How to survive the ultramarathon job interview
The job interview process can be intense.
First there’s the screener call, then comes the face-to-face interview, followed by another one (or two or three), possibly a test and likely some homework to prove you have the skills and ideas needed to join the team.
“You are lucky if you get away with three rounds of interviews,” said Barry Drexler, an interview coach with more than 30 years of human resources experience.
The process can be exhausting, especially when you’re maintaining your current full-time job and still pursuing other jobs.
“It is expensive for candidates if they have to take a half day, long lunch or fly out for interviews and take days off,” said Rich Gee, a high-performance coach. He worked with one client who had six webcam interviews before getting a job offer.
While some companies are moving faster in today’s tight labor market, it’s still uncommon to land a job offer after one single interview. But candidates can become fatigued, or even annoyed by the time and effort required to get an offer.
Don’t let your guard down
You are being evaluated every step of the interview process — so stay on top of your game.
“Don’t take the person calling to schedule your interview for granted,” said Drexler. “Don’t be arrogant and be flexible and careful with everyone you are talking to.”
It’s also important to keep your answers consistent from interview to interview.
“It’s not about giving the same answer for every question,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half. “There is a level of detail you will give to different people. But avoid glaring inconsistencies like telling one person you are willing to travel and another that you aren’t crazy about travel.”
Keep your stamina up
It’s a job seeker’s market, which means candidates have more leverage than in the past, but the juggle of calling out of your current job and keeping your enthusiasm up for those lightning rounds of interviews can be draining.
Don’t be afraid to ask early on about the hiring process.
“In that initial phone screener, ask the recruiter what the interview process is like so you know what to expect,” suggested Sarah Stoddard, community expert at job review site Glassdoor. She added that more senior level positions tend to have a longer interview process.
Each person you interview with is looking for a set criteria, so make sure you are clear with your capabilities and experiences.
“Prepare for each person’s agenda,” said Drexler. “HR wants to know if you’re a cultural fit. The hiring manager wants to know you can do the job and get it off his desk. And his boss wants to know you have the potential to move up. The CEO and highest level executives want to know how you think.”
As a candidate, you want to show some flexibility when scheduling interviews, but companies are willing to work with your time constraints.
Be clear about when and where you are available to interview to avoid multiple back-and-forth phone calls and emails to arrange a time.
Companies understand a candidate’s time is limited, and are usually flexible with scheduling, including lunch and before- and after-hours interviews.
“Most companies are expecting that today,” said McDonald. “They know in order to win the best candidates who are busy and highly sought after that they need to be flexible.”
When the homework piles up
Assessments are a common part of today’s interview process and help an employer gauge your competency or personality. But be careful about doing too much.
If you are being asked to do more than one presentation or assignment, Gee recommends finding out more information about the additional request.
He suggested asking how much longer is left in the interview process and learn more about why they are asking for more work.
“If they are asking for a whole business plan, I sometimes ask clients to push back and ask: ‘Are you going to pay me for this?'”
If you are being asked to provide proprietary information or more information than you are comfortable divulging, don’t be shy about speaking up and saying you can’t disclose confidential information.
The never-ending interview
If the company is being inflexible or flaky during the interview process, that could be a red flag.
There are many reasons an employer isn’t pulling the trigger on a new hire, according to Gee. Sometimes hiring mangers aren’t sure exactly what they’re looking for, want to delay spending money until the next quarter or hiring just isn’t high on the priority list.
He recommends candidates that feel like they are trapped in an interview spiral try to have other opportunities in the works and ask the hiring manager what’s going on.
“If it’s taking too long — especially months — that means [the company] is disorganized, or you aren’t important and the company doesn’t care about the hiring process. You need to walk,” said Gee.