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Your Next Tech Job Interview May Be Very Different

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Credit: Shutterstock/tsyhunCredit: Shutterstock/tsyhunTechnology is changing as fast as the hiring and job interview process for people who specialize in it. For example, Amie Tsang at The New York Times, recently wrote "Want to Work for Jaguar Land Rover? Start Playing Phone Games." It recounts not just the carmaker's desire to recruit 5,000 employees in 2017, of which 1,000 will be electronics and software engineers, it also recites a novel but eminently sensible interview preparation aid. JLR (a subsidiary of the Indian megafirm Tata Motors) wants prospective job candidates to download an app and tackle the series of puzzles it poses to players. Reportedly, these tests are designed to suss out quality engineering skills in the people JLR hopes to hire.

That's a big departure from the typical job fair used to attract potential job candidates, and the grueling day-long series of face-to-face or panel-driven interviews that companies have used forever to winnow the wheat from the chaff during the vetting and selection process. In fact, some HR and hiring professionals see big potential benefits from using puzzles and problem-solving as part of the interview process.

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Tsang quotes Barbara Marder, a senior partner at an HR consulting firm with a stake in a company named Pymetrics that makes games specifically for employee recruiting. She cites their general appeal to millennials as a big plus, including holding that cohort's notoriously short and fickle attention span.

The Jaguar game invites players to check out a garage belonging to a rock band. There, they begin their puzzle solving efforts by assembling a car – yes, you guessed it: It's not just any car, it's a Jaguar. Then they move on to confront a set of code-breaking puzzles.

Other companies have also used similar puzzles and challenges to attract talent and to give them a chance to show off skills, knowledge and abilities related to jobs in need of talented and motivated occupants. Tsang cites two 2011 programs as examples. One, from motel chain Marriott, had players managing a virtual hotel with all the tasks that come with that job: helping guests, juggling a budget, training and managing employees, and so forth.

Another, from the UK Government's signals intelligence agency, GHQ, posed a public code-breaking challenge to attract interest and attract top talent. Similarly, a 2010 story from interview prep site "MyTechInterviews" details a set of 10 interview puzzles that Google had posed to interviewees to separate those with something genuinely on the ball from those merely chasing a monthly paycheck.

Does this constitute a trend or is it merely a passing fancy? Particularly for IT jobs, employers are increasingly interested in what employees can do as well as what they know and have already done. The past is a good predictor of the future, but it's also true that ways to get candidates to demonstrate their abilities before putting them on the payroll is an increasingly attractive interview strategy in an era of an increasingly-widening skills gap.

Why is this so? Although no hiring process is (or can be) fool-proof, companies want to minimize the risks of making – and then having to remedy – poor hiring decisions. By putting interviewees on the spot, and asking them to demonstrate skills they not only need for the job, but also already claim to possess, employers can see how candidates act under pressure, and get a good sense for their abilities and attitudes. That makes this approach a puzzle not just worth solving, but also worth using as often as possible.