I’m only 28, yet I remember doing that strange personality test at school which was supposed to help you work out your ideal career. The same sort of tests have come about on Facebook now, and whilst I can’t remember what silly answer I got at school, I know I got fireman recently! These were ‘fun new ways to work out your perfect job’ when I was a teenager, but I don’t know anyone who’s really benefitted from one of these tests.
This sort of test was also definitely not used in any interviews I’ve ever been invited to. There has always seemed to be the assumption during the recruitment process that if a candidate applies for a position and attends an interview, they want to work in that type of a role, and have enough information about their own personalities to know what sort of role they are suited to. So the only real decision to be made during the hiring process was whether they were up to the job, i.e. whether they were made of the right academic stuff.
I’ve been to interviews where the interviewer is interested in your appearance, your eloquence, and your proven record of reliability and achievements in relevant roles. A few questions on examples of dealing with difficult situations, and a bit of a to and fro on how long and how passionately you’re going to work for the company in question, and you wait to hear – and based on how well you think you got on with the main interviewer, you could make an educated guess as to whether they liked you, which would be the main decisive factor as to whether you got the job or not.
It may all sound a bit unprofessional, but to many of us, that’s all there has really been to it, at a certain level anyway.
However, things have changed, and quite dramatically. It’s now quite normal for a recruitment consultant to ask you to complete a number of online tests before they’re happy to send your details over to a potential employer. Their own testing practises seem to be more valuable to them than any experience in the role, or any capabilities which might not show up on their tests. They’ll also often have a lengthy interview with you prior to putting you forward for any roles. This is because they are gate keepers for organisations who are really looking for a very specific type of employee. You may find this ‘gate keeper’ function can be slightly annoying, as you’re prevented from getting through unless you got on well with the recruiter company. However, it’s important to do your best at this stage of the process too, as many excellent employers just don’t hire without using the services of a recruitment agency – you may not get in front of these employers at all without first going through a recruitment agency.
Chatting with colleagues in the office before writing this article, I was given 3 great examples to highlight the new trends in interviewing, at all levels.
A colleague who had been interviewing for an administrative/reception role within a successful local enterprise described her experience of an entire afternoon of interviewing. Despite being there for a whole afternoon, she didn’t spend any time in traditional interview setup (i.e. in a private room with an interviewer or two, focusing solely on her and her suitability for the role and previous experience).
Instead, she found herself put into a group with 5 other interviewees, and they were all set to task on group activities and discussion. Clearly, they all knew they were up against each other, and in a sort of ‘the apprentice’ situation, they all had to both show that they could work in a team, whilst also trying to outshine each other. Very off-putting, in my opinion! Whilst this might be great to see how people work together, it’s not genuine team work as those who are more heartless and happy to make themselves look better at the expense of their fellow interviewees will come out on top! Is it not entirely possible that the role would be best filled by someone who’s more polite, humble, and is happy to be led by others? I think, especially for filling an administrative role, this type of interview scenario is really strange!
My boss, who now owns her own business, told us about 2 day interview process for a high level management role within an extremely high turnover successful organisation. An external recruiter had been brought in to handle the entire interview process. The group of 3 interviewees and 2 interviewers went away for 2 days to a retreat. And the interviewees knew that they were being scrutinised the entire time. During breakfast, using facilities, during group work and quick fire management scenario-play. Even throughout dinner, where the interviewers kept the wine flowing, the candidates were encouraged to drink, whilst knowing they were still being interviewed.
My boss recalls how after dinner and drinking a fair amount (with all the others), she was invited for the ‘formal interview’, just herself and the interviewers, at about 11pm! She handled herself well enough, although I’m sure I and many others I know wouldn’t have by that stage! She thinks this is a really efficient way to do the most thorough assessment of candidates, and she does intend once her own business has grown sufficiently to require high level managers to come in and run the business, to use a similar process to this. It’s clearly an enormous amount of time for interviewees to take out from work/free time, and a huge cost to the hiring company, but for high level positions, it seems to make sense.
Another colleague went for a job in a local Cambridgeshire school – which she was offered and is due to start after the summer holidays. She also took a whole morning to complete the process. Again, the activities involved were highly varied. She started off being interviewed by a panel of governors, she was asked to do a number of practical assignments, and then she was interviewed by some of the children from the school.
A lot of charities/organisations are implementing this sort of interviewing technique, as part of the CSR, giving the people they work ‘for’ the opportunity to voice their priorities and concerns. It is interesting though, as dealing with children as an employed teacher gives you a lot more authority than dealing with children in an interview setting where they are given the control to some extent. Similarly to the group work for the administrative role above, where certain qualities will not be given the opportunity to be shown, this type of interview will also limit to some extent the qualities the interviewee can display. However, I think it’s great for such a varied and high stress role as teaching, to see the candidate in as many situations as possible, so on this occasion I think the varied interview style really works!
Whatever type of jobs you’re interviewing for, the best things you can do to prepare are to a) read your job description thoroughly, and prepare examples of how you are the personality/have the experience of all the items they have described, and b) do some research on the organisation you’re interviewing with – from their history, current projects, and future plans, to their ethos and mission statement, and try to find examples of their existing achievements.
If you are well prepared in these terms, you will be much better able to handle yourself during whatever interview style you find yourself in. If you know what qualities they are looking for in their next employee, just make sure you show these qualities whatever situation you’re in during the process. Also show keenness and familiarity with the organisation.
Bio: Tara Lescott remembers well the difficulties of starting out in the recruitment industry and likes to pass on the benefit of her experience in her writing. Tara now spends much of her time managing www.recruiterrepublic.com a rec to rec agency based in Cambridge and London.
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