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The Man Who Passed The World’s Toughest Interview

It’s hard to get a really great job, so it stands to reason that to land the gig as one of Columbia’s two Directors of Toughness – where you get to travel to some of the world’s most extreme environments to test out Columbia’s gear – involves a pretty demanding interview.

Mark Chase beat off 4,000 global applicants to land the role via an arduous interview process that tested both his physical and mental prowess. The first big challenge: how fast can you get to the Hebrides?

“I was invited to come to the Isle of Skye. I didn’t get much information, just the time, date and place, and the line ‘be prepared for anything’. This email only came two or three days before the actual trip to Skye.”

After an 11-hour road trip from Cheltenham, Mark attempted some reconnaissance of Skye sites like the famous Fairy Pools in the hope of gaining an idea of what the interview would involve.

“I knew there was going to be a physical element to the interview, so I was trying to second-guess what it would be. I thought I would have an advantage if I knew we were going to be swimming or climbing or running. I scoured the island and I got nowhere with that.”

So, still none the wiser, Mark turned up for his interview the next day and met his competitors for the role who had come from all over Europe.

“We were driven to the bottom of the Quiraing, which is a big landslip. It really is like something out of Lord of the Rings. Lots of large rocks sticking out of the ground and a few cliff tops, but cliffs on land.”

Then the interview began in earnest, with people being led off one-by-one and not returning. They probably weren’t being thrown off the top of the Quiraing if they failed, but Mark couldn’t be sure.

“When they called my name, I had a short run then I was met by an interview team of four people. They asked me some pretty serious questions and when that finished they told me the interview wasn’t over. There was a second part and it happened to be on top of the cliff I was standing at the bottom of. I was given a rucksack and a camera. No map, just a vague direction of which way I had to go and I was told not to be late.

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(Image credit: Unknown)

“I set off running to the top of the Quiraing. It was the sort of terrain that’s a bit of an ankle breaker, there’s lots of scree, lots of loose rock. One guy got completely lost.”

Things only got tougher when Mark reached the top with the hardest interview yet, this time conducted on the edge of a cliff.

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(Image credit: Unknown)

“When I got to the top, there was just a desk, six foot from the edge off the cliff. A young man sitting there politely informed me I was late. Then there was a highly-pressurised interview. Questions like ‘what are your reflexes like,’ then he threw a pen at me! Stuff like that, trying to get under your skin, to make you snap. All while sitting on the edge of this cliff, it was quite a strange experience.”

It was all worth it though, as Mark secured himself an enviable job travelling the world for the next nine months. You can follow Mark’s adventures as a Columbia Director of Toughness at Columbia.com/TestedTough (opens in new tab).

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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.