The rise of artificial intelligence is rapidly changing the workplace. And while there’s less demand for basic cognitive, physical and manual skills, the job market is still absolutely electric.
But the growing competition for top talent has been choking HR departments — especially for those in tech. My managerial roles at Amazon and Microsoft have largely shaped the way we screen candidates at Outreach, the sales engagement platform I founded in 2014.
What’s important to note is that many companies — especially large ones like Microsoft, Amazon and Google — all have one thing in common: We utilize A.I., machine-learning and data science to enhance our products, so hiring people with the right skills to fill those gaps is a huge priority. The real struggle, however, is being able to successfully separate the wheat from the chaff.
According to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, the three most in-demand skills by 2030 will be:
If you’re looking to fill a role at a large tech company, here are the types of interview questions employers ask to determine whether you have the right skills:
Employers want to know you have human intelligence, so they’ll ask questions that determine how well you work with others, how emotionally intelligent you are and whether you have strong managerial skills.
Interpersonal and leadership questions
In order for a team to succeed, it must have members who can work together in harmony and a leader who can manage, delegate and motivate everyone. (Leadership skills will no doubt be the most sought after.)
At Amazon, we would ask questions that helped gauge a candidate’s empathy skills. We essentially wanted to know: Can you put yourself in another person’s shoes?
In hospitality, you might be asked about how you’d improve the booking or check-in process. In sales or marketing, you might be asked to create a deck to explain what you changed and why.
Data analyzation and decision-making questions
At Microsoft and Amazon, we would ask questions that reveal a candidate’s perspective on things like inquiry, data and experimentation. What do they consider as reliable evidence? How do they interpret different forms of data? How do they scrutinize their own instincts and assumptions?
Strong candidates might explain how to A/B test specific situations, and maybe even suggest repeating the tests to compare different categories (i.e., age groups, zip codes, income brackets). We’re not looking for the “perfect answer,” but we do expect more than just hunches or half-baked thought experiments.
Advanced writing, communication and literacy questions
Microsoft makes sophisticated products with an overwhelming list of features — and only humans can make them interesting and understandable to customers. Hence, Microsoft recruiters seek out people who can explain (through written or verbal communication) things in a simple and accessible way.
Your interviewer might skim through your resume and look for something that sounds complicated and foreign to them (i.e., hobbies like chess or martial arts) — and then hit you with a series of questions on that topic. Don’t expect a second interview if your answers are filled with jargon.
Advanced and basic technology skills
Depending on what role you’re applying for, your interviewer will look for technology skills that range from advanced (i.e., coding, programming) to basic (i.e., social media, troubleshooting).
For the post part, the questions will be related to computer science fundamentals, proficiency in software and open-ended problems that you might solve through coding.
Employers place a premium on technical skills, but what we really want is a candidate who can feel and think emotionally. These are the skills that A.I. can’t replace.
We’re looking to understand how your mind and emotions wrap around a process, concept or problem. Do you ponder an issue solely from your background (i.e., data science, engineering, marketing), or do you shed your biases, go beyond your technical training, and view the picture from different perspectives?
If you really want the job, be empathetic and decisive, yet analytical. More importantly, speak like a human being. If you can do all those things, you’ll not only look good on paper, but you’ll be seen as someone who can transform the company.
Manny Medina is CEO of Outreach, a sales engagement platform. Medina joined Amazon’s AWS team as an early employee, and helped Microsoft drive the mobile division from launch to $50 million in annual revenue. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter .
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