Job Search Tip of the Week #43 (2018)


Are You Ready for a Test Drive?

Job Simulations, In-Box Exercises, and Other Predictive Hiring Tools

You wouldn’t buy new wheels without first taking ’em out on the road for a spin, would you? Well, employers are increasingly applying that same concept to their hiring processes – and taking job seekers for a test drive.

Sixty-six percent of American employers have made at least one hiring mistake in the past year, according to a study by employment website CareerBuilder. Another recent survey by online payroll provider SurePayroll found these regrettable hiring decisions often result from inadequate and inaccurate assessments of personality, character, and/or skill set during the candidate evaluation process.

That’s why job simulations, in-box exercises, and the like are taking over interview rooms.

“Résumés and interviews reveal only so much. And résumés can be, well, padded,” wrote Becca Weinstein in “Trying Before Buying” for Psychology Today. “Getting a job these days increasingly means trying it before an employer buys you. Companies are creating simulation experiences of various kinds to throw job candidates into real job tasks in real time…Assessing knowledge and skills is necessary, but is no longer sufficient for many jobs.”

The underlying concept of such situational assessments is that past and current behavior best predict that of the future. The stronger their point-to-point correspondence – that is, the more representative the tasks in the pre-employment tests are to those that are required of the job in question – the higher the reliability and validity of the test results.

“It’s more relevant and illuminating to see how applicants work through a problem they would be hired to solve,” said Jordan Newman, manager of corporate communications and public affairs at Google (ironically, a company notorious for asking those crazy, oddball interview questions and brain teasers that research has long shown to be poor indicators of job performance). With employers’ increasing emphasis on behavioral assessment, you can expect to find your skills and work ethic tested in situations replicating ones you might find yourself in at the workplace.

Job simulation experiences are hardly new evaluation tools. For instance, an interview for a technical support specialist typically consists of several role-play scenarios where the interviewer acts like different “types” of customers. Candidates’ abilities to multi-task and triage are then often assessed through the use of in-box exercises, where they’re given a box filled with various memos, correspondence, reports, and other documentation and asked to prioritize and handle them.

And technical sales professionals have long been asked to demonstrate their abilities by, say, pitching the company’s software solutions to the interviewer as a way to gauge their interview preparedness, interest, and creative abilities. However, interviews in the real world, with interaction with potential clientele or consumers, are quickly becoming more conventional.

For example, IT sales reps seeking employment at Scenetap, a mobile app startup that utilizes facial recognition technology to allow users to check out a social scene in real time, are sent to bars or restaurants where they can be more accurately assessed on how effectively they can pitch the company’s product to club and bar managers. “In a typical interview, people’s guard is up, and they give the answer they think you want to hear,” explained CEO Cole Harper. “We want to know what people will say in a friendly discussion, so we meet informally to have personality-based conversations.”

Don’t be surprised to see job simulations taking place off-line either. Employers are increasingly leveraging technology to help them create more realistic (not to mention cost-effective) simulation environments that better assess and predict candidates’ behavioral competencies required for the job. Companies like HackerRank (formerly Interviewstreet) are moving into the IT talent acquisition and assessment space, developing online recruitment platforms where employers can administer programming challenges and objectively analyze and compare candidates’ technical skills instantaneously.

Computerized simulations are particularly commonplace in the IT support and technical consultancy fields, in which applicants engage in virtual scenarios where they communicate with “customers” via various mediums like live chat, video/webinar, and email. Also gaining quick popularity are interactive psychometric recruitment games (which we discussed extensively in “The 3 Digital Recruitment Trends You Need to Know”), which leverage game mechanics, behavioral science, and data analytics to predict job performance and identify cultural good-fits.

Job simulations don’t just benefit employers. Job seekers, the many advantages to you include:

So how can you prepare for this more situational approach to interviewing?

  1. Be honest, and show the real you!
  2. Do your research on the company and job you’re interviewing for. Identify the organization’s values and the key responsibilities of the position, as those are most likely to be assessed. Employer review site Glassdoor, where prospective employees reveal interview questions and detail their experience with the organization’s hiring process, can be especially useful.
  3. Review all information you’ve provided to the company. Remember, anything on your résumé and cover letter is fair game for discussion and assessment.
  4. Brush up on your coding skills, in addition to your interviewing ones. Brainstorm and practice various scenarios that could be used to evaluate the skills you claim to have. Don’t forget to review your phone screen, technical interview, and panel/group presentation basics.
  5. Focus on making the perfect first impression, and networking. That way, if you show yourself to be a good cultural fit yet perform poorly on a job simulation, the organization may be more likely to consider you for other or future positions.
  6. Admit your mistakes – and avoid making excuses. Doing so demonstrates great analytical and interpersonal skills.

A job search partner can help better prepare you for job simulations and other types of interviews. For example, when you work with an experienced IT staffing firm like Chase Technology Consultants, their technical knowledge, recruitment expertise, extensive IT professional network, and insider company intel are at your disposal. Get in touch with one of our expert IT staffing specialists at 617-227-5000 to learn exactly how we can help you better prepare for your next interview and land your dream job.

Remember: Gone are the days where you could long conceal aspects of your personality from employers, or fudge information on your résumé. It’s time to walk the talk; if you claim you’re able to code while standing on your head, be prepared to offer definitive proof upon request!

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Image Credit: Vladyslav Starozhylov / Shutterstock