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Property industry recruitment consultant criticises aggressive interview approach

Wednesday 06 February 2019

The Managing Director of the UK’s longest-established estate agency recruitment consultancy has issued advice to companies about taking an unnecessarily aggressive approach to job interviews.

Anthony Hesse’s words follow the reaction of a female candidate to an ‘utterly bizarre’ interview she had recently gone through, which went viral when she posted it online and which went on to make international news.

Graduate Olivia Bland, who has a first-class English degree, described how her interviewer had subjected her to two hours of humiliation, calling her an ‘under-achiever’, criticising everything from her writing to the way she sat, and making her visibly upset, despite going on to offer her the job as a communications assistant at his web tech company. She turned the job down.

Anthony Hesse said: “Sadly, this sort of approach is all-too common these days, even in the world of estate agency. The scarcity of quality candidates out there means that the market has now moved from being company-driven to being candidate-driven – and firms should be actively selling themselves to the applicants they are interviewing.

“Every candidate should leave an interview with their self-esteem intact. It’s a very 1980s mindset to think that ripping an applicant to pieces will prove their real worth. The truth is that more often than not it fails to work – proved by the fact that in this case the applicant declined the job offer anyway. We simply can’t afford to lose valuable talent by using such outdated and aggressive techniques.”

Describing her interview experience, Olivia Bland said that at the start her interviewer didn’t stop to greet her, but instead sat on his phone stalking her Spotify playlist. He then asked her a series of personal questions about her childhood and whether her parents were still together – which she found ‘completely bizarre’.

He also told her ‘you don’t know anything’, and commented on the fact that she had been brought to the point of tears. In all, she likened the experience to sitting in a room with an abusive former partner and said that she had cried later at the bus stop.

Anthony Hesse added: “Whilst this approach is not exclusively used by male bosses to female applicants, it’s probably fair to say that they have to endure it more frequently than their male colleagues. But no candidate should be left feeling humiliated or worthless by an interviewer on a power trip.

“Some of them still make the mistake of trying to look smarter than the applicant – which is not the point of the interview at all. You might end up with a candidate who is simply the least frightened, rather than the most competent. Ultimately, as an interviewer, you should be trying to find someone who is the right fit for the job – and scaring or intimidating them is unlikely to be the best way to do it.”