Maria Fernandez is a bright, popular, and well-informed mechanical engineer who graduated with an engineering degree from State University in June 2014. During the spring preceding her graduation, she went out on many job interviews, most of which she thought were conducted courteously and were reasonably useful in giving both her and the prospective employer a good impression of where each of them stood on matters of importance to both of them. It was, therefore, with great anticipation that she looked forward to an interview with the one firm in which she most wanted to work: Apex Environmental. She had always had a strong interest in the environment and believed that the best use of her training and skills lay in working for a firm like Apex, where she thought she could have a successful career while making the world a better place.
The interview, however, was a disaster. Maria walked into a room where five menâ€”the president of the company, two vice presidents, the marketing director, and another engineerâ€”began throwing questions at her that she felt were aimed primarily at tripping her up rather than finding out what she could offer through her engineering skills. The questions ranged from being unnecessarily discourteous (â€œWhy would you take a job as a waitress in college if youâ€™re such an intelligent person?â€) to being irrelevant and sexist (â€œAre you planning on starting a family anytime soon?â€). Then, after the interview, she met with two of the gentlemen individually (including the president), and the discussions focused on her technical expertise. She thought that these later discussions went fairly well. However, given the apparent aimlessness and even mean-spiritedness of the
panel interview, she was astonished when several days later the firm made her a job offer.
The offer forced her to consider several matters. From her point of view, the job itself was perfect. She liked what she would be doing, the industry, and the firmâ€™s location. And in fact, the president had been quite courteous in subsequent discussions. She was left wondering whether the panel interview had been intentionally tense to see how sheâ€™d stand up under pressure, and, if so, why they would do such a thing.