Meet the 2 hardest companies to interview for in Chicagoland

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Glassdoor, a website that collects employee reviews of interviews and companies, has released this year’s list of the 25 Most Difficult Companies to Interview and two area-based companies made the roster. ThoughtWorks, an IT consultancy located in the Loop, trails only elite management consulting firm McKinsey & Company as the most difficult interview in the country. Evanston-based management consulting firm ZS Associates finished seventh. Both firms employee about 2,000.

ZS Associates is known for making candidates sweat. “We’ve been on that list before,” says human resources manager John Logan. “It’s something we take perverse pride in.”

Applicants there are treated to a battery of tests that’d make a Navy SEAL reconsider employment. Case studies, multiple interview sessions, group tests and writing tests are some of the ordeals that ZS puts candidates through, each hurdle a view into the tempo of the job itself. “The interview tells some things about us,” Logan says. “It reveals that the work we do is going to be rigorous, is going to be accurate, is going to be well-grounded and researched.”

Glassdoor’s average found that candidates who interviewed at ThoughtWorks went through an average of seven interviews over the span of 43 days. And there weren’t many softballs. One candidate had to tell the interviewer a story that had a title of Green Hat.

Experts say that first impressions are overrated, and ThoughtWorks is wise to take its time. “There’s no fail-safe screening process,” says Brenda Ellington-Booth, a professor of management & organizations at Kellogg. “But the more time you put into investing in a candidate up front, you get to see how serious and committed the candidate is and how they handle and interact with a number of key people in the organization.”

It might work for companies to put employees through the ringer, but won’t that turn off potentially desirable candidates? Not so, according to the data. ThoughtWorks and ZS each had more than 70 percent of candidates say that while the interview was tough, it was a positive experience.

“It’s a challenging interview,” Glassdoor spokesman Scott Dobroski says. “But if you can land the job, these are companies that employees are very satisfied working in, and in many cases, they’re going to earn a handsome paycheck as well.”

And by putting all of their cards on the table at the beginning, companies might save candidates a lot of grief in the long run. “If they’re finding the interview process too stressful,” Ellington-Booth says, “maybe that’s kind of a signal that the company is not right for you.”

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