There are few things more nerve-wracking then going in for a job interview — even more so these days, when stories of weird job interviews are all over social media quickly. The truth is that job interviews are evolving as new studies and new data give employers a better sense of how to identify skills beyond traditional means. That means it’s up to job seekers to be engaging and demonstrate agility in job interviews, and these five tips can help them ace even the oddest interview request:
#1: Be prepared
While many elements of the job search process have changed for both seekers and employers, certain pieces of advice are going to be set in stone for a long, long time. The bulk of this falls under the category of preparation and is considered age-old interview wisdom that still applies today. Since you’ll be handing out copies of your resume, make sure it’s polished. Research the company and take a closer look at specific tasks listed in the job description, then prepare ways to connect your experience and skills to these.
From a practical perspective, do things that will make your interview go as smoothly as possible — look at a map to plan your route, to work around traffic patterns, and to figure out parking; dress appropriately and prepare copies of your resume and business cards; and do everything you can to arrive on time. In fact, if you can arrive a little early, that never hurt and it provides a safety net.
#2: It’s more than your resume
Your resume got you in the door. So what will put you over the top? While your experience and resume will be the basis of discussion in your interview, the way you have that conversation matters just as much — and in some ways, even more. Remember that you’re being interviewed to be part of a team. That means that soft skills matter. The best way to demonstrate your ability to excel in these areas is to show them off during your interview. Teamwork, organization, crisis management, critical thinking, and adaptability are all skills that apply to any industry and any position. These are hard to quantify on a resume, but once you get in a one-on-one situation, you have an opportunity to put them on display. Try to come up with a few key stories ahead of time that showcase some of these skills throughout your past experience.
#3: It’s more than your experience
Work experience is important but it shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all to hiring. Modern companies often recognize this and instead of judging someone immediately by their experience, they will look for a complete picture of someone’s long-term potential. In fact, many HR teams now specifically look for two types of qualities that go beyond work experience: cognitive ability and conscientiousness traits.
Cognitive ability demonstrates how strong you are in abilities necessary for any position regardless of industry. Whether it’s marketing or programming, you’ll still need things like flexibility, adaptability, problem solving, critical thinking, memory, and basic mathematical comprehension, all core components of cognitive ability. On the other hand, conscientiousness is often demonstrated by the end result; in layman’s terms, conscientiousness is a person’s “stick-to-itiveness” or gumption: goal-setting, motivation, and ability to follow-through and achieve. Combined, conscientiousness and cognitive aptitude provide the foundation for what companies seek in long-term employees. The interview provides you with the opportunity to showcase these abilities, so think of examples and stories — work-related or personal projects — that put these front and center.
#4: Expect to be challenged
In the early 2000s, graduating college seniors heard horror stories of interviewees at major tech companies being presented with a blank white board and a problem statement. Their goal? Come up with a way to solve the problem from scratch. This method may be an extreme example (though still used by some tech companies today) but don’t be surprised if you encounter some form of a test like this. By presenting a cold challenge and giving the interviewee the freedom to solve it however they see fit, all types of skills can be demonstrated, from logic and organization to improvisation and communication. This type of challenge may do more for your interview than any volume of work experience on a resume.
#5: Politeness still counts
You can have the biggest resume, sharpest attire, and most-impressive demonstration of your soft skills, but it can all fall apart if you rub people the wrong way. Until tasks are completed with a human controlling a team of androids or machines, emotions are always going to be involved — even if the job is completely remote.
With that in mind, what should you do? Just remember: politeness still counts. Be polite in all communications, whether it’s on the phone, in person, or via email. Take note of names, shake hands, say “thank you”, and use active listening skills. Remember, they’re evaluating whether or not they can work with you, particularly on a tight schedule or budget crunch, so prove that you belong with the team. At the end of it all, send follow-up thank-you notes to everyone you spoke to. It’s an age-old notion but it remains true: a little kindness goes a long way.
About the author: Josh Millet, Founder & CEO of Criteria Corp., a pre-employment testing company backed by a Scientific Advisory Board of psychologists and test development experts from Harvard University, Penn State University, and Stanford. He is also the founder of JobFlare (launched last week), an iOS brain games app designed to change the way job hunting and talent discovery take place for job seekers and companies.