of water would it take to fill the room he was sitting in at the time.
While these types of situational questions may add to the already stressful environment, Motanya called the practice, “a positive thing.”
“It gives [the employer] feedback of how you perform under stress,” Motanya said of the tactic. “Since you are literally starting out with nothing, it’s up to you to logically breakdown the information they give you and to try to find a positive solution.”
Students may critique these methods as unreasonable, unnecessary and stressful. But, tactics like the on-the-spot interview or an unexpected brain teaser not only provide the employer with a sample of how a candidate performs under stress, but they also allow the candidate to present himself in an atmosphere more conducive to creativity. We need to bridge the gap between the rehearsed and the original in order to find some kind of medium that give students a chance to distinguish themselves without feeling as though they have to abide by restrictive formalities. These tactics are a step in the right direction.
Michael Roberts is a College sophomore from New York. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Roberts Rules appears on alternate Tuesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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