August 6, 2020
Hiring 23 July 2020
This Is the Future: 10 Non-Traditional Interview Techniques to Distinguish Top Talent
Ester Brierley

For many decades, hiring managers have used the same traditional interviews. They’ve been asking candidates about their experience and skills, trying to determine whether a certain person fits for the job.

Traditional interviews no longer satisfy the needs of modern hiring managers. Innovative interviewing methods help find the best talent, saving time and effort.

Traditional interviews may be conducted in person or on the phone, they may include structured or unstructured questions, involving one-on-one or panel approaches. These traditional methods are familiar to everyone and reliable, so there’s no reason to expect interviews to go anywhere in the near future.

On the other hand, traditional interviews are not necessarily the most effective. According to the latest Global Recruiting Trends report, traditional methods don’t work when hiring managers and recruiters need to evaluate weaknesses and soft skills. In addition, traditional approaches involve a certain amount of bias. They take a lot of time, and their efficiency directly depends on the skill of the recruiter and properly chosen questions. 

Fortunately, modern hiring managers don’t need to rely solely on traditional methods as there are many innovative interview techniques that allow us to tackle the most common problems associated with interviewing candidates.


Interviewing Innovations and New Hiring Trends

The latest hiring trends are aimed towards eliminating hassle, improving hiring strategy, and detecting talent with the highest potential. According to statistics, the three most popular hiring trends that are becoming more and more important due to their efficiency are:

  • New tools
  • Diversity
  • Artificial intelligence

NEW TOOLS

There are many new tools that allow recruiters and hiring managers to improve the traditional interviewing models. For example, online assessment of soft skills helps assess personal skills and teamwork abilities, allowing for a better understanding of the talents each particular candidate has. 

Modern companies can also benefit from casual interviews. Carrie Lewis, a recruiter at College-Writers, notes: 

“You can take candidates to lunch and ask a waiter to intentionally mess up their orders. You will see how they react to unforeseen circumstances, getting a better understanding of their characters.” 

Another innovative approach is holding job auditions and paying candidates to complete real tasks. This allows companies to evaluate the candidates’ skills in action. Some companies as Lloyds Banking Group even use virtual reality to simulate different environments and increase candidate engagement. 

DIVERSITY

A recent strong trend in hiring is diversity. Almost 80% of hiring managers note that the factor of diversity directly impacts their decisions. Successful companies realize that diversity in the workplace leads to more creative solutions and so increases profits

Obviously, diversity also improves corporate culture. Diverse teams demonstrate better productivity and are more engaged. However, not all organizations manage to create diverse teams, as it becomes crucial to know where to look for the candidates. For example, there are many female engineers, but some companies just don’t know where to find them.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial intelligence is another trend that impacts many industries. This technology is already popular in recruiting and it’s going to take over many repetitive aspects of your profession. As AI improves over time, it can help companies cut down on a lot of busywork that is typical in many recruiting processes.

Linkedin Recruiter is a great example of an AI-based solution. It helps quickly analyze thousands of profiles and find candidates who match the given criteria. Various chatbots can answer common questions from candidates, saving a lot of time.


Practical and Non-Traditional Interview Techniques for Hiring the Right People

1. Analyze How They Resolve Problems

A candidate's ability to solve problems is an important skill no matter what role being considered! Being able to see how they react when things don't go as planned can really help you make an educated hiring decision. Tom Winter, Co-Founder of DevSkiller says,

I used to prepare case studies for new candidates and send them a day before the interview. I didn’t ask to get written responses but waited for the interview to discuss these cases. The point wasn’t for me to check the technical knowledge of potential employees but to see how good they are in problem-solving. This approach enabled me to see how people act outside of their comfort zone, but also how capable they are of quickly adapting to new circumstances.

How candidates resolve problems gives you valuable insights into seeing how they analyze and identify problems, how they conduct research, how they gather data on the issue, etc. Having employees that have the ability to independently solve problems can be especially important when it comes to remote work.  


