How to beat interview tests
We’ve all had that dream of being unprepared for a final exam, but what happens when you get that feeling in an interview?
Since the beginning of time, interviewers have been “testing” employees in different ways (there’s the apocryphal tale about Thomas Edison observing whether a potential employee salted his food before tasting it) but tests are becoming more common as another hoop you must go through in order to book the gig. (If you search for “Google Interview Questions,” you will find some really difficult problems that real interviewees have been asked to solve, on the spot, in interviews.
How can you beat the test?
The best defense against being caught is to do your research on a company. Search for the company name plus “interview” or “interview test” to see whether any tests have been reported by previous interviewees. There’s a surprising amount of information that can be garnered this way.
Don’t forget to to a complete research effort on the company you want to interview at. Just knowing enough about a company can help you navigate through some trick questions. Questions about the prospective company are the most commonly asked questions in interviews, and lackluster responses are often grounds for disqualifying an interviewee. You’re joining a team, after all.
You can also ask around your social networks (quietly, if you’re still employed) to see if anyone you know has also interviewed at the prospective employer and get real intel on what happened.
It’s not a bad idea to look back into the theory of your job or through modern business books in your sector to familiarize yourself with any new jargon or trends, so at the very least, you can speak to a broad knowledge on the topic
There’s even a site to get inside information from if you’re not connected to a company GlassDoor is a site that you can look up any company on, find honest reviews from people who have worked there previously, or continue to work there and find out what the culture is actually like. You can even find out what some of these successful onetime applicants were asked on their interviews.
What do you do if you’re caught off guard?
The very best thing to do is take your time. If you pause, but don’t freak out, you will give off an air of considering your response. This is a great time to keep a laser-like focus on the ask: answer only within the confines of the question. Pretend you’re at the airport, and don’t waste the asker’s time with tangents. Think about one point you can make, and then answer back with a short response.
Another technique to consider is the deduction technique, which works for technical questions: you simply talk your way through to a conclusion, similar to how Sherlock Holmes does in the stories. This gives you the advantage of showing your interviewer how you think.
If you’re truly at a loss, tell a story to answer the question. No one is immune to stories, and if you put thought, consideration and personality into your response, it shows your potential boss a lot about how you would work in a real-life environment.
Answering interview tests correctly is really not the goal, although it’s nice to do. The goal of interviewers is usually to pressure test you to see how you would act in a real-life crunch. If you are prepared, understand the company, and can remain calm, you can answer questions in a direct, concise way and impress your interviewer.