The secret test one former Microsoft exec puts every job candidate through before hiring

Most hiring managers rely solely on résumés, interviews, and conversations with references to determine if a candidate is the right fit for a job.

But Patty Stonesifer, a former Microsoft exec, the founding CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and now the chief executive of Martha’s Table, a provider of food and clothing for low-income people, does things differently: she observes.

Stonesifer tells the New York Times’ Adam Bryant that she can get a really good sense of whether she wants to work with somebody when she walks them through Martha’s Table’s bustling headquarters in Washington, D.C.


“It is a busy, crazy place with lots of programs going on to make sure there’s food for the hungry,” Stonesifer explains to Bryant. “I watch how the person reacts to the environment. Because if they’re not curious about the work, and it’s just a job, then I don’t want to work with them.”

Programs at Martha’s Table include Early Childhood Education, After School Time, Martha’s Outfitters, and Martha’s Markets, which impact more than 20,000 people a year. The nonprofit employs around 100 staff and worked with 14,000 volunteers in 2014.

“I’ll stop and introduce [candidates] to a half-dozen people, and see if it’s just a handshake or whether there’s some curiosity and interest,” Stonesifer tells Bryant.


“We talk a lot about dignity at Martha’s Table, and dignity comes first from, ‘I see you, I hear you, I know you,’ Stonesifer says. “The ultimate dignity is whether you’re really present for other people.”

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