2. Organize a Hackathon or Project
This approach is a perfect choice for the technology industry but it also can be tailored for any other industry. The point is to create a unique, extraordinary problem and to see whether the candidate is able to solve it. Marie Buharin of 
Modernesse shares her method:

A non-traditional interview technique that I like to use is to present a problem to a candidate that doesn’t have a “right answer”. Instead, this problem typically has multiple approaches for which a solution can be proposed. Often times, this problem is one that we worked on as part of a project. I then like to ask the candidate to prepare a 10 minute presentation to the interview group on their solution.

This allows me to evaluate multiple skills that are otherwise hard to gauge in a conversation: logical thinking, creativity, presentation skills. If they think of an approach that we may have not thought of before, it could signal that it would be a great candidate that brings a different point of view.

 The competition will surely motivate candidates to look for the most effective and creative solutions, demonstrating their best skills. In addition, you will get an opportunity to see how different members of the team deal with conflicts.


3. Start With a Personality Assessment
Asking candidates to complete a personality assessment even before you start interviewing them is a useful practice. You get a chance to understand the personality of the candidate deeper while looking at them from a different angle. Jeremy Harrison, Founder and Head of Content Strategy at Hustle Life says,

Science and technology have advanced tremendously. One way we can take advantage of this is by using psychometric tests to evaluate a candidate even before we get to see him. These tests have grown to the point that they can predict the character of a candidate. 

You can also discuss the results of the assessment with candidates during the interview and see if they acknowledge their weaknesses or how they react to criticism. By doing so, you can quickly understand how they react to feedback in the workplace.

4. Let Your Candidates Join Your Team for One Day
If you’re satisfied with a phone interview, invite the candidate to spend a day alongside your team and see how he or she adapts to the working environment. 

Most likely, they won’t do any actual work, but this method is good for several reasons. First of all, your candidate will get clear expectations of the position and the team. In addition, you will get priceless feedback from your employees. Jenna Carson, HR Manager at Music Grotto shares her experience with this: 

My favorite is to invite our shortlisted candidates to join the team for a day. They won’t be doing a ‘real’ day of work of course, but it enables us to see how they interact with the team, how they pick up the concepts we’re working on, and how quickly they can start to chime in during brainstorming sessions. It also gives them a better idea of what the job really entails, and then we can discuss whether it’s what they expected and if they can see themselves doing the role.

This method may be not equally effective or viable for every company, but it’s worth trying it if you want to determine whether the candidate fits into the existing working environment.


5. Get Upper-Level Management Involved in the Interview

Oftentimes CEOs, Directors, and other senior positions are left out of the recruiting stage and the task of hiring someone is given to hiring managers and recruiters. However, it can be helpful when upper-level management is actively involved in the process and the final decision.  

If candidates get a chance to meet the people at the top of the company when they interview, they can build a connection to your organization that leads to purpose and understanding within their future job roles. Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation says,

One slightly nontraditional approach we take to traditional interview techniques is that we will have a group interview that includes myself, a member of the department for which we are hiring — and the CEO of our company, Deborah Sweeney.

It is not often that candidates get the chance to meet the CEO during their job interview! This is not a practice that is meant to be intimidating in any way. Rather, it is meant to give the potential candidate further insight into learning what she does, her role in the company, and her friendly, down-to-earth personality. It also helps to establish that a potential new hire feels comfortable with knowing the CEO is present and here to work hard alongside everyone else and contribute to the success of the company.

The CEO and managers of the company can set the tone for future hiring. When upper-level management gets involved, it shows hiring managers and recruiters how to approach the task and what's most important to the company. Hiring managers can see what they do, apply it to their recruiting strategies, and improve their hiring sense and skills for the future.


