Even though I had delivered hundreds of workshops, where I currently work, I still had to deliver one when applying for the workshop facilitator position. Sound confusing? You see, prior to applying for the role, I was delivering workshops as a disability navigator.
I was in essence grooming myself for the role I now hold. Strike that. Now I also meet one-on-one with clients, as well as conduct workshops. I love the diversity, so the extra work is no problem.
In my interview workshop one attendee asked if having to perform a skill, such as what I described, for an interview is normal. I told her that it might not be commonplace, but it’s a great way to find the right candidate, along with asking behavioral-based questions and tough technical questions.
Situational interviews are smart
When you think about it, would a company hiring a truck driver without making a candidate actually drive a truck? Of course not. Why would it be any different for a software engineer to program in Java Script in an interview? Or a teacher lead a lesson on earth science to high school students?
Many articles have been written on how to answer tough interview questions. But let’s consider putting a day of questions away and instead having candidates perform in certain situations. There is more value in this for the mere fact that candidates must prove they can do what they’ve written on their résumé.
For a lack of a better cliche, “The proof is in the pudding.” The candidate delivers on his promise. He wrote on his resume that he can write compelling copy. A situational interview makes him prove it. A product or service is described; now he needs to write compelling copy for the website. This can be done at home or on the spot.
More than a few employers have discovered days after hiring an administrative assistant that he can’t, in fact, perform a task like creating pivot tables in Excel. Had the employer conduced a situational interview, they wouldn’t have come across this problem.
The circumstance would be more dire if a company hired a project manager without having said person present a 30, 60, 90 day plan of how she would oversee the implementation and follow-through of a testing software and hardware product.
Preparing for a situational interview
I’m sure you’ve heard about preparing for an interview—I mean really preparing—a bazillion times. You’ve been told you need to research the position, company, and industry. And if you’re really on top of it, you’ll research the people whom are interviewing you.
I asked one of my former clients how he would prepare for a situational interview. The surprise on his face was evident. Would he actually have to do that? He might. As a social media manager, he might have to write a 30, 60, 90 day plan on how he would develop a social media campaign.
The best case scenario and fairest of all is being told before an interview of the project a person has to complete, but this isn’t always the case. Like a truck driver who has to drive a dump truck, you might have to deliver a technical training class.
Ideally you know someone who works in the company for which you’re interviewing. You could ask that person if he knows how the interview process will go. Your mole tells you the last person had to write a 30, 60, 90 day plan on the spot. Having a mole in the company who can provide you with this information is ideal, but often not possible.
You might reach out to the hiring team and ask if you’ll be participating in a situational interview, stating that you want to be as prepared as possible. Sound desperate? Perhaps. Maybe they’ll tell you; maybe they’ll leave you in the dark.
If you have no inside information, carefully comb through the job description to determine which of the requirements are most important. For example: top of the list is, “Analyze and track operational and financial metrics.” You might predict that you’ll have to perform part of this task, either before, during, or after the interview.
Preparation might not be an option
At the very least, you need to know that these types of interviews exist. They’ve been around forever, it seems. I had to create a flyer for a workshop program when I applied for a job in career development. Of course I busted my ass doing it. In the end, I didn’t get the job, and the organization had the results of my hard work. Hmm.
One of my clients was told specifically by HR that he wouldn’t have to solve a software problem in an interview. However, the hiring manager had different ideas. In the interview, he was told to go to the whiteboard and solve a problem.
One of the secrets of doing well in an interview, any type of interview, is expecting anything. Don’t be surprised by the types of questions asked, and don’t be surprised if you have to prove what you assert on your résumé.
Photo: Flickr, Marilyn Kaggen