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4133929634_1524b16680_mJust when you thought you’ve heard it all when it comes to interviews, you need to start preparing for another type of evaluation. “Challenge-based interviews” are a trend among human resources professionals, according to Elli Sharef, co-founder of HireArt, a jobs marketplace that uses online challenge-based interviews to vet applicants.

What’s a challenge-based interview? Typically, this refers to an interview where the employer requests the candidate to do a task similar to what they would need to do in their job. The goal is to see the candidate in action. For example, Sharef explains, “If a business is hiring an engineer, they may present a coding challenge to candidates, if they’re hiring a social media manager, they may ask candidates to create compelling tweets. If it’s an admin position, they may ask candidates to create a flight schedule and hunt down the best fares.” She notes that employers using use video or text-based responses to evaluate candidates’ abilities.

How prevalent are these types of interviews? HireArt has worked with about 100 companies, including Cisco and Airbnb. Candidates in a variety of fields should not be surprised to be asked to demonstrate their skills via a specific task.

So how should candidates prepare for this type of interview?

1. Do your research. An important practice for anyone preparing to interview, research can be especially important to perform well in a challenge-based interview.

2. Focus on the output. During a challenge-based interview, employers will evaluate the professional deliverables you create. Sharef advises, “If the output of the challenge is a PowerPoint page, make sure it’s formatted correctly. If you’re asked to draft an email, use the correct protocols in the subject line and signature. Always watch your typos as they can easily make you seem sloppy.”

3. Show that you care. “Challenges are a way for an employer to determine if you’re truly passionate about the company’s mission,” Sharef notes. She explains that one challenge asked candidates to role-play as if they were pitching a company to an investor.

4. Don’t waste everyone’s time. Only do challenge-based interviews for companies you really care about. Use tools such as and LinkedIn to research organizations before you apply for the job to decide if the company would be a good fit for you.

5. Go the extra mile. Challenge-based interviews offer you a way to significantly distinguish yourself from other candidates. Companies who agree to this type of process offer candidates an opportunity to take that chance and run with it.

As with all interviews, the more you know about the organization and the connections between what you offer and what they want, the more likely you are to perform well and win the job.

Read the whole post on my U.S. News & World Report column.

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photo by MPBecker

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    As an interviewer I can say that we don’t want real answers, we just want to see how you handle a question in order to figure out if you are managerial material.