Bull Bear Report Jun 17 2011

The Toughest Companies for Job Interviews

By kelly eggers

Think ultra-selective companies like Google give the toughest job interviews? At least 20 firms put job candidates through an even tighter ringer, according to a new report.

A new study from Glassdoor.com, a Sausalito, Calif.-based workplace culture website, ranked the toughest companies to interview at, analyzing user comments about the interview practices of specific companies.

The toughest firms put their job candidates through several rounds of interviews riddled with brainteasers, technical questions and case study analyses. While a few of the usual suspects were in the top 20, some of the list-makers might surprise you.

At the top of the list were: consultancy McKinsey, proprietary trading firm Jane Street Capital and semiconductor manufacturer Cree Inc. Firms like BP (No. 10), Procter & Gamble (No. 12), investment fund Bridgewater Associates (No. 16) and Amazon (No. 18), followed. Notably absent from the top 20 were tech giants like Google and Apple, both notorious for their high levels of competition and challenging interviews.

Cutthroat interviews at firms big and small are indicative of the current job climate, said Samantha Zupan, a Glassdoor spokesperson. "The pressure has certainly been turned up in the interview process," she said. "You need to go in armed with information and with your eyes as wide open as you can."

Some companies made the list for rejecting candidates who made only one mistake during a lengthy interview process. "If you screw one interview out of seven, you will not have [a] chance to get hired," said one Glassdoor user, who commented on their experience as a software engineering candidate with eBay, which clocked in at No. 19 in the report.

"At the end, you are asked a simple brain teaser," said a Jane Street Capital quant candidate. "I failed the third round phone interview with a trader. I got stuck at one problem and that trader lost his patience on me." New York City-based Jane Street Capital was ranked second in the report.

Sprinting through marathon interviews felled other candidates. Sean Brody, recruiting manager at Raleigh, N.C.-based Cree, which landed the No. 3 spot on the list, said that this is where he sees candidates slip up the most. "Most of our candidates aren't local to Raleigh," he said, which means interviewees are flown in for day-long sessions. Stamina is a factor.

"Toward the end of the day, a candidate may have been with four or five people and may still have more to go," Brody explained.

Being prepared to explain everything from your personal history and behavioral competency to your high-tech know-how in a single day may require an exhausting amount of research. "Preparation is an absolute must," said one candidate at Boston Consulting, which was No. 5 on the list. "I know many people do not prepare, but I certainly did and I performed much better because of it."

So what can candidates do to get ready? Be comfortable with your skill-set and experience, rehearse responses to interview questions -- the common and not-so-common -- learn how to bluff, and try not to blow it. But overall, remember that a bombed interview might be a sign that the company wasn't a good fit for you after all.

"Don't forget that this is an opportunity for the company to interview you and for you to interview the company," said Zupan. "It's tough out there, but you want to land somewhere you feel comfortable and feel like you can succeed."

Below is the full list of Glassdoor's Top 20 Most Difficult Companies for Interviews:

1. McKinsey & Co.

2. Jane Street Capital

3. Cree

4. Bain & Co.

5. Boston Consulting

6. Palantir Technologies

7. Teach for America

8. A.T. Kearney

9. Red Ventures

10. BP

11. ZS Associates

12. Procter & Gamble

13. Salesforce.com

14. Altria

15. Oliver Wyman

16. Bridgewater Associates

17. Stryker

18. Amazon.com

19. eBay

20. Gallup

Write to Kelly Eggers

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