Medieval Trial by Ordeal, or Next Step in Interview Process?

Laurie Bolewitz
Laurie Bolewitz
May 6, 2021

By fire, by water, or by PowerPoint, the next step in your interview process won’t be easy. Guess if each description is an antiquated form of judicial torture from the Middle Ages or if it’ll be just the next step towards a role in middle management!

1) “We are going to drop you right into the deep end to see if you sink or swim!”

A: Medieval trial by cold water.

B: The next step in your interview process where your potential place of employment asks you to work an 8-hour “test day” to see if you’re a “good fit.” Unpaid.

2) This will test your ability to think on your feet.

A: Medieval trial by ploughshares — accused were forced to walk on red-hot ploughshares to determine their innocence.

B: The next step in your interview process where they ask you to take a Myers-Briggs personality test combined with an ethics quiz. You’ll be asked hard-hitting questions like, “Should you steal money from the company?” INFJs are immediately disqualified.

3) An all-day process to see how you stand out from your competitors.

A: Medieval trial by crucifixion — defendant and plaintiff both stand in a church with their arms out (like on a cross, get it?), and the first person to drop their arms is guilty.

B: “Superday!” — the last stage in the interview process for aspiring investment bankers. It does not feel super.

4) We recommend you take approximately 3 days to complete this before showing us the results.

A: Medieval trial by hot iron—subject holds a hot iron with their bare hands. Their bandages were then unwrapped 3 days later to determine if God had healed the wounds of the innocent.

B: The next step in your interview process for a product manager role in which you’re given a 5-page research assignment. Your interviewers have requested that you use 3 days of your free time to fully explain your management style “based on current research” and present your findings in PowerPoint. No one has told you what the product is.

5) We’re inviting you to eat a special meal with us!

A: Medieval trial by Eucharist—accused would eat blessed Communion bread, but only the guilty would choke, as the sinful would be unable to ingest something holy.

B: An “interview lunch” that your potential company is taking you to. It’s a “foreign” food restaurant to see how you deal with new concepts under pressure in social situations. It is somehow demeaning to both you and most cultures.

6) You will need to stick your hand into a vat of boiling water to retrieve some precious gems or stones.

A: Medieval trial by cauldron—this is self-explanatory…right?

B: An interview to be an executive assistant to the company president. The interview is at her house, and she’s asked you to “be a lifesaver and go get her crystals out of the hot tub.”

Answer key: Congratulations! If you answered A or B for all of the above, #1–6, you’re correct! Whether you’re a medieval citizen hoping God will intervene in earthly judicial affairs to save you from the gallows, OR you’re awaiting the next stage in the interview process in an increasingly competitive job market with continually diminishing returns — remember, these impartial trials and steps DO determine your worthiness as a person. Let’s table this conversation for now and circle back at the next fiscal quarter or king’s command!