By Meghan Casserly
Be prepared to be put to work at your next interview--or even before you're asked in.Ask anyone: managers, recruiters and job applicants are all unhappy with the current standards in hiring. A candidate comes in after a paper resume's been given the once-over and rattles off her best qualities over the course of a 30 minute interview, during which time you learn little more than whether she can tell a decent story or if you like her blazer. She leaves, feeling dissatisfied that she hasn't been able to show you what she's truly capable of.
More often than not, you will never see each other again.
But hiring trends are changing, and experts predict within the next 365 days a new practice will take root that will change the job application process on both sides of the interview table forever. It's called the challenge-based interview process and, in short, it's a process by which candidates, show rather than tell prospective employers their skill-sets.
Elli Sharef, the co-founder of Y-Combinator-backed recruiting company HireArt has found herself in the thick of this employment revolution and has seen first-hand how it leads to a happier process and, more significantly, happier, better-qualified employees down the road.
"We've gotten ourselves into trouble," she says. Candidates say they feel like they're sending their resumes into a black hole when applying for positions, while hiring managers and recruiters say they're being flooded by thousands upon thousands of irrelevant candidates for every opening. To illustrate: Sharef recalls a conversation she had with one eager applicant who told her he'd written a computer program to send his resume to every single listing on Craigslist regardless of type.
"It's an untenable relationship that's had to change for nearly a decade and through video and online technology we're starting to see solutions." To her point, 60% companies are now conducting job interviews over video and Skype before meeting face-to-face, a 50% jump in just 12 months.
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The biggest affect these next-generation interviews will have on prospective hires? Plan on passing a hurdle even before you sit down for a meet-and-greet. "You can't really bullshit anymore. Proving skills really matters in this jobs economy," Sharef says, particularly as the skills required for the positions needed to fill within companies are often so new that there's no degree offered to define them. You either have the skills or you don't-and no amount of resume padding can make that point like a pre-interview challenge can.
If you're hoping to score an engineering position, be prepared for a coding challenge; a social media manager might be asked to analyze a day's worth of content and to present a strategy for sharing online while a personal assistant could be tasked with scouring the web for the best travel arrangements. As companies build challenges into their hiring practices, no candidate should expect to be hired without first proving their mettle.
What's more, Sharef says most of this work will take place before you even set foot inside the workplace. "As video interviews become more commonplace, employers want to see these skills presented well ahead of time," she says. "that way candidates can present themselves, give their elevator pitch and showcase their skills and qualifications before a company brings them in for an in-person interview."
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Sharef, whose HireArt implements challenge-based interviewing into its own hiring and placement efforts, shares her three trade secrets for getting the job in 2013:
1. Act like you want to be there, doing this and showing off your skills.
Being energetic over a video interview can go a long way in making you stand out against other candidates that seem bored or uncomfortable, Sharef says. Even though it might be more difficult to seem enthusiastic about a job when you are just talking to the camera, you should try to come across as excited and passionate about why you want to be there.
Similarly, when asked in advance to perform a task, it's critical to exude enthusiasm for the project. "How do you want me to be excited about you when you seem bored by the task or your presentation," Sharef asks. "It's about putting yourself out there and showcasing what you can bring to the table."
2. Perfect your overall pitch.
Whether in a video interview, written presentation or the all-important face-to-face showdown, Sharef says it's critical to develop-and put to memory-a two minute pitch about yourself. In videos you will often be asked to lead with this pitch, she says, but in person they're a handy tool should you reach the end of the formal questions and feel you haven't had the chance to best introduce yourself.
Really think about what you want to get across, she says, what experiences you'd like to highlight, what sets you apart from other candidates and compose a narrative that makes sense. Practice this "elevator pitch:" who am I and how do I explain myself in a minute?
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3. Make sure you know the company, its competitors and the industry inside and out.
It's no surprise that companies expect you to understand the position and know the company well. Still, despite the ongoing advice in this arena, Sharef says she so rarely meets with candidates who've done their due diligence. To remedy, HireArt and other proponents of the challenge-based interview often build a learning experience into the hiring process-they may ask you to find X,Y and Z on their corporate site and be prepared to discuss, she says by way of example.
If you score the opportunity for an interview-even if it's only via video or Skype-use this information at every chance you get, Sharef says. "Articulate specifically why you want to work at the company - what specifically drew you to this position," and as always, do your best to identify and showcase the skills and experience you have to meet those specific needs.
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By Meghan Casserly