How to prepare for a job interview that includes an analysis exercise?
June 21, 2017 11:48 AM   Subscribe

What could an analytical exercise at a job interview involve?

I have a job interview next week. They told me I will have one hour to produce a work sample based on a prompt they will give me right there. Then I will move on to the actual interview (about 45 minutes).

This is a budget/policy analyst position. The person who scheduled the interview told me the work sample will be "analytical".

This is the first time I hear of such an interview. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas on strategies to prepare for it.
posted by Tarumba to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So its hard to say for certain, but if its like consultant interviews, my guess you'll be given a small budget and a policy that affects that budget, then you'll need to talk through/work through all the potential changes and implications of the new policy. They want to a) see how you think and B) make sure you have all the requisite knowledge to really do the job.
posted by tau_ceti at 12:36 PM on June 21, 2017

This is the first time I hear of such an interview.

This is a more common interview tactic than you think. The "prompt" will likely be a set of data and/or facts. I'm guessing that you will be asked to analyze the information, maybe crunch some numbers in order to answer some questions. The subject of the prompt could be general (using information you may already be familiar with, for example) or more specific to the industry this employer focuses on.

Suggested strategies:

1. Make sure you write your answers in complete sentences, citing examples to support what you say.
2. Less can be more. Better to answer three questions well than answer five questions poorly. The employer is probably looking for quality vs. quantity. (Of course, if there are five questions and you only answer one, you have a different problem.)
3. Relax. Knowing no more than you do, there's not much you can do to "prepare."
posted by John Borrowman at 12:44 PM on June 21, 2017

I give assignments sort of like this when I run job interviews, and though mine have very different goals, I'm looking for:
- Does the thought process make sense? Did they start in a good place and are going in a good direction?
- Are they asking good questions or making good assumptions? Do they know when they're making assumptions and can state that clearly?
- Is it clear what the next step is/where'd they 'd go next? I'm not giving them enough time to really do the "full" project, but do they have an understanding of what the next steps would be and what a finished project might look like?
- Do they have solid, clear communication?

So I don't know that there's anything you can do to prepare, really, since you don't know what it's going to be, but that's what I'm looking for when I evaluate quick in-office assignments for job interviews.
posted by brainmouse at 1:19 PM on June 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

The last two policy job interviews I've had have had analytical work samples. They left me in a room with a number of documents - like a journal article, a fairly sensational media article and an industry-sponsored report - and I had to prepare a briefing on the issue. Once they left me with a laptop and I had to prepare a written briefing and in the other I just needed to verbally brief my 'manager' when I got to the interview.

The key thing in these tasks was critically evaluating different information and making a plan based on what the information told me.

Reading a bit about the relevant policy area ahead of time definitely helped me prepare for these tasks. It was especially helpful to have read strategies and position papers published by the organisation I was applying to join, because knowing what they think the issues are and how they address them helped me demonstrate I understood and would help them meet their objectives. And you can sort of work backwards from the organisation's position to figure out how they prioritise different issues, groups and information sources.

Good luck!
posted by escapepod at 4:05 PM on June 21, 2017

I have used this. In my case I set an exercise involving a subject matter outside the field of the job in question (to avoid advantaging internal applicants), and the applicants had to produce a written brief within a set period, based on a single article from something like 'The Economist'. Purpose was to test how they performed under pressure, quality of the analysis and their thought processes. This was done after the interview, and no followup was undertaken with the candidates after they handed in their brief.

Good thoughts above on how to deal with these situations.
posted by GeeEmm at 6:27 AM on June 22, 2017

The task could be home grown or purchased. I had to an in-box exercise that was store bought. It involved trying to make sense of stuff that accumulated after your presumed had left the company.

My only comments are a) feel free to make assumptions about stuff they don't tell you, b)better to be bold than meek.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:44 AM on June 22, 2017

I got the job!!!! Yayyyy!

Thank you, everyone. You are right that there was little I could do to acquire the skills I needed in just a few days, but your pointers on being clear about my thought processes were super useful. The exercise consisted of processing a large data set and writing up a brief presenting relevant analytical key points, all under one hour. It was a little nerve wracking!
posted by Tarumba at 5:58 AM on July 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

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