When I wrote a three-part series on job interview mistakes for Forbes, I focused on communication skills – non-verbal, verbal and phone and video. However, there are other aspects of the interview process that are too often overlooked but play a critical role in moving you forward in the process. Here are five critical factors to whether or not you advance to the next interview or even get hired:
If a job description highlights a specific skill – e.g., language fluency, specific software, financial skill – be prepared to either get tested outright on the skill or to be grilled in your interview. I once recruited for a Spanish/ English publication that conducted its first-round screen in a combination of Spanish and English. This weeded out strong, but not fully bilingual candidates. For a finance firm filling an IT role, candidates took a short, multiple choice quick that toggled in-between finance and IT-related questions.
Be prepared to showcase specific skills that are deal-breakers for a job, either by taking a test or by answering verbally during the interview process.
Another version of testing that I see more and more often is to ask for a sample project. A non-profit hiring a leader for one of its regional offices asked for a 20-minute PowerPoint outlining the vision for that office. A software company hiring a market research director asked finalists to present one of their previous research analyses (sanitized for any confidential information, but still a real-life example). Entry-level roles aren’t exempt from project work – one non-profit hiring a development associate asked for a thank you letter to a donor.
Take these sample project requests seriously. In competitive situations, employers weigh tangible output heavily. How much preparation you put into these projects also reflects your interest for the role
Follow-up in-between interviews
The job interview process is physically, mentally and emotionally draining, so you definitely want to take some time to recharge in-between interviews. However, the gaps between job interviews are critical times to keep your job search moving with follow-up to the interviewers so you stay front of mind, additional research and preparation for the next interviews, and of course, strong thank you notes.
Do not make the critical mistake of stopping your job search in-between interviews.
When you do get those next interviews, be ready for different and many times more challenging interviews. Callback interviews are different from your earlier interviews because your competition is more qualified, the employer knows you better (including your weaknesses), and you’re tired and more prone to making a mistake.
Keep your guard up as you move through the interview process. Remember who you have already met and what they asked you, and be prepared to add even more value in your next interviews.
Sure, many employers wait until an offer is extended, even accepted, to check references. But some employers conduct reference checks well before the offer stage, and many executive recruiting firms (for top-level positions) check references on candidates even at the exploratory stage.
Don’t wait till the last-minute to pull your references together, and don’t forget to proactively manage the reference checks process. Let your professional references know they will be called, and debrief them on the role in question so they can tell your prospective employer about the most relevant skills and qualities for that future job.