Years ago, I was interviewing candidates for the surgical assistant job opening at our office and had lined up two interviews at the end of a busy day. Right before the interviews were to begin, one of my bosses rushed in through the door, zooming by the candidates who were nervously filling out applications. My boss still had his headlight on, so I knew it was urgent. We conversed briefly, and as he left, I walked around my desk to call back the first candidate when I noticed a cotton roll on the floor next to the chair, right where the interviewee would be sitting. As I did not want to appear messy to the candidates, I grabbed a Kleenex from my desk, bent down to retrieve the cotton roll and paused . . . I had an idea. I left the cotton roll on the floor to see which interview candidate picked it up. After all, attention to detail, taking action and thinking on your feet are character traits we look for in candidates. Let’s see who picks it up.
How simple is this? You might be thinking, “who steps over trash and simply ignores it?” Well, sad to say, many people do! But not me! I don’t know about you, but I have been known to pick up trash in the isle of a store while shopping. I’m happy to say both candidates brought the cotton roll on the floor to my attention, as they looked around for something to pick it up with. Ta-da! I was impressed. Their actions showed me that they think on their feet, take action and care about their environment with attention to detail. Later, I learned the staff was restocking when a package of cotton rolls broke open and our boss helped pick up the mess. I was happy to learn it was not a used cotton roll!
Every now and again I read an article that reminds me of something I have done in the past, like the cotton roll test. For some reason, with time, this test got pushed by the wayside, fallen through the cracks, so they say. As I have constantly worked on and tested new interview techniques over the years, I have forgotten about this simple, effective method. You can bet it’s back on my radar. Give it a try. You can use a piece of paper, a pen or even a 2×2 or cotton roll. And if you are a job seeker, take this hint: if you are being interviewed and see something on the floor, pick it up. If it’s trash and you don’t see a trash can, ask for one!