The Interview: How you think?

4607149210_0d0882a0b8_mEver feel like the interviewer is out to get you? Well, at Amazon, and other operationally agile companies, they just might be! No, it’s not that Amazon interviewers specifically want to embarrass you, their goal is to ask you difficult and unexpected questions to observe how you think and address unpredictable problems and/or opportunities that the company is presented with every hour of every day. They want to know if you’re prepared to work in an intense, intensely focused and fast-paced environment.

According to this Wall Street Journal article, Amazon’s Current Employees Raise the Bar for New Hires, these particularly prickly interviewers, called “Bar Raisers,” are full-time Amazon employees working in departments across the company who have a track record for identifying the candidates who will go on to be total rock stars for the company. This article about the Bar Raiser program at Amazon gives us the opportunity to call out an aspect of the interview process for which every job seeker should prepare that extends beyond their ‘traditional’ homework. Consider that most Amazon interviewees:

[…] must endure an obstacle course of phone interviews and one-on-one sessions that are wide-ranging in topics and analysis. The interviewers then write evaluations and then meet to discuss the candidate. Inside Amazon, evaluating an applicant typically takes five or six employees at least two hours each.

And then consider that:

Other tech companies have their own similar systems for identifying the best and brightest. For a time, Google Inc. asked candidates their IQ’s, and posed brain teasers. Microsoft Corp. calls in senior executives known as “as-appropriates” in the late stages of considering some applicants. Facebook Inc. asks some job hopefuls tricky coding questions or solutions to business challenges.

Our point here is simple: This is how interviews seem to be trending now. If you seek a big tough job for a big tough company, expect some big tough interviews. As former HR employee John Vlastelica says in the WSJ article, these programs, while expensive and time consuming, are way better than the alternative: hiring the wrong person, which is often more expensive in time and resources. So if you’ve got an interview coming up somewhere important, you better be ready for a rigorous day of facing unexpected questions and making reasonable assumptions, because it’s going to take more than an hour promoting your strengths and weaknesses to win a position in these companies.

What do you think? Have you experienced this already? Share your story and opinion in the comments!

(photo by Flickr user bpusf, used under a Creative Commons License)

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