The bike test that shows what I’m really like at work
Bosses can learn much by watching a prospective employee on a bicycle
“It is not just the behaviour on the bike, it is the bike itself. The person with the carbon racer wants to impress. The person on the hybrid just wants to get the job done.” Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Cycling through the City of London to work on a dark morning last week, I was overtaken by a man in a black coat with no helmet, no lights, and listening to music through headphones.
Idiot, I thought. As he disappeared into the underground parking of a large bank, I wondered: what sort of banker does a man like that make?
Either he is boneheaded in his assessment of risk – or he wants to die. Both are unfortunate traits in someone who handles someone else’s money.
He got me thinking about the things we reveal about ourselves when we are on two wheels, and how useful that data could be to our bosses.
I’ve always fancied that as a group, cyclists make relatively good employees. All of us are vaguely fit.
We have the wherewithal to be reliable and punctual. When the trains stop running as a result of a little wind – as they did in London last Monday – we still get to work on time. We are risk-takers and ever so slightly rebellious, which works quite well – especially in a job like journalism.
Only 10 minutes on a London road shows that we aren’t a group at all. Some of us are fast, some slow. Some wear helmets, some don’t. Some break all the rules, some break none.
If employers really want to know what prospective employees are like, they should forget psychometric testing and watch them ride a bike.
Some cyclists may protest that they are aggressive in the saddle only to become pussycats at their desks, but I don’t agree: on a bike you are close to death and so become a more intense version of your true self.
After I left the banker who didn’t get risk and proceeded to work, I saw three other cyclists showing traits that should have interested their HR departments. The first had his right trouser leg rolled up to reveal a meaty calf. Such resourcefulness in the absence of a clip impressed me: I’d hire him as a problem solver. The next was a man balancing, stationary on a fixie at the lights – no one likes working with a show-off.
And then there was a woman on a baby-pink Brompton going through a red light just by St Paul’s Cathedral forcing pedestrians to step out of her way. One of them yelled “Asshole” into her oblivious ears.
Clearly, it is the red light that is the richest point for data gathering. This woman comprehensively failed the job test, while other red-light skippers – who do so without inconveniencing anyone – possibly pass.