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I’m the hiring manager who asked a waiter to mess up your food on purpose

Seafood with pasta.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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  • Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill


Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Let’s talk about revealed preference. When people say they like family owned businesses, but actually spend their money at  @Walmart, that’s a revealed preference. Watching what people do as opposed to what they say is important. Talk is cheap and often false. Action is real.

One of the most revealing interview techniques is to take a job candidate out for lunch. The hiring manager asks the waiter to deliberately screw up the candidate’s order. It’s easy to say how you would handle when things go wrong, hard to fake your reaction as it happens. —excerpt from Nicholas Sarwark’s thread on Twitter, March 8, 2019

Hello. I am the hiring manager who asked the waiter to deliberately screw up your order during our lunch interview. I have some feedback for you.

Talk is cheap and often false. Action is real. People say a lot of things when they’re trying to get hired—or, in your case, when they are politely asking a server which menu items to avoid if they have a severe shellfish allergy. My job as a hiring manager is to ignore the words you and your medical alert bracelet said and focus on your actions. That said, I was impressed by your quick thinking and deft handling of that Epi-Pen.

Let’s talk about revealed preference. When people say they like animals, but recoil when a hiring manager releases a live snake on the table, that’s a revealed preference.

Another revealing interview technique was when I had someone from my office call your cell phone to say your spouse had been in an accident too horrible to describe over the phone. It’s easy to say how you would handle the news of a horrific family tragedy, but hard to fake a reaction as it happens. If you are as proactive on client accounts as you were in dialing every hospital in the region in a futile attempt to locate your loved one, you could be a great addition to our team.

When I explained that these were all just interview techniques, you said I was a monster who should never be allowed in a position of authority again. But you stopped short of impaling me with an enchanted sword, which is what a person who really wanted to stop a monster would do.

Judge people by their actions, not their words.

Revealed preference.

We’re going with another candidate.

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