Show, Don’t Tell: Challenged-based Interviewing

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If you’re heading to a job interview these days you better be up for the challenge. Literally.

One of the hottest trends among employers is what’s being called “challenge-based interviewing.” A recent Forbes magazine article claimed that the challenge-based approach could “change the job application process on both sides of the interview table forever.”

The article went on to describe challenge-based interviews as “a process by which candidates, show rather than tell prospective employers their skill-sets.” For instance, prospective engineers are asked to complete game-like coding challenges that allow employers to gauge their skills and rank them compared to other applicants.

While testing job candidates for certain skills and behaviors has occurred for decades, challenge-based interviews differ in that they  often occur very early in the vetting process — usually before a candidate ever even talks to an actual person for a screening interview. In fact, many companies are incorporating Web-based challenges to eliminate or streamline the time-consuming screening process.

In addition to assessing a candidate’s skills levels, some challenges provide employers with insights into how a candidate approaches a problem or would deal with a difficult situation on the job. For example, a retailer might challenge candidates by asking them to write, or explain on video, how they would deal with an angry customer.

So how does one prepare to ace a challenge based interview? Here are a few tips.

· Review your resume: With more organizations expected to rely on the challenge-based approach early in the hiring process, it’s more important than ever to not overpromise or overstate your skills on your resume. Make sure you can deliver on the skills and expertise you highlight as you may be asked to prove it through a challenge.

· Don’t overreach: Along the same lines, think twice about applying for a job for which you may lack the required skills listed in the job description. For instance, if a good working knowledge of Excel is necessary, you could be asked to complete a challenge in which you are required to do several basic Excel functions. Writing in U.S. News Money, Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media consultant, suggests closely reviewing the job description for clues to what types of skills or expertise you might be asked to display through a challenge.

· Do your research: A good look at the Web site of the company you are applying to will give you a deeper understanding of what they do and how they present themselves to the world. Check out their social media posts as well. If you are asked to do a written challenge you might have the opportunity to incorporate some of what you learned during your research in your response.

· Don’t panic: While some challenges simply assess whether or not you have a certain skill, others don’t have a “right answer” per se. Rather, the employer is looking for how you might address a problem on the job or assess a particular situation. If faced with this type of challenge, don’t panic. Simply provide your best thinking and show that you have a passion for your work.

· Follow up: As with any interaction with a potential employer, it’s important to check back within a reasonable amount of time to show you are professional – and that you are interested in the role. If you learn you’re in the running, ask what the next step should be to expedite the process. If you haven’t been selected to go to the next stage in the process, see if you might be able to get a sense from the hiring manager about what aspect of your challenge led to you being eliminated.

Certainly, not every employer will take the challenge-based approach – at least not yet. Still, being aware of the trend better prepares you in the event a challenge-based interview is part of the hiring process.

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