The Ultimate Interview by Alan Svejk

What advanced Psychological Operations are used in HR/Recruitment?

The Ultimate Interview by Alan SvejkSeveral years ago, a top technological company decided to hire a TOP Executive, responsible for developing business operations on an important foreign market. This high position seemed critical for the future of the company, so they had to takeextraordinary measures, to assure, that only the best, most capable and most trustworthy candidate will be assigned to the task.

In that time, the business competition on the market was fierce, full of hungry, ruthless sharks. Much was in stake, because this person would receive some of the most crucial corporate secrets, which could damage the corporation substantially, if a competitor would get his hands on this classified information.

Needless to say, that Corporate Espionage was a quite natural phenomenon there, and many infiltration attempts occured against the company in the past. Their department of Internal Affairs, composed of the best security experts worldwide, was able to counter these threats, using advanced, even unorthodox measures.

The management delegated Human Resources and Internal Affairs departments to work together, and prepare an ultimate interview, so the selection will check two basic demands: work qualities and reliability. It was clearly said, that if a failure would occur, very careful internal investigation would be made, and the person responsible would face serious consequences. So everybody participating in this special operation was briefed, that no mistakes will be tolerated.

Of course, that the best and safest choice would be to use an internal asset, a current employee, well-known and tested. So they began with the internal database, and searched for a match. But the management was not satisfied with these choices, and suddenly, an external name was on the table, because this certain candidate would be a real asset – only his name was a business brand itself. They all agreed, that he could be definitely a good person for the job.

A compromise was found – to include this special candidate, but to position several internal employees against him in the selection, so if their employee would be considered around as capable as he was, they would definitely choose the safer choice.

To make things less obvious, another three “external” top candidates were addressed, as a “cover”, so there would be seven of the participants: he, their favorite, three “auxiliary” candidates, and three internal employees. They needed this diversity, because the final exam would be the assessment centre, where all candidates meet together and compete against each other, under precise human and electronic surveillance.

Diversity inspired the team to include a carefully selected woman, to stand againstthe top male candidate. She was not instructed of her covert mission in the name of higher interest, that she will be used as an ultimate tool of examination. She was simply offered a job, and invited too.

This special event forced the selection team to change their standard hiring procedures. The team knew, that all candidates will understand the high importance of this position, and they will expect extraordinary testing measures. The motivated candidates will study all possible literature, and they will know all possible HR techniques used, lowering their effectivity.

So an unusual method was developed. The HR department, where the final exam was taking place, deliberately lowered the conditions for the candidates. For example, the receptionist on the HR floor, who welcomed and directed all of the candidates on their arrival, was a very young and obviously inexperienced female intern, who seemed to be absolutely incompetent. She was pleasant, smiling, but complete mess. The room, where the assessment centre would take place, was also under the expected grade. Small, with old computers, and quite poorly furnished. Also, the lunch, served to the candidates, was not exactly delightful. And the day of the interview was deliberately chosen on Friday.

There was seven “legitimate” candidates and one “agent of influence”, a hired foreign psychologist, trained in covert missions in assessment centers, pretending to be a genuine competitor, but in fact serving to deepen the testing experience, by directly influencing the meeting.

The selection process started at 9.00 and it had quite a predictable progress. One after another, the candidates were failing their tests, and at 16.30 in the afternoon, only two of them remained: he and she.

In that time, both agents of influence were known to the remaining candidates. Thatapparent intern was a psychologist too. It was she, who brought that disgusting lunch for the group, and watched their reactions to it: will they complain, or will they gladly swallow it and pretend, that it is delightful, if served by the dreamy company?

You can imagine, that the last part of the interview was the most demanding. It was around 17.00, when a break was announced. Both men met at the rest room and the psychologist opened conversation lightly.

“Are you enjoying the day?” he asked the candidate.

“Definitely,” the candidate smiled.

The psychologist’s face got serious. He breathed deeply, like if he would be considering, whether to reveal or not to reveal something important.

“Let me be honest with you, my friend. I am sorry to say that, but you are losing it. She is simply better, you had to see that by yourself. And the management wants to lead in diversity and women inclusion, so they highly prefer a woman. She will be selected, that’s it.”

That would be no good news for anybody.

“But listen, you are likeable to me, I would personally choose you, and we men should stick together, do you agree? So I will tell you a secret. If you manage tomake her cry in fifteen minutes, I will promote you. That intern’s word means nothing. This way, you can show your extraordinary abilities to the company. Otherwise, you are finished, my dear friend.”

Meanwhile, back in the conference room, where both women remained alone, that ‘intern’ was in friendly talk with the female candidate.

