Who Gets Interviewed, Who Doesn’t.

I apologize to applicants who don’t receive a response. You deserve one, and I wish I had the time to respond to each applicant. I don’t, which is unfair to applicants, so I’m writing this post to those wondering why they didn’t get an interview and what we look for in an application.  So many aren’t getting a fair chance and I sometimes wonder if our screening system misses potentially great employees.

I can tell life has been tough for many of our applicants and many of them are confused and struggling with something within and/or without themselves. To the confused and struggling, I’ll tell you what I tell my employees: “it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and your job is to not get eaten.”  So much of life is painful, cruel, lonely, and absurd, filled with loss, betrayal, humiliation, and random acts of violence.    My job is to prepare my employees to not be eaten. I prepare them by forcing them to confront reality, reality about themselves and others. “You’re not special, you haven’t done anything special” I often remind them.  The ones who get it develop focused, intense eyes, eyes that say to customers “follow me and you’ll not be eaten.”  The ones who don’t get it have friendly, agreeable eyes that beg customers to not eat them.

The questionnaire tests one’s ability to seek reality about themselves and the world. Nearly all applicants refuse to acknowledge reality.  More disturbing, they’re not interested in seeking reality.   They assume they already know about the lives and motivations of those above and below them and their self-esteem is based on mostly wrong assumptions.  This is partially because they lack experience.  It’s easy to feel smart when you’ve never been in a room full of Ivy League graduates.  It’s easy to feel hard working from working 50 hours per week when one’s social circle doesn’t include anyone who works 60, 80…120 hours per week.

It’s also because nearly all applicants have inflated self-esteem, the result of years of coddling and being told they’re so special, so smart, so pretty.  People tend to seek a reality that reinforces their sense of self.  (Dissonance between sense of self and other people’s perception of that self is what makes people batshit crazy). That’s why those with low self-esteem tend to seek criticism.  One of my former employees (who still interviews applicants) recently complained to me that she isn’t receiving criticism at her current job (where she, at 19, is likely the youngest manager in company history). I told her to be patient, that the higher she moves, the more competitive the environment and the more she’ll get the criticism she needs to match her sense of self with external reality.  Are you beginning to understand why so many at the top of their professions (especially models and pop stars) had low self-esteem for much of their lives?  To get the criticism their ego craves, they have to keep moving into social and professional circles where standards are set higher than in previous environment.  Once they’ve mastered one standard and stop receiving criticism, they have to move on to a business that sets an even higher standard.  At the top, people like Gordon Ramsay, Eminem, Michael Jordan, people who only criticize until they win the ultimate prize, whether it be 12 Micheline stars or 20 grammys or 6 NBA championships.

Those with inflated self-esteem will also seek a reality that reinforces their sense of self.  They avoid putting themselves in situations where they may feel stupid or not good looking or whatever image they’re afraid to lose.  They talk a big talk but avoid difficult challenges that may put in question their sense of self. They lack the mental toughness to handle criticism. They lack self-confidence.  They’re easily humiliated. They have low standards. They can’t grow. They primarily talk to seek praise and empathy, and not to seek deeper understanding of and solution for problems. They’re impossible for me and my best employees to work with.

Put simply, we seek those who don’t have inflated self-esteem and are mentally tough.  Everything else, technical and social skills and the self-confidence needed to do the job, we can teach.

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