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Rise of the 12-step job interview

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There was a time in corporate America when the boss took 20 minutes to size you up and skim your résumé before leaping to his feet and barking, "Kid, I like the cut of your jib. Welcome aboard!"

But today, with employers comfortably ensconced in the labor-market driver's seat, hiring decisions based on instinct are practically unheard of.

Indeed, it's not at all unusual these days for a candidate to be grilled by six, eight, or even a dozen interviewers on various rungs of the corporate ladder as part of the overall screening process, say human-resources executives, headhunters, and other experts in modern hiring practices

"Many companies have made bad hires; now it's their market, and they're determined to find the people they want," explains Marie Raperto of the Cantor Concern, a New York City recruiting firm. "Even someone seeking a mid-level job has to be prepared to go through six or seven interviews," she adds. "It's endless."

"It's payback time," adds John Dooney, who advises the Society for Human Resources Management on its own hiring techniques. "Companies are picky, picky, picky."

Some headhunters and job seekers are skeptical about whether subjecting candidates to multiple interrogators increases the likelihood of finding the best people.

"Corporate America doesn't know how to select the best person, so what they do instead is cast a wide net, then deselect until they're left with the least offensive candidate," says Timothy Pickwell, a San Diego corporate attorney who sat for several interviews with more than a dozen different organizations before landing a position at a southern California restaurant company last year.

"You can't even get nine people to agree on where to go for lunch," he adds. "How can you expect them to agree on a person?"

But in an age where companies routinely boast about their teamwork ethos, nonhierarchical cultures, and commitment to "cross-functional" collaboration, it's easy to see why consensus now plays a major role in hiring.

Many companies known for attracting top-flight talent say they believe that gathering a wide variety of perspectives is essential to ensuring that the right person gets the job.


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