Interviews

How to Prepare for a Job Interview Exam or Assignment

So you’ve got amazing communication skills, a resume chock-full of impressive qualifications and an inside connection at the company you’re applying to work for. These are certainly assets, but there’s one area in the job interview process where these resources won’t help you one bit: the interview exam (or assignment). This portion of the interview is designed purely to test skills that are critical to your ability to fulfill the requirements of the role they’re looking to fill — skills that you’ll most likely have to use every day while on the job.

What this portion entails is highly specific to the industry you’re applying to jobs within — it could be anything from writing code to analyzing a set of data to designing a logo. While it can seem nerve-wracking, if this is truly your field of expertise, there’s nothing you should worry about. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you give the job interview exam your best shot.

Practice Your Skills

If you’re preparing for a job interview assignment, chances are it will test a specific skill, like coding in Java, analyzing data in Microsoft Excel or writing about technical subjects. Even if you don’t know yet the exact type of question you’ll be asked, practicing the skill you’ll need to know before you get the assignment can go a long way in helping you ace this portion of the interview process. Some companies even provide tips about which skills you should practice prior to the interview exam on their website.

“What skills can I brush up on to prepare for the technical interview?” could also be a great question for the recruiter or hiring manager you’re working with — their answer can give you a good idea of the general area to practice, and if you’re lucky, they may even be more specific.

Make Time

Know you’re going to have an interview assignment coming up? Clear your schedule. Don’t sandwich it in between other commitments you’ve made. It’s often difficult to know how long an exam or assignment will take, and you don’t want to make a bad impression by handing it in late. Also, remember to take the time you need to adequately prepare and sharpen up your skills in the first place. Even if it’s a few hours, it’s critical to hand the assignment in knowing you’ve put your best work out.

Don’t Cheat

Thinking about asking your coding genius friend to help you out a bit on your exam? Don’t do it. Say you turn the exam in with flying colors, and you’re offered a coveted position at Google. It won’t take long for your colleagues to see that your skills aren’t quite as sharp as you made them out to be, and perhaps even give you the boot because of it. Besides, it’s just not ethical.

See What the Pros Have to Say

There’s practically a whole industry for interview exam preparation. Many fields have their own experts and bodies of knowledge on how to ace certain types of interviews. For example, books like “Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions is a classic for those preparing for coding interviews, while for those preparing for a management consulting interview, it would be better to consult a book like “Case In Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation. There are even coaches and consultants you can hire to help you prepare for specialized interviews — spending a little money on help like that now can definitely pay off if you end up getting your dream job because of it.

Gauge the Experience of Others

You’re probably not the first one who’s done a job interview exam with this company. Hearing about the type of questions that other interviewees were asked can help take the scary “unknown” factor out of what to expect. If you have access to people at the company to speak to who had a similar interview process, this is a great first step. In addition, Glassdoor’s interview questions tool can help you see more specifics about the type of questions that were asked during the interview exam.

Now go out there and get it done!

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