Charles Schwab CEO tests candidates by asking restaurant staff to ruin their meal

Do you want to know what type of person you’re hiring? Then take the candidate to breakfast.

That is the advice given by Walt Bettinger, CEO at the investment and online trading firm Charles Schwab.

While other companies may be interested in technical skills, Bettinger recently told the New York Times that he is more interested in a jobseeker’s soft skills.

“I’m most concerned with the kind of person they are, their character,” Bettinger said.  “I’ll ask questions like, ‘Tell me about the greatest successes in your life'. What I’m looking for is whether their view of the world really revolves around others or whether it revolves around them.”

However, asking questions may not always be enough to gauge a candidate’s personality, and so the CEO has another trick up his sleeve to see whether or not a jobseeker is a good fit for his company: take candidates for breakfast and ask the restaurant ruin their order.

Bettinger explained: “I’ll get there early, pull the manager of the restaurant aside, and say, 'I want you to mess up the order of the person who’s going to be joining me. It’ll be ok, and I’ll give a good tip, but mess up their order'.

“I do that because I want to see how the person responds. That will help me understand how they deal with adversity. Are they upset, are they frustrated or are they understanding? Life is like that, and business is like that. It’s just another way to get a look inside their heart rather than their head.”

Other business leaders have adopted similar tricks to gauge a candidate’s suitability. Rick Goings, CEO of direct-sales pioneer Tupperware, recently revealed to Quartz how his interview begins long before the candidate has stepped into the Boardroom. He explained: "I talk to the driver who brought them in from the airport, my assistant, and the receptionist who welcomed them. There you learn how this person acts."

Comments (4)
Tue, 22 Mar 2016 1:14pm GMT
Carl Eacott@ Annabeth Chase
I agree with Annabeth Chase here, our behaviour is dictated by different personas. The underlying persona - say watching TV of the said situation - may be saying to the TV screen 'pull up the waitor and let them know the mistake!'. The everyday persona - actually in that very breakfast mistake situation - would perhaps recognise the mistake and kindly let the waitor/waitress know. Yet,. the overextended persona - receiving the wrong breakfast with a future employer - may behave completely different, recognising the stressful situation and thus, go along with the mistaken breakfast.
Our behaviour is dictated by the demands of the environment in which it is enacted in and the interaction with our most typical or preferred ways of behaving.
My question is, is the behaviour or decisions made by the person in this breakfast scenario, revealing of how they will respond in a working context? Would these situations and persona's be similar? How much 'predictability' can one make from behaviour at a breakfast meeting, in how they will respond in the working role. So many variables here, not to mention, would the candidate even be aware they are being assessed - not very transparent from the candidates point of view! :)
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Tue, 23 Feb 2016 5:32pm GMT
Observing how someone reacts to getting a messed up breakfast order WHILE they are being interviewed by the "top dog" in the company they want to join is NOT going to show you how they would react to the same conditions IF they were dining by themselves.
A "better" option is to schedule your interview with them AFTER BREAKFAST and observe how they respond to the "problem" independently.
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Mon, 22 Feb 2016 3:10pm GMT
Annabeth Chase@ Boris
Good point, Boris, and even more: can we suppose that a candidate's reaction can be different when s/he's sitting for breakfast with his/her potential employer?
I think I would react in four different ways if I were alone, with a colleague, with my boss or with my grandma!
I instead agree with asking about the greatest successes (but also the failures) the candidate has faced in his/her professional and personal life.
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Mon, 22 Feb 2016 12:23pm GMT
What a load of piffle! Making the assumption that a person will react the same each and everyday is fundamentally wrong. We all have good days and bad days, so someone screwing up a breakfast order could sail over your head on a good day or could end up in a complaint about the staff on a bad day, it is unfair to expect consistency in this type of test. It's not human nature to simply fit into a box and be labelled, we're all individuals and employers need to realise this.
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