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Ravi Mehta, a software engineer, was dressed in his best shirt, squeaky clean shoes, certificates neatly filed in a dapper folder, and was waiting in the company lobby nervously to meet the HR representative. He could not hide his surprise when he was asked to take his place in front of a computer to answer a few questions in 45 minutes. He had no idea he had to prepare for a test!
Do you find this surprising? Well, I guess we had better get used to the idea of computers taking our first round of interviews, at least for a set of specific job profiles. This is how most interviews might happen in the coming years.
It is the age of the prescreened interview, where before you get to meet the HR representative of your dream organisation, you need to answer a range of questions that are designed to test not only your domain knowledge but your psychological bent of mind and behavioral predisposition.
So, what you need to ensure is that you are ready for this little surprise, because the age of prescreened computer interviews is here to stay.
What is a prescreened computer interview?
A prescreened computer interview is different from a traditional interview where you meet a hiring manager or an HR representative for a face-to-face interview.
In a prescreened computer interview, you need to answer a set of predefined questions that appear on the monitor of a computer and you need to key in your responses within a definite time frame.
Sometimes, you may be asked these questions on the telephone as well, with the HR representative furiously evaluating you on the answers, your tone, your diction, and your confidence level. Some companies have also gone ahead and along with the facility of letting candidates upload their resume, have put up indicative questions on their website.
Benefits of prescreened interviews
Organisations have been increasingly using prescreening as a means to obtain information about potential candidates. This information is then evaluated to check the fitment of a candidate for a job profile and on other established parameters that look out for culture and other such fitments.
"We use prescreened interviews and this is an absolute must given the fake and a fraudulent resource market that exists today. The prescreen as a filter is an indispensable part of the recruiting process," says Anupama Lopez, manager -- SAP Recruitment at Larsen and Toubro Infotech.
She adds, "The number of candidates interviewed were brought down by half with the use of a prescreen filter in the last two months. Our number of selected candidates have increased by 60 per cent in the last two months simply with the use of a prescreen filter."
Sunil Menon, who handles recruitment for a delivery unit of an IT company in Mumbai, also supports the immense benefits a prescreening exercise brings. "We use prescreening to identify candidates for certain job roles.
"Of course, prescreening computer tests cannot be used at all levels, but definitely are helpful in testing basic aptitude for job profiles like content and technical writers, software engineers and the like. These predefined parameters are uniform and consistent and aid in benchmarking candidates with their peers and competitors without any human subjectivity."
Most companies have been using prescreened computer interviews for the last few years, either by having the candidates takes the test on a computer or by using a prescreening questionnaire on the phone. These predefined questions are not only designed to test your functional skills, but also take more than a peep at your behavioural characteristics.
The questions are generally phased in two or more sets.
Set 1: Questions will be about your qualifications, work experience, employment eligibility, medical screening etc.
Set 2: Questions are designed to enable you to display job-related behavioural competencies and your emotional intelligence.
"These prescreen questions examine job knowledge, verify dates and duration of employment, and check for availability of all vital employment information. We check for consistency of employment, gaps if any, communication, and logical reasoning abilities of the candidate.
"We also look up achievement on the job and if the candidate is technology savvy. The key to successful recruitment is not only in finding the right kind of talent but also in bringing them on board in the least turn-around time.
"A prescreen assists in gauging the motivation of a candidate to move jobs. This also aids the recruitment team in selling not only the job, role and salary but also supports the candidate in his decision to consider the organisation as an employer of first choice," explains Anupama.
Sample questions and answers
Well, technical questions will obviously have their correct answers. However, be careful in answering questions that aim at judging your soft skills and emotional maturity.
If you think there are preset right answers to behavioural questions, you are far from your landing a job at your dream organisation! Most of the time, the questions are situational and demand your answers be befitting to the unique situations that you might face at work.
Here's a look at some questions you could face:
~ What was your role in solving a critical problem at work?
~ Did you ask for help from your team members when the going got tough?
~ How stressed out you were during/ after this episode?
~ Do you like working on your own or in teams?
~ How comfortable are you with conflict situations at work?
~ How do you handle multitasking?
Take, for instance, the last question. Which of the following would you select as your answer?
a. I seldom multitask.
b. I delegate work to my team members if the workload is too much.
c. I have told my boss I am more productive while working on one project at a time.
d. I consult my boss and then prioritise, based on the delivery time.
e. I am a pro at multitasking. Bring it on!
~ If you select the first option, chances of your selection are rare in this age of multitasking.
~ The second option might seem workable in some situations, while in others it might make you seems like you prefer shirking your responsibilities!
~ The third option is sure to cast you as an inflexible person, not willing to change yourself or take up challenges.
~ The fourth option will earn you brownie points, for making the boss feel important as well as being ready to work according to the demands of company requirement and environment.
~ If you picked the fifth, well, you declared yourself a pro. Now, go prove yourself!
Remember, the trick is not to pretend to be somebody you are not. Try and be as candid as you can while finely balancing the maturity and emotional intelligence that companies look out for in their ideal candidates.
Preeti Bose is Senior Manager -- Training for a US-based MNC. The views expressed here are solely her own.
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