April 10, 2021
Hiring 30 May 2017
Rethinking the Interview
Michael Barry
Rethinking the Interview

The practice of hiring new employees has persisted on, unchanged despite a constantly evolving professional atmosphere. It’s easy enough for the would-be interviewee to Google interview questions and looks at the search results. 

Countless articles will spout great advice. Hiring websites will direct readers to top five and top ten lists with tips on how to answer these questions. And those lists will help, but it's time to rethink the interview, at least in the traditional sense.

Apart from the worst applicants, the advice espoused in an interview how to lists will be beneficial within most interviews. The reason: more interviews than not follow the same format.

The Process Doesn’t Seem to Change

Reading things like “what is your biggest weakness,” “Tell me about a difficult supervisor,” or “Tell me why you want the work here” do not represent good questions mainly because they don’t get real responses. Just like the carefully crafted online personas of so many people, each of these questions has become so cliché that even the most basic of applicants can fine-tune a response. 

For a while, the antidote to these bland questions seemed to be asking situational questions that have become just as clichéd. Most applicants have ready-to-go responses to questions that ask them to describe situations where they’ve collaborated or persuaded or worked on a tight deadline. Asking these questions will garner nothing more tangible about the applicant than asking him about a time he failed. If this sounds familiar, it might be time for a switch.

Change Things Up

Realizing that a change needs to be made is half the battle. So throw away the questions and situations and get out a pen and paper. The next task is simple. What aspects do you see in your best employees? Write down the hard skills, the soft skills, and any specific adjectives that come to mind. 

Next, think of what tasks, projects, and problems do you need to new hire to be able to handle. Think of both now and the future. These skills and abilities are what you need to cater the interview around. It’s time to cater the application process to them. 

Apart from standard resumes, there are two main aspects you’ll want to put applicants through pre-interview assessments, and the interview debrief. There is an option to expand these as well if you have the time and think it necessary.

Some pre-interview assessments might include a video interview, completing a short challenge such as a real life problem they might face in that role. These assessments can help minimize bias while giving you a more holistic view of candidates. There are many options. Get together with your team and hiring manager to determine which is the best set of pre-interview assessments.

Formatting the Interview

Charm is a lovely asset. The best interviewee can tailor responses to his audience and ask questions that help build the proper perception. Charm is not a bad thing. It has many great uses and should be welcomed into the workforce. But it shouldn’t win the interview. 

There’s nothing wrong with that ease of communication helping the candidate’s persona shine through, but the focus should be on fit and ability more than anything else.

In a perfect scenario, the applicant will come in to speak with members of the team she’ll be working with as well as the project manager she’ll be reporting to. The interview, rather than being comprised of a list of pre-determined questions about personalities and accomplishments, should delve into the content created in the assessment. 

Here, interviewers can ask specific questions about the applicants' thought process during the creation. Why did she do this versus that? Where did she learn about this process or that maneuver? It’s much harder to fake it during an interview when the conversation is about the applicant’s work and the questions focus on skill set rather than previous accomplishment.

If companies wish to take this a step further they might have top-tier applicants partake in a project-based interview. Project-based interviews can be used to evaluate all candidates from marketing to engineers.

Project Based Interview Options

An option growing in popularity, project-based interviews come in a number of formats. Here, the top applicants are invited in to work on a mock project together.  The idea is for you to observe each applicant in a real-world arena working on a relevant project. 

The project at hand could be any number of things from a previous task your team worked on to a hybrid of the past something conjured up to create more potential for creativity. You could have them work on part of a current project provided they’re willing to sign an NDA beforehand.

There are a number of ways to tailor the process to your liking. Applicants can work together or with members of your staff. You can incorporate project management into the process and even see how they work with difficult people or scenarios. The key is to let the experience be true to life. Then roll your sleeves up and watch. 

You’ll see multiple aspects of each applicant and be able to tell more assuredly who will fit best on your team. That’s what the whole process is procuring anyway. So hire away. If you'd like a custom demo for your team, let's chat.

Michael Barry is the Editor-In-Chief at AgeOfTheSmallBusiness.com. Currently living in Boston, Massachusetts, he received his B.A. in Financial Economics from St. Anselm College and his MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. Check him out at michaelbarrywriter.com

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