Sought-after jobs often come with the most difficult, rigorous, and extensive interview processes. Even some of the least-sought roles are weighed down by arduous interview procedures that put the candidate through the intellectual wringer. Methods include phone interviews, group/panel interviews, daylong interviews with multiple people, group discussions with other interviewers, stress interviews, assessment tests, written case studies, and more.
Whether applying for a part-time merchandising role at the local convenience store or submitting your resume for a VP-level position at a major software firm, it seems today's interview processes have ramped up to a whole new level of intensity.
In fact, the publicity surrounding these difficult interview situations prompted a Glassdoor report on the "Top 25 Most Difficult Companies to Interview." One of the pressing questions asked: "How many people would use a drug that prevents baldness?" It was asked of an associate candidate at Boston Consulting Group.
This then, begs the question: Why do companies have such tough interview processes?
1. They're vetting through an enormous amount of resume and interview clutter. In today's market, there are more jobless folks than ever before, and as such, there is much more "noise" in human resources', recruiters', and hiring decision makers' inboxes. It only makes sense that a more fine-tuned process might ensue in this buyers' market, to include meticulous question-and-answer processes, as well as other interviewing requests. They can then wade through the resume stacks and tease out the best candidates for the role. In their mind, they have the upper hand, so they can use the most creative and hard-hitting techniques available to them in navigating through and narrowing down the throng of candidates.
2. They're economically stressed. Their company has been through the economic and marketplace wringer and back. Or, more likely, they're not yet back, and they don't know how they will identify, re-plant and nurture the highest quality seeds that will spring forth new shoots of growth for their flailing company. They need just the right new engineer, software consultant, sales representative, healthcare specialist, chief executive, and so forth that can turn the ship that has been blown off course back onto the right track.
3. They're culturally imploding. Following the tsunami of economic turmoil, the company's remaining team members are still pulling their weight. But many are road-weary with challenged attitudes. The company wonders: Will you be able to step in and perform despite the brokenness strewn about you? Can you add value with your fresh insights and collaborative nature?
Or, maybe the challenges are with a silo-like, disconnected environment wrought with power struggles. As a newly employed supervisor, your job will be to unite disparate teams. Their probing, unusual interview questions may help get to the root of how confident and innovative you are, how you think on your feet, handle stress, think critically and even, whether you have a positive attitude and sense of humor. While some of the difficult questions may have a more technically correct answer, many of the really off-the-wall questions have no perfect answer and are more about your ability to think critically, and roll with the punches with strength and positivity.
How to Prepare For Any Interview
Whether being grilled by a group of managers or conversing intimately during a one-on-one, the key to interview success is preparation. Here are three tips to help you:
1. Research the company. Go online and visit sites like Glassdoor, Hoovers, LinkedIn or Manta; Google the company and read any articles where it was mentioned. Visit its company website. Gather as much market intelligence about it and its pain points as you can. If you know someone in the company or have access to an employee, then seek them out for any tips they can offer about the company, division, or leadership in which you are preparing to engage.
2. Practice answering the common interview questions. Before going with the worst possible scenario—those onerously difficult questions—get comfortable with some of the most basic interview questions, such as: "Tell me about yourself," "What is the greatest value you can bring to us?" and "What interests you about the position we have available?" This will propel your confidence, grease your vocal engine, and get you on your way.
Then, study the more difficult questions and role-play. Write down the questions and your answers. Practice them out load; record yourself; look in the mirror and speak them. Get a friend, partner, or career coach to critique you. Study a handful of the difficult questions on Glassdoor, such as this question asked during a Rackspace interview: "What's the worst thing you ever broke and how did you cover it up?" Try answering the question your own way before peeking at suggested answers on the site.
3. Be prepared to prove your nuances. The interview is as much about fit as it is about hard-line achievements and skill sets. Be prepared to talk succinctly and concretely about your work ethic and your ability to collaborate across personalities and in variable situations. The wind of the workday requires we reset our sails strategically. As well, know what top three professional values you possess, and connect them with the target companies' values.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at http://careertrend.net/blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.