It’s getting tough out there. Employers are realizing that the old ways of screening out job candidates, particularly candidates for executive positions, are insufficient in today’s competitive world. Employers are employing much more thorough tactics, such as psychological scrutiny and rigorous simulations. Some are calling it “extreme hiring.”
It’s Andrew Noon’s first day on the job, and already he has had to discipline a worker, thwart a departmental turf war, cajole two recalcitrant employees, convince an irate customer not to cancel a contract and present his strategic plan for the next three years to the company’s chief executive, complete with flip charts. But the boss, the employees and the customers are actors. The company is fictitious. The office space is an assessment center outside Pittsburgh. At least three trained observers are listening to Noon’s every voice mail, reading his every e-mail and watching his every move. The whole exercise is a simulation designed to determine his readiness for the executive suite at Mutual of Omaha.
To prepare, Noon, 35, spent the weeks leading up to his assessment poring over reams of fictitious financials and memorizing fake org charts, employee bios, product descriptions, company histories and global sales breakdowns. He also took three personality tests, each consisting of 200 to 300 questions designed to uncover his levels of sociability, creativity and ambition and to identify any “derailers”–talent-management-speak for the dark side.
Psychological scrutiny and rigorous simulations are fast becoming a requisite part of the interview process. Gone are the days when a clutch golf swing or well-schmoozed dinner might score you a spot in the C-suite. The downturn has shed a decidedly unflattering light on subjective hiring practices. Even the standard application-interview-résumé-and-reference-check formula has come under fire for being too soft and unreliable.
In many ways this makes sense, but it would make even more sense if the results are compared to feedback given by that candidates former co-workers and superiors.
Early retirement is no longer the goal of most workers. Even retirement at age 65 now seems unattainable to many people. The majority of Americans now expect to work until age 65 or later.
The number of Americans planning to retire before age 65 has dropped from 50 percent in 1996 to 29 percent today, according to a recent Gallup survey of 1,020 adults. Meanwhile the proportion of people planning to work until after age 65 has increased steadily from 15 percent in 1996 to 34 percent this year. This is the first time in the 15-year-old survey that more current workers planned to retire after age 65 than before it. Another 27 percent of current employees plan to retire exactly at age 65.
Many of the reasons are financial. The stock market correction over the past several years following the financial crisis certainly had an effect. Even without the crisis many Americans had done a poor job of saving for retirement.
At the other end of the spectrum, many people just like their careers and want to stay active in their jobs. Those are the good stories.
One issue that may change involves health care. Many continue to work until 65 in order to keep their group health insurance. With the new health care reform bill, perhaps it will easier for many to retire early.