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China

In China's Apprentice-Style Show, Interviewers Browbeat Job Applicants (Until They Faint)

More than a quarter million people have already signed a petition asking for the show to apologize for the way it bullies its contestants.

This young candidate just returned from three years in New Zealand (You ku)
This young candidate just returned from three years in New Zealand (You ku)
Tang Mengjuan

BEIJING - A new Apprentice-style TV reality show called "Only you" has been creating quite a controversy in China. In this program five candidates conduct a job interview in front of a panel composed of a TV presenter and twelve corporate executives and experts. The interviewee has face tough questions to land the job he or she aspires to.

Two of the last candidates were people who had lived abroad. One was a young woman who spent three years in New Zealand and the other was a young man claiming to have a master's degree in business from France.

The girl was up first. She didn't let the male TV presenter intimidate her and pretty soon the interview veered to confrontation. When asked what kind of literature she liked she replied that her favorite works were Shakespeare's Sonnets. The presenter had never even heard of them and insisted the girl name something more famous. Then he goes on to attack her for calling China "the motherland" instead of the "fatherland."

Things got even more confrontational when the young man came on. A woman tried interviewing him in her very basic French. He couldn't understand a word. Then she pointed out that his business school diploma was not as he claimed a master degree but just a certificate for attending a course. The boy fainted on the spot, right there in front of the live audience. The TV presenter leaned over him and coldly asked, "Are you pretending?"

Public outcry

Three days ago, Lee Kai-Fu, a Taiwanese-born American living in Beijing who was the founding president of Google China judged the program to be "giving a very negative impression of China's corporate culture." On his popular microblog he suggested people boycott the program and initiated a public petition for an apology from the show. He has gotten more than a quarter million signatures. The program has yet to make an apology.

As Lee puts it, even if the interviewers think the candidate isn't good enough, neither the presenter nor the interviewer is entitled to humiliate him or her. Everyone deserves basic respect.

But the real issue is "Do such aggressive interviews exist in real life? And if so, how should a job seeker face them?" After all, a boss or human resource manager represents his company. Shouldn't a candidate stay away from working for such people?

Can you take the heat?

The truth is that interrogation-style interviews do exist. It is even common and even has a name: "the pressure interview." For instance, a typical question in pressure interview could run like this: If the company wants you to go on an emergency business mission and you have just received a phone call that your mother or child is hospitalized, what will you do? And while the interviewee mulls over his answer he'll be harassed and interrupted with other questions.

There is a reason why such questions exist. At work, all kinds of problems can occur, and some are particularly hard to deal with. If a candidate is able to take the heat and react in an appropriate manner – then he is competent for the job. This is the kind of professional skills that are often sought after by HR staff.

In China 20 % of job seekers fake their diplomas. And even when the diplomas are real, a company has to find the right person with real competence. Recruitment is an area where the diploma is less important than whether or not the candidate is capable of solving problems.

However, an incompetent job seeker isn't any less human. Failing a job interview does not equal to failing one's life. Likewise, being an interviewer who decides other peoples' fate doesn't give them the authority to play God.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - You ku

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