Why Charles Schwab’s CEO Likes to Test Job Candidates By Pranking Them at Restaurants

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Interviews can be a dull and tedious process for employers, which is why they sometimes get creative by testing applicants in weird and unusual ways.

Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger recently revealed his strange test for candidates aspiring to work for the iconic brokerage and banking firm. He told the New York Times that each new hire that he has taken on his team has gone through a special breakfast interview.

What these potential interviewees don’t know is that Bettinger has gone the extra mile to arrive early at the restaurant and request the manager to mess up the order in exchange for a generous tip. Though the whole scenario may seem a bit quirky, Bettinger explains that he’s able to gauge a person’s character by how they react to adversity.

In this situation, the “wrong order” is representative of the adversity. The way prospective hires react give Bettinger insight into their inner workings. He said:

“What I’m looking for is whether their view of the world really revolves around others, or whether it revolves around them and I’ll ask then about their greatest failures in their life and see whether they own them or whether they were somebody else’s fault.

“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 look inside their heart rather than their head. We’re all going to make mistakes. The question is how are we going to recover when we make them, and are we going to be respectful to others when they make them?”  

Bettinger has also been tested in peculiar ways before while in college. He recalled having maintained a perfect 4.0 average all the way through his senior year until he was faced with a final exam for his business strategy course. Though he had spent numerous hours studying and memorizing formulas for the case studies — it all failed him.

His professor handed out a blank piece of paper for the final exam and explained that he had taught them everything he could about business in the past 10 weeks, but the most important message and question was whether they knew the name of the lady who cleaned the building. Bettinger admitted:

“And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name. I’ve tried to know every Dottie I’ve worked with ever since.

“It was just a great reminder of what really matters in life, and that you should never lose sight of people who do the real work.”  

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