How to Overcome the Most Difficult Interview Processes

Glassdoor releases its list of 25 companies that give the toughest interviews.

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Glassdoor - the online career community that provides an insider look into jobs and companies - recently released a report of the "Top 25 Most Difficult Companies to Interview (2013)." Many would want to check out a list like this to see if a company they're considering or are in process with is about to put them through the ringer before extending an offer. But it's equally important to examine why these processes are so difficult, to be positioned for job-seeking success in even the most challenging scenarios when the time comes.

With that in mind, Glassdoor Community Expert Scott Dobroski helped synthesize three prominent themes that make these particular interview processes so difficult, and why leadership designs them to be so.

With that knowledge, it should be exponentially easier to beat the obstacles and differentiate your candidacy in the most positive light possible. Let's get started.

1. Case-study and real-world questions. Arguably the most obvious reason hard interviews are so hard is because they test the intricacies of your technical knowledge. For example, candidates who interviewed with the No. 6 most difficult company, Rolls-Royce, describe on Glassdoor being asked how they would construct an engine from scratch. This makes sense from an employer's perspective, as this type of question ensures candidates are familiar with the industry in which they claim to be a leader. "People embellish and stretch the truth on their résumés, so if candidates don't understand the terminology or how to answer questions with common industry knowledge, that's a major red flag for employers," Dobroski says.

How to beat case-study and real-world questions: The way to circumvent this type of obstacle is all in preparation. If you aren't ready to quickly and thoroughly address common knowledge questions in an interview, you likely couldn't be trusted to do so as an employee. So, across the board make sure you review your terms and core competencies to avoid any unfortunate slipups.

2. Outrageous critical-thinking questions. You may have heard that companies like Google (No. 8 on Glassdoor's list) ask candidates brain teasers like "How many people are on Facebook on a Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in San Francisco?"

Dobroski explains that such questions are a mechanism to test candidates' ability to think critically, work through a problem out loud and tackle a complex challenge head on.

How to beat outrageous critical-thinking questions: Understanding that perspective, Dobroski warns the worst way to answer such questions is either with a one-word answer or simply saying, "I have no idea." To prepare, it's first wise to research the company using sites like Glassdoor to see what kinds of brain teasers other candidates have been asked. From there, remember the interviewer most likely doesn't have a specific right answer in mind, but rather wants to see how you attempt to arrive at the best answer possible given the circumstances.

Take a question like "Tell me a story entitled 'Green Hat'" – asked by global software company ThoughtWorks (No. 2 on the list). Great candidates can begin deconstructing this question by asking the interviewer if there is a hat style (baseball cap, beret, snow cap) he or she prefers, or if the company has market research on what shade of green best resonates with its audience.

That's the kind of thought process so critical to business success and it may consequently be a critical differentiator in your candidacy for the role at hand.

3. Marathon interview processes. Another key reason the interview processes on the list are so tough is because they're just plain long – requiring phone screens, in-person meetings and even group interviews before the offer stage. For example, Glassdoor reports Teach For America's entire process is 55 days, while users report going through seven interview rounds on ThoughtWorks' Glassdoor profile. According to Dobroski, though, thorough and extensive processes are designed for economic reasons rather than sadism.

Speaking from the perspective of human resources and business leaders, Dobroski says: "Spending more time up front having a candidate meet with more people in the company means superior ability to differentiate the good from the great and also the best cultural fits. That reduces attrition costs and costs of hiring as well because identifying someone better from the the get-go saves money in the long term as that candidate is more likely to stick around."

How to beat marathon interview processes: Research to determine how many interviews you're liable to go through and remember that whether you're meeting with two people or 20, the most important thing is consistency.

That said, learn the firm's points of difference from competitors and how it's moving forward. That information will be integral in helping you keep your message about who you are and how you'll help the company achieve its goals the same every time.

Bottom Line: The unifying message is that with research and preparation, you can conquer even the hardest interview situations. Just remember the digital age affords job seekers with more intel into potential success than ever before and the real difference between good and great is whether you have the constitution to take advantage of the information available.

Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions – an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.

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careers
interviews

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