How to Ace a Challenge-Based Interview

Have you ever been asked to do a sample project as part of a job interview? If you haven’t yet, chances are good that you may be asked to participate in a challenge-based interview in the future.

U.S. News & World Report career columnist Miriam Salpeter reports that the number of employers who are using challenge-based interview techniques is on the rise. In these types of interviews, you may be asked to create a plan to tackle a specific scenario.

Example: Let’s say you are interviewing for a position with a start-up company. They say, “We’ve produced a new beverage line of mint-flavored drinks that provide the same mental alertness as a cup of coffee — but without the side effects of insomnia. You have 48 hours to devise a marketing plan to pitch the product to your peers. We look forward to your presentation tomorrow.”

Challenge-based interviews are based on the same general concept as behavioral interviewing — that past behavior is often reflective of future behavior. So if you do well with your interview, they may assume you’ll also be a strong performer on the job.

Here are Salpeter’s five tips on how to tackle a project based interview. Notice that none of these tips require you to go to extreme measures. Instead, they focus on the importance of doing your research on the problem and potential solutions, creating materials that speak to the project’s goals, and demonstrating to the employer that you understand and are enthusiastic about what the job requires. (In other words, strategies you would normally use in the process of applying for a position!)

Do you have an interview in your future? Consider coming to Career Services for a Monday Mock interview. Contact our office at 6-2215 to schedule an appointment.

Interview Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Is there an interview in your future?

Check out this infographic on the most common mistakes made at job interviews. Here are three of the most frequent mistakes:

  • Lack of eye contact (67%)
  • Having little or no knowledge of the company (47%)
  • Forgetting to smile (38%)

Notice anything? Good news! All of these are mistakes you can easily avoid — and practice.

For the rest of the tips — as well as good tips to prepare for an interview, click here.

Employer Pet Peeves

Our on-campus interviews rooms are filled with students and employers this time of year. In addition to extending invitations for further interviews and potential job offers, many employers leave behind valuable insight you can learn from — feedback!

The following feedback comes from an employer that’s been recruiting at Dartmouth for many years. We asked them to share their pet peeves, as well as a short overview of their experience this year:

We received 150+ resumes from Dartmouth. We have to narrow this pool of applicants down to less than 25.  The easiest way for us to do that is to overlook applicants with simple/careless mistakes such as the following:

  • Salutation of cover letter is addressed to one company, and body of letter has been updated for our company.  But we’re “one of the top companies that you want to work for.”
  • If you are going to recycle your cover letter from your summer internship application, don’t leave in the sentence that you are a junior and looking for a summer position – my first response is, then why are you applying to our full-time position?
  • Transcript errors – when they print off the transcript from banner web, it’s too long. Unofficial transcript means type it out in word in an easy to read format and then PROOFREAD!
  • If we’ve got 2-3 documents from each candidate, do the math for how many pages we have to read in ~5 days, on top of our full time jobs.  We don’t want a 5 page transcript or 2 page resume.  Condense to 1 page for each document required.
  • BUT, if you’ve got a page to fill, then fill it.  A one paragraph cover letter or a short resume stands out!

So there you have it: A short list of things not to do that will improve your chances of getting in for an interview — and landing a job offer. All of the things you can do are simple — and should take you less than 30 minutes to get right.

  • Customize your cover letter.
  • Research the employer.
  • Provide a one page transcript that is easy to read. Instructions on how to do this can be found here.

Have additional questions? Want help preparing. Stop by Career Services for a Drop-In appointment, available Monday through Friday, 1:30 to 4:00 pm.


First Impressions Count! – Common Interview Blunders

Although many of us try to convince ourselves otherwise, when applying for anything nowadays, interviews are a fact of life. And from the moment you greet your interviewer with a handshake, the judgment begins.

Play it safe and don’t let yourself make these mistakes come interview day :

“Ice, Ice, Baby”– Although it’s never a good idea to start practicing your newest stand up bit for interviewers, don’t let yourself get so caught up with nerves that you come off cold and boring. Smile, and don’t be afraid to laugh if the moment calls for it.

“Me, Me, Me” – Yes, it’s your interview – yes, you’re there to present your top attributes to the company, but don’t make the mistake of emphasizing what the employer can do for you. Instead, illustrate how you can be an asset to the organization. Never ask about salary before you get a job offer.

“I dunno…” – If you’re interviewing for a position, chances are, you’ll encounter a question like, “so tell me – what do you know about our company?” Make sure you know the job description inside and out, as well as information regarding their mission, staff, and history. Remember – a little research goes a long way.

“Excuse me, I’m up here.” — You don’t have to give your interviewer a stare-down, but make sure that while you answer questions, your gaze isn’t roaming around the room, or down in your lap. Make consistent, frequent eye contact to show you’re engaged and listening.

For more tips on how to ace your next interview, check out this article from Techvibes, which covers 1o common mistakes people make during job interviews, verbal and nonverbal.

Today: Learn How to Ace the Case Interview!

Wondering how to prepare for case interviews? There’s still time to sign up for the “Cracking the Case” workshop today — led by experienced consultants:

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2012; 4:30 at Silsby Room 028
To sign up, click here.

(If you haven’t heard of case interviews before, case interviewing is a technique used frequently used by employers to gauge your approach to problem solving. Employers interviewing students on-campus generally let you know in advance if they will be using a case during your interviews so you can prepare in advance.)

The #1 Way to Stand-out: How to Prep for a Career Fair

Over 100 employers will attend the Employer Connections Fair on September 19 and 20th from noon to 4 pm. Meet representatives from a range of companies and non-profits coming to campus to scout for talent for internships and full-time jobs.

It takes five minutes of preparation to make a big impression on an organization: Know the employer before you meet with them.

Look up an organization in Google News or through online press releases. Learn enough to start a conversation at the career fair with an icebreaker: “Congrats on being named one of the top companies to work for in Boston, can you tell me what skills you seek for a top entry-level Analyst?”

Do your homework. Stop by Career Services to pick up a copy of the Employer Connections Fair directory; available online on Monday. To get a sense of what to expect at the fair, as well as more tips on how to prepare, check out this video from last year’s event.