Moral Dilemma #3: The Arby’s Test

ArbysI’ve applied to a fair number of jobs in my day. I haven’t made it out of the slush pile for many of them. But of all those that I’ve made it to the interview stage, I’ve only been rejected by two companies: BP and Arby’s.

Yep, Arby’s. And I’m not talking some cushy position at corporate Arby’s. I wanted to make Arby’s sandwiches. Well, mostly I just wanted a few free sandwiches. But I was willing to work for them.

I had another full-time summer job, so it’s not like my room and board the following semester were dependent upon a few shifts at Arby’s. However, I wanted those shifts, and I should have known better about the mistake I was about to make.

You see, if you apply to work at Arby’s, you’re giving a multiple-choice test with questions like, “If a customer complains about his curly fries, what do you do?” If you’ve ever applied to a job, you know the answers to all of these questions. You’re supposed to tell Arby’s exactly what they want to hear, and then they give you an apron and a complimentary jamocha shake.

I knew this. I really did. And yet for some reason I refused to answer the questions dishonestly, even if I knew they wanted a different answer.

I have no proof of this, but I suspect a specific line of questioning was my downfall.

There was a section about telling the manager about your fellow coworkers. For example: “If a coworker is rude to a customer, what should you do?” The correct answer to all of these questions was: “Tell the manager.”

I was doing fine until I reached this question: “If a coworker comes to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is unable to perform their duties, what should you do?”

It wasn’t that question that stumped me. I quickly answered that I should tell the manager. I barely drank at all back then, and I looked down on people who did drugs. Nay, it was this question that ruined me from a career as an Arby’s sandwich artist: “If a coworker comes to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol but is able to perform their duties at their regular level of competence, what should you do?”

I knew the right answer was still to tell the manager. I knew it. But I had to tell the truth, and the truth was that all I cared about was that my coworkers did their job and didn’t get in the way of me doing my job. I truly didn’t care if they were drunk or high as long as they were as efficient and productive as the job required.

So yeah, I didn’t get the job.

Have you ever been faced with this moral dilemma? Where you know exactly what the other person wants to hear, and you have to decide to give them that answer or to tell them what you really think? How do you respond to those situations?

4 thoughts on “Moral Dilemma #3: The Arby’s Test”

  1. There’s an employer in St. Louis (not one I’ve ever worked for.. but I’ve heard this story from several people who have gotten to this step in the application process) that has a similar type of morality survey. One question in particular makes me laugh. The assessment asks, “Have you ever considered doing anything illegal.”

    Apparently, if you answer “yes” then you don’t advance to the next round of interviews. But if you answer “no, I’ve never considered doing anything illegal” … then you may get the job, but you’re also a huge liar. Think about it … who HASN’T been stuck at a red light late at night with NO ONE around and the red light refuses to switch to green. In that situation, who wouldn’t consider running the light to get home? And yet, that’s illegal so you’d have to answer that question “Yes” and then you’re not qualified to work at this company. Kinda funny, because this company has to be full of a bunch of liars at this point. 🙂

    Assessments for jobs are always bizarre.

    As for your real comment prompt about telling someone the truth vs. telling them what they want to hear : This is very situational for me. There are some situations where I have told the truth and it comes back to bite me in a big way. In subsequent interactions with those individuals, I’m more likely to just grin and bear it and tell him/her what he/she wants to hear. I pick my “battles” (though rarely do these interactions have any business turning into a “battle”) … and sometimes it’s just not worth it.

    • Elaine–If I were hiring people, I think I would prefer that they answer honestly to that question. After all, who hasn’t gone 1 mile over the speed limit?

      I like your stance on picking your battles. Sometimes it’s just tough to decide which ones to pick! 🙂

  2. I have a similar story from when I interviewed with a pharmaceutical company about 8 years ago. After three interviews, one of which was a half-day job shadow, I entered the final phase which consisted of a phone screen with several different scenarios. The person on the other line (I think it was a 3rd party, not someone with the company) would transcript my answers. I knew at this point that it was down to me and one other candidate for the job.

    One of the questions involved setting up a meeting with a new potential client that I’d been trying to woo for years and would mean big business. However, this doctor could only meet me at the same time I’d already scheduled to do a presentation for an existing, smaller client. Neither of them could reschedule, and I couldn’t ask my boss what to do or have someone fill in for me at either meeting (I tried all these routes first to see if I could circumvent having to pick). Which would I choose? I think I chose the existing client and mentioned keeping obligations, holding onto a known client, client relations, etc., but I realize that most companies would probably want you to aggressively pursue new sales (and I would take that route today, now that I’m a little more experienced).

    I honestly think that one question cost me the job.

    However, after the hours and hours I spent interviewing with this company, I never even received a phone call, letter, or email telling me the position had been filled. I did inquire about it after a suitable amount of time had passed, but heard nothing. I realized I didn’t really want to work for a company like that anyway.

    • Oo, very interesting. That’s a tough question. I agree that they were probably looking for the other answer, but it’s still tough given the relationship you’ve built with the existing client.


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