Kyle Reyes’s “Snowflake Test”, designed to weed out “entitled” job applicants, has left many onlookers wildly furious at the Connecticut businessman’s jock-like swagger – but many others jubilant. Reyes’s questions, such as asking when you last cried and why, what your thoughts are on guns, privilege and the police, are (in his words) “a curveball”. There are no wrong answers, he says.
Still, I don’t think I’d recommend admitting your last hot tears were “20 minutes ago, in a fit of solace remembering that Sandy Hook made no impact on gun prohibition and I’ve just ran out of vegan seitan.” If I was a young American marketing graduate hoping for a job, I’d go with: “I cried last Thanksgiving thinking about all my freedom.” Short, succinct, moving. A pack of lies, yes, but Reyes says he’s a big fan of “hustle”.
Reyes chides that the only real “safe spaces” in this world are in your parents’ basement. He wants people in his firm who fit in with his ethos. Of course, by weeding out all the snowflakes, Reyes is merely creating a professional safe space for himself as a boss where his views are left conveniently unchallenged.
None of this intergenerational mudslinging is simple. But what is certain is that labelling members of the younger generations “snowflakes” – more fragile, more brattish and less industrious than their ancestors – is highly incendiary.
Nevertheless, there have – it is sometimes hard for us non-millennials to remember – always, always been snowflakes. We simply didn’t have the word to describe them. In the Nineties, media internships were full of weeping, workshy Fenellas who rolled their eyes if they weren’t writing headlines within two weeks of leaving uni, but couldn’t be trusted to feed a fax machine.
The more I think about snowflakes in the workplace, the clearer it becomes that for most of us, our youth is defined by a grotesque lack of self-awareness. I remember clearly, aged 27, at my most snowish and flakey, vocalising loudly to colleagues how this was the hardest life period I’d ever worked through – blind to the fact the 40-somethings were shouldering six times the professional responsibilities as well as dying parents, bitter divorces and other drab drudgeries of post-youth life.
More crucially, young people have always erred on the side of rampantly idealistic, and have always been offended – nay, disgusted – by the generations who came before them. The all-encompassing term for this state, “snowflake”, has become deeply antagonistic and imbued with angry politics.
So, while I believe Reyes – a 30-something, oddly personable marketer – does genuinely feel strongly about the calibre of his future employees, I also think he knew that designing a “Snowflake Test” would be some of his own brand’s most valuable self-marketing to date.
I say Reyes is oddly personable because, gosh, this would be simpler if he was a Boss Hogg character running a used car empire in Alabama, clad in a Confederate flag waistcoat. He isn’t. He’s a chipper, engaging, quite rational-seeming public speaker.
And then there are his views on “hustling”, much repeated on his YouTube channel and Fox News interviews, which I would have to say I agree with. Reyes feels that one’s career trajectory is linked largely to one’s ability to “hustle” – I take that to mean faking it until you make it: chit-chatting and charming, sacrificing, schmoozing, taking sideways steps to gain experience and build contacts, plus an indomitable spirit to win out.
Reyes believes this is a crucial part of success, regardless of one’s background. If one’s gut reaction to this idea is to yell, “Well you would say that, you privileged twonk! How hard did Reyes hustle compared to a brown-skinned kid with the surname Azikewe?” – well, this is possibly what Reyes was “snowflake testing” for. A hustler would grin, nod and convince Reyes they totally agreed with him, while secretly believing he was a prat.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about Reyes’ Snowflake Test, and any future uptake of this technique by corporate firms, is that it saves all parties from each other. Reyes gets to employ what he feels is “the cream of the crop”; meanwhile, bright youthful liberals who fail the “Redneck Douchebag” test can celebrate the fact they aren’t trapped in his office, jamming their heads hard in the microwave each time their new boss treats them to a slice of home truths.
I hope I live long enough to experience ageing, harassed millennials fighting in the workplace with the next generations of snowflakes, or whatever we call them in 20 years’ time. Because one thing is for certain: the office won’t be getting any less frosty.