Are Stress Interviews Bullying?

6 months ago by Sophie Stones

Are Stress Interviews Bullying?


This week, 22-year old Olivia Bland brought to light an issue that many thought had been relegated to the dark ages. Following a particularly difficult interview in which Bland claims the CEO of Web Applications UK berated her and picked apart both her CV and personality, Bland turned down the subsequent job offer in a now viral rejection email.

In employment terms, what Olivia experienced was a ‘stress interview’. Stress interviews, in their essence, employ techniques to gauge how well a potential employee can deal with awkward customers and stressful conditions, however due to the disconnect in authority, they have been found to be cruel and symptomatic of a deeper cultural problem.

Guides to stress interviews suggest answering phone calls in interviews, sighing at answers, asking overly personal questions and insulting their progress in previous roles. These microaggressions don’t just mean potentially losing a good candidate like Bland but can also cause problems well into their career, with a distrust already present.

It seems fair to assume that no company with a healthy culture would employ such tactics, however just a few years ago this was a trend prevalent within technology companies, an industry renowned for perks and benefits. Companies like Google and Facebook became well-known for the bizarre interview questions they would use in an attempt to throw off candidates, questions like “how many golf balls can fit into a school bus?” and “how much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?”, however it soon became clear that not only were these questions unnecessarily stressful but also a little useless for evaluating a great candidate.

Unfortunately, it has become clear that not every company has taken Googles lead, with Maurice Schweitzer, Professor of Operations and Information Management, writing “stress interviews are neither new, nor on their way to extinction”. As the workplace changes for our current employees, we need to ask why are we torturing potential ones? What good is fruit in the office if a new employee is too terrified to leave their desk for it?

Experts are now saying that a simple conversation, in which both participants feel on equal footing is much more conducive to figuring out a person’s skills than the posturing power trip described by Bland, so why is it that we can’t leave the past behind?