You’ve polished your resume, practiced your talking points and are fully prepared to meet with three or four different people when you’re interviewing for a new job. But are you ready for some of the nontraditional situations you might be placed in? Get ready, because workplaces are taking the hiring process to new — and unusual — heights.
Instead of traditional one-on-ones, candidates for higher positions at Whole Foods Market will endure a panel interview with up to 20 employees all at once, ranging from the hiring manager to prospective peers and direct reports.
“It allows everyone to have a voice,” says Kat Barcelona, team leader of talent acquisition for Whole Foods’ northeast region.
There is an upside. Because the interview is done with all the necessary stakeholders at once, the company can make a decision within hours. “It is extremely efficient,” Barcelona says.
After a few mis-hires, BAM Communications, a tech-focused pr agency, recently revamped their entire recruiting process. The company now uses an extensive seven-step hiring process, which includes a mix of interviews (including peer meetings), a timed writing test and a speech which must be delivered to the entire company. Since the new process has been put in place, the company says it has managed to attract and hire more diverse people.
“It was a move from a culture fit to a culture add,” says Jill Veglahn, operations manager at BAM Communications.
Companies are realizing how expensive turnover is, says Liz Tran, a VP at venture capital firm Thrive Capital and the founder of Reset, a new wellness studio in Nolita that aims to help professionals power up their careers and manage stress. “Employers need to be thoughtful when it comes to culture fit, and they are more aware of bias in a traditional interview process.”
Tran suggests researching the company on Glassdoor or Quora to learn more about their process. And it never hurts to ask the recruiter about what to expect.
Here are some trending methods employers are using to figure out if you’re a good fit.
Text or Slack interviews
While some companies use artificial intelligence and chatbots to filter resumes and set up meetings, others conduct entire interviews via text message or Slack, says Tran. That’s because these companies have a lot of remote employees and they want to make sure that the person they hire is able to communicate well.
“Luckily, text interviews are easier than an in-person interview,” she says.
To avoid any tech hiccups or accidental autocorrects, make sure you’re using the messaging platform on your computer and not your phone.
Take your time to answer, keeping in mind that you are actually in a position of advantage — when you have a screen between you and your interviewer, that distance makes it easier to collect your thoughts. And with text meetings, you don’t have to worry about what you sound like when you answer, or get distracted by trying to read the other person’s reactions.
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Some companies like Airbnb are notorious for asking questions such as, “What would you do if you were the sole survivor of a plane crash?” Tran has worked with a company that asks prospective employees if they believe in psychics. It’s their way of trying to figure out if you are open-minded and flexible.
“They don’t want to hire someone who just interviews really well,” says Tran. “They want to get to the core of who you are.”
Don’t sweat it. “You can’t really prepare for it,” says Dan Schawbel, author of “Back to Human” (De Capo Lifelong Books). “There’s no right or wrong answer. The purpose is to catch you off guard. They want to see how you think and react. There are so many things outside your control. You have to be able to react and communicate your thought process clearly.”
When you’re asked an off-the-wall question, he recommends answering in a positive and optimistic way. And it’s OK to take a second to regroup. Tran suggests saying, “That’s such an interesting question. No one’s ever asked me that. Can I take a moment to think about it?”
Many tech companies ask candidates to solve a puzzle on the spot. “One of the big things companies are looking for is problem solving skills,” says Schawbel. “That’s business — all you do is solve problems. If you prove that you can solve a brainteaser, it shows that you have the skills and are more than qualified.”
Should you be worried about the result? “Definitely try to get it right,” says Tran. “But even if you don’t, you get points if you walk through the problem and explain what you did logically.”
Don’t bother giving responses that you think the company wants to hear. You’re not fooling anyone. “The test knows when you are trying to game it,” says Tran.
And even if you do somehow scam the test, it will become obvious that you were dishonest.
“Even if they can’t fire you in the moment, it’s in their mind that you weren’t honest on your personality test,” says Schawbel.
Some employers prefer to conduct interviews with no structure or set questions in mind, treating the process like a conversation. This casual style often fosters more honesty for both parties.
Schawbel suggests having a game plan in mind and a bulleted list of what you want to talk about. “You might be able to drive the discussion,” he says. “Come with a list of questions you want to ask as well.”
These types of meetings are a great way to learn about the company. “Every interview should be as much for the candidate,” Tran says.