New Age Interviews

Farewell to the days when you could take an hour off work to interview for a new position, times have changed. Apparently, in the UK the interview process is quite lengthy and grueling. Rather than review your resume and bring you in to chat with a variety of co. employees, many UK firms have moved to a series of group and individual activities–something they call an assessment center. In many cases, individuals vying for senior roles will go through the first series of selection interviews (with a recruiter), go through a case study and then be guaged by a day-long series of assessment center activities before finally being invited back to meet with the decision makers.

What’s an assessment center? This is a series of activities (rather than a place or building) that are meant to collectively display your ability to reason, prioritize, multitask, deliver on time, listen, communicate and perform under pressure (or inability). Here are the types of activities you may expect to see:

  • In-tray exercises
  • Case studies/Pressurized scenarios (a professional version of 20 questions)
  • Group challenge

Imagine interviewing for five positions simultanteously. Impossible! So, when searching for a job in the UK one must be selective. Don’t throw your name into the hat unless you feel that the position is a perfect fit OR you have an abundance of time.

What’s an in-tray exercise. A scenario is outlined. Your boss, often the managing director, is missing in the jungle and all are unsure if he will return. You’ve been asked to assume his duties for the immediate future, if you perform well, you’ll be asked to stay in the position should he not return. A courier delivers a package to you and you have 30 minutes to review a stack (probably 30-50 pages) of materials from his electronic and hard-copy inboxes before you meet with his boss to discuss your next steps. You must identify all action steps, delegate tasks, and determine which tasks should be handled first. You must also determine if there are strategic issues that should be the focus of your conversation with the boss.

Here’s the trick to an in-tray. Go through everything first. Some folks get lost in the details of delegation and task lists before really determining what’s in the stack. For those control freaks out there, remember to delegate the minutia and tasks that you’re less prepared to handle while keeping your time to address the strategic issues. When delegating tasks, note that you must check back to assess employees’ progress on the most pressing tasks.

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