If you’re applying for a job and have an interview lined up, you’re probably preparing your responses to traditional personality questions (for example: “what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”) and looking carefully over your resume, in the process coaching yourself to talk about your past job experience, your applicable skills, and your academic background.
You have also done your research and preparation on showcasing your strengths at your past jobs, perused the company’s website to learn as much as possible about your potential employer, and practiced making eye contact while dressed in your nicest business attire.
In short, you are as ready for your interview as you ever could be.
But when you walk into the office at the time of your interview, you realize that there will be nothing traditional about this process and that your preparation was for naught. Instead of sitting you down and asking standard interview questions, the hiring manager asks, “Why don’t we act out some scenarios?” or “Tell me about your childhood” or “If you were stranded on a deserted island at sea, how would you prove that March is the best month ever?”
While the questions and the requests may fall all over the place, there’s no doubt that you’re in for a highly unconventional interview.
With workforces trim and unemployment high these days, companies have found themselves increasingly turning to the unconventional interview method as a means of differentiating between candidates who are otherwise equally qualified. The unconventional usually attempts to judge an applicant’s character and creativity more so than his/her knowledge or experience.
So what should you do when faced with an unconventional interview? What strategies should you employ now that all your well-laid interview plans have gone out the window?
Here are a few tips:
Focus on personality
As aforementioned, an employer that chooses to take an unconventional interview approach has probably already determined that you are qualified on paper for the job. He is simply looking at this point for signs that you posses the right personality traits for the work – traits that usually include flexibility, empathy, creativity, fast-thinking, and modesty.
Focus more on delivering these traits than on highlighting something positive from your resume. Ultimately, it’s better to be personable than to explicitly focus on skills you gained in past accounting jobs.
Don’t look for the “right” answer
If an employer asks you to act out scenarios or accompany him and the other applicants for a casual lunch, you are probably expected to conduct yourself in a modest and thoughtful manner. But, for the most part, unconventional interviews don’t have set right or wrong answers.
Getting hung up on delivering “what the interview wants” may stifle your creativity and make you come across as a less appealing candidate.
While it is certainly stressful to walk into an interview and hear questions that you’ve never heard before, always remember that there is no reason to be any more concerned or nervous than you were before. In fact, unconventional interviews are often more casual and less intimidating than traditional ones, so long as you are willing to think off the top of your head without fear of being wrong.
Employers will also view more relaxed applicants favorably in the unconventional interview setting.
These are a few of the main tips to keep in mind when entering an unconventional interview. While the strangeness of the situation and your lack of direct preparation may cause you some alarm, try to enjoy the uniqueness of the experience and embrace the creativity afforded to you. If you do, you’ll likely perform just fine.