“You showed so much capabilities and effort today! I admire you. It is so sad, that the management won’t allow us women in such a leading position as this! I heard that they decided to hire this man. They didn’t tell you? You were chosen only as an accessory here. Sorry!

But I like you, the whole company trusts you, you are ours, he is a stranger! So, there is a way maybe, how you could prove your extraordinary abilities. Persuade him to leave the building in fifteen minutes, and the work is yours!”

Fifteen minutes left…

When he returned into the conference room, she was there alone. He only smiled at her, and went to the window, in silence. The time was running out, but he was spending first seconds doing nothing, saying nothing. Just thinking. To make her cry, he would have to be as persuasive as never, and as ruthless as never.

He realized, that this is the final, and the hardest part. How to do it?

He was absolutely sure, that she is not another decoy, but a genuine candidate. After all, he was the direct witness of her performance through the day.

If she was tasked with a similar mission against him too, this could bring him an advantage, because she is now under the same short time limit, and she has to start her game immediately. Maybe, if he would hold long enough, she could lose control and start making mistakes? The only problem was – her mission could be anything.

“I think I won’t make it,” he said suddenly. “You are better, than me, and you are an insider. That is the reality. They would be silly to hire me. Plus that diversity thing. You are winning. I feel really bad, like some disposable decoy, only to be your shade. I knew about them, that they use special methods, but this is so sad for me. I mean, how many time it cost me, energy, effort, preparation. In the end, I lose everything, and I realize, that I could never win.”

“They indicated something like that,” she replied cautiously. “But I personally think that it is not fair. Of course, that they should prefer a woman today, and I work here, so they know me well. However, this is too strong coffee. I don’t agree with this approach.”

“Nothing happens,” he said calmly. “There will always be a good jobs, and I am in the position that I can choose. So I can afford to be patient, nothing pushes me. And this was quite a good experience for me. I mean, testing myself. I will be better prepared for the next professional challenges,” he admitted and sat next to her, quite resigned.

“I disagree with that,” she repeated. “Morality should be kept in business too. Under this circumstances, I won’t accept the job. I couldn’t look into the mirror.”

“Really?” he asked. “How unexpected of you. But this could be the chance of your professional life. And you seem like an asset.”

“Never mind. Who knows – maybe this is a final test for me, if I will accept the job, not fairly deserved. Where are they? I will tell them that my answer is no.”

She started to collect her coat and handbag. “I am leaving, the interview is over for me. It’s Friday, and I want to finish the work week in peace. Would you go for a coffee with me? It was a long day.”

“Shouldn’t we wait for them?” he doubted.

“I don’t think they would tell us the result anyway. It’s Friday afternoon. Now they only watch what we are going to do. I think they won’t return. Silly voyeurs. They are all the same. Manipulating us to go against each other. You know this games. They call it psychology, I call it unfair manners. They should treat as humans, not some testing animals.”

He was suspicious, if she wants to lure him out of the conference room. But she really made that step first. She was leaving, already behind the door.

“You won’t go?” she looked at him with both disappointment and sadness. She was so fair to him, and he displayed a typical manly selfishness!

It was not nice to stay there, he admitted. Moreover, if she left the conference room first, he is the last remaining candidate, if anything would happen.

“You are right,” he decided finally. “This has no sense anymore.”

He collected his stuff, and followed her. The HR department was completely empty, everybody left home already.

The lift came, and they got in. It was 25th floor.

“One good thing happened today,” she said after a moment of silence. “We are somehow connected now, don’t you think?” she smiled modestly.

“Connected? Yes, I agree. The experience was deep,” he looked at her. She was quite pretty, no doubt about that.

It was three minutes remaining to the end of limit.

When they arrived at the ground floor, he let her go first, as a right gentleman. She made a few steps out. During walk, she opened her handbag, and searched for the magnetic entry card, to go through turnstile.

Cling! A sharp sound echoed behind her.

She just saw, how the doors are closing, and he had one last cold look for her, until the doors closed. She watched him totally surprised.

The lift went back up, and she stood there shocked, realizing, that she lost. She will never make that 25 floors on foot, and another lift was on the 19th floor, moving up. When the limit will expire, he will be back in the conference room successfully, as a last remaining candidate, but she will be away. His task was probably something he achieved, by letting her go. She lost, and she disappointed her company. She felt stupid, betrayed, humiliated, exhausted.

A security camera watched her face in detail.

Till a tear trickled from her eye.

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Alan Svejk - alansvejk@alansvejk.com

alansvejk@alansvejk.com