Hiring a new employee can be difficult: It’s hard to find a candidate who collaborates well, is reliable, is cool under pressure, and has a valuable set of skills.
The job interview process is archaic, and most interviews rely on the candidate self-reporting their behavior (e.g. “how did you resolve a conflict that you had with a coworker?”).
The candidate might provide an true answer, but these questions are easy to predict, so a well-prepared candidate could just be telling a fake rehearsed store instead.
The worst part is, a fake story that had been told many times would probably sound better than a real “on the spot” answer! Thus, the current system may actually penalize honest candidates.
Fortunately, there’s a situation that is very similar to the job interview: the team-assembly part of a heist in a movie. Most jobs require the same qualities that a heist protagonist should have (reliability, trustworthiness, skill, etc.).
Thus, the solution is obvious: instead of conducting a traditional interview, have the candidate plan a heist!
The most promising heist templates are ensemble cast movies with an overcomplicated scheme. For example, Ocean’s Eleven (1960 & 2001), The Italian Job (1969 & 2003), La Casa de Papel (2017), The Heist of the Century (2020), and some of the heists in Grand Theft Auto V (2013).
These heists have the following useful qualities:
- The mission is sufficiently complicated as to resemble running a business.
- Everyone brings a different skill to the mission.
- The cast usually has a low proportion of crazed murderers (although there may be one or two).
Heists to avoid using as templates would include Heat (1995), Bonnie & Clyde (1967), and Point Break (1991), since:
- The “heist” is basically just one or more regular bank robberies with minimal planning.
- Everyone has the same skillset (“can hold a gun”).
- The cast contains a non-negligible fraction of unstable murderers. “Unstable murderer” is a personality trait that is generally considered non-desirable by employers.
Regardless of the heist movie we choose as our template, a heist-styled interview will allow a candidate to demonstrate how they work in a high-pressure high-stakes situation.
The interview would work as follows:
- The candidate arrives for the interview and gets a coffee.
- The interviewer unrolls a “heist planning” blueprint (and/or a corkboard with lots of red string on it) and asks the interviewer what their proposed role would be in the heist depicted in the blueprint (Figure 1).
- After, say, 15 minutes of planning, the interviewer supplies some gloves and a mask for the candidate, and the interviewer and candidate go down to the garage, where a van is waiting to pull off the heist. The candidate then takes their preferred role in the heist (e.g. demolitions expert, driver, hacker, etc…).
- To avoid a high attrition rate of employees, the heist is pre-arranged in a fake “escape-room” like scenario. This will provide the same time pressure and simulated danger as an actual heist, but avoid the ~25% chance of each heist participant being gunned down (this would be bad, since the heist-hiring-process would otherwise result in fewer employees, which is the opposite of what hiring is for).
Using this heist-based hiring process has several advantages: it shows how a candidate actually operates under stress (rather than being self-reported), it allows a candidate to demonstrate their teamwork skills, and it lets the employer know if the candidate has otherwise-hard-to-evaluate skills (such as crashing through a skylight while rappelling down a rope dangling from a helicopter).
PROS: Allows companies to evaluate their job candidates on heretofore-unobservable qualities. Could also be used by criminal masterminds who are planning an actual heist.
CONS: Interviewing can already be stressful, so it’s unclear if “what if we made it even more stressful” is a great solution. Could cause otherwise-non-heist-inclined individuals to get a taste for danger and turn to a life of crime.