Sell me this pen - you useless piece of $%*@!

Consultancy Psychology
More Thinking

Interviews, Inquisitions and the power of social media 

It’s an age-old tactic, “sell me this pen” but it was brought to more widespread attention in the film, Wolf of Wall Street. And, there’s nothing wrong with putting an interviewee under pressure and under the spotlight – particularly in a sales environment when a prospective employee will be expected to be able to handle objections, sell, sell sell, and thrive upon the pressure.

But no one expects the Spanish Inquisition

But, when Olivia Bland attended a recent interview, she no doubt expected to be put under pressure, and will have been meticulous in her research on how to handle all the normal, tricky and probing questions that came her way.

What she would not have foreseen, however, was what was to come. She has quite publicly described it as “intimidation”, a “brutal” two-hour interview and likened it to being "sat in a room with my abusive ex".

And in a recent Cold Feet episode, we had to witness David’s continuing downward spiral, which included a belittling interview swiftly followed by a rejection as part of someone’s will to exact revenge from the past.

I’ve sat on both sides of the table. I’ve both grilled and been grilled but it was controlled and part of the process – no interviewee expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Who’s rejecting whom?

Olivia’s next movements were to find herself crying at a bus stop, then offered the job an hour later, accepting it and then – albeit she could’ve done with the money – turning the offer down. Rejected turns rejecter.

And then, she took to Twitter, partly to “out” the individual, and the company in question. Partly, perhaps, to take some power back, but mainly to highlight this practice as unacceptable.

In light of much more widespread and critical cases of bullying, bravado and, sexual harassment, which has led to the #MeToo campaign, it is shocking that someone would use their power, authority and a “by invite only” audience of colleagues to witness an expression of male dominance.

Enter social media

But Olivia had the last word and the power of social media has again demonstrated there is no hiding place. We are all instant reporters and the bearers of news good and bad, funny or sad – it’s not all Stephen Fry, memes and cat videos.

Olivia isn’t a keyboard warrior hiding behind a digital pseudonym. She stood up loud and proud to announce - this isn’t good enough, you don’t treat people this way. Certainly, no one should have to compare an interview with a traumatic period of his or her life.

Beware businesses, beware customer service and beware bullies – we live in a digital courtroom. It’s instant and the baying masses await the judge’s verdict with fingers hovering over keyboards like the Sword of Damocles.

The interviewer has since apologised and his company issued a response straight out of the crisis comms handbook – there, I’ve professionally addressed the balance, too…

Your business exists for one reason - to create extraordinary  brand experiences and that should be the same for those that may be entering your business, too. 


To find out more on how to create extraordinary brand experiences, download our free guide “Digital Marketing Made Simple”.

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