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Performing Job Skills During the Interview

Posted by Elaine Varelas  May 22, 2013 10:00 AM

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Q. I recently had six separate interviews in one day for a job I really wanted. At the beginning of the fourth interview I was told, "You will need to demonstrate your expertise in Word and Excel at the end of the interview." I was caught off guard, but thought, “Word, no problem. Excel a little so so, but I can handle it.” However, the Hiring Manager stood over my shoulder the whole time. I blew it! Is this common practice now?

A. The job market is very competitive and more hiring managers are following the old adage of, “Hire slowly and fire quickly.” The interview process is extended as more stakeholders are invited to participate and the impact of making the right or wrong hire can wreck a budget, put timelines behind schedule and aggravate your best customers. Employers are looking for the perfect candidate; someone who has all the right skills, the right attitude, a willingness to work hard and is a good fit for the company's culture.

Because not everything can be discovered through interviews, employers have other tools that can be brought into the selection process. There are a wide variety of assessments to choose from based on the job, the level and responsibilities. Typing tests have been a way for candidates to demonstrate proficiency in Word and Excel. Technology firms use high level problem solving assignments.

As a candidate, you may or may not be alerted that the skills you need to perform on the job may be tested - your writing skills or your quantitative capabilities. If a third party is involved in the assessment, a psychologist or another type of clinician, there may be legal obligations to allow for you to provide a release of data.

While your Excel scores may not have been where you would have liked or met the criteria the hiring manager wanted, you can claim nervousness. It would be worth it to write a thank you and express your continued interest in the role. Comment on your disappointment in your demonstrated level of capability and your commitment to taking a number of courses to improve your efficiency. When you improve your skills, which hopefully will be very quickly, contact the hiring manager with a written demonstration of a new level of skill. It may make difference, and it can’t hurt.

The reality is to get an offer, your interview preparation needs to be complete. Evaluate what you believe will matter most to the employer to show them your performance will exceed expectations. Develop the skills; practice both the ability to showcase those skills and the communication abilities to discuss the skills.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.