6. Make the First Interview a Group Interview
Teach for America and a few other organizations make good use out of group interviews, utilizing them in many different ways. Group interviews allow you to evaluate the collaborative potential of your candidates. Jennifer Walden, Director of Operations at WikiLawn Lawn Care gives her thoughts on group interviews:

At WikiLawn we've occasionally done our first round interviews as group interviews. Usually when there are a large number of qualified applicants we want to interview, or if the position is one that's highly collaborative. A good group interview is one that involves listening and adapting on the fly. Someone else may say what you wanted to say and you need to be able to give something other than your memorized answer.

At the same time, it’s important to let your candidates know about such an interview in advance so that they won’t feel awkward or too stressed out. In addition, you should properly organize your group interview so that the candidates won’t interrupt each other.


7. Play Games with Candidates
It’s hard to imagine a less traditional approach than playing games with candidates, however, board games can be a good icebreaker that helps your candidates calm down and interact on a human level while also allowing you to see their personality.

With everything becoming more digital and online, you could even consider playing video games with candidates. Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review shares his unique gaming interview experience:

The most fun interview I did was one that took place over Skype while playing an online game. I suggested it because the content producer I was interviewing had a high ranking in the game Overwatch and he frequently coached less experienced players. 

I was interested in seeing his teaching methods, as I wanted to hire him to produce how-to video content. So I asked if he'd be willing to conduct the interview during a session of Overwatch, with him coaching me. I asked him questions in between matches, but I was mostly focused on seeing how well he could teach someone who had very little experience. It was definitely a memorable interview.

During the game-time with candidates, you can ask questions and see how the candidate acts in an informal environment. If you check around, you can find games related to your particular industry and use it to assess some basiс skills that relate to their job.


8. Have a Group Happy Hour
Another way to make an interview a little more fun is to get candidates together for a happy hour. We also suggest inviting active members of their potential team to see whether some candidate fits for it or not. Paul French, Managing Director of Intrinsic Search shares some benefits of using Happy Hour Interviews:

I frequently use happy hour interviews to evaluate candidates, especially for startup and client-facing positions. When I want a candidate to meet several people, happy hour interviews have proved to be more effective and time-saving than spending hours in one-on-one interviews. This approach gives everyone at the table a feel for the candidate’s personality and whether they’d be a cultural fit, but it is also a good opportunity for the candidate to determine whether the team is a good match for them.

It’s a good way to see how different candidates interact with other people and their future coworkers if they get hired. Cultural fit is among the most important factors to determine whether or not a candidate will succeed in your company. 


9. Ask Candidates Non-Traditional Interview Questions

Damian Birkel, Founder & Executive Director of Professionals In Transition® Support Group, Inc. shares some of what he calls "Off-the-Wall" Interview Questions such as:

  • How many ping pong balls would fit into a Boeing 747?
  • You have just fallen into a large bowl of salad. How do you get out?
  • How many street lights are in Manhattan?
  • If you could speak to one type of animal, what would it be?
  • If you were a t-shirt, what color would you be and why?

When used in combination with more traditional interview questions,  Damian believes this gives you insight into the candidate's creativity and thought processes. 

The common factor is that they catch you off guard and forces you to think on your feet. Because there are no real right or wrong answers, questions like these show interviewers how you creatively handle unpredictable problems. Your ability to share your thought patterns and explain succinctly how you arrived at an answer is what interviewers are looking for.

Another easy way to improve your interview questions is to focus mostly on experiences instead of qualifications. Ask your candidates about professional experiences where they didn’t perform as great as they wanted to. Ask them about the lessons learned. The main thing is to see whether the candidate is able to quickly answer this question in a clear and specific manner — that’s how you can spot an accountable and self-aware person.


10. Don’t Underestimate Video Interviews
Video interviews are nothing new, however, many recruiters don’t realize that they are a real win-win solution! If your organization is innovative, then 
video interviews are a must-have technology. Darrell Rosenstein, Founder of The Rosenstein Group says,

My go-to interview method is one-way video interviews. Besides reducing time to hire, this technique allows candidates to go beyond the bullet points on their resume and instead tell their story. Based on how they respond to basic interview questions, I can evaluate their capabilities, soft skills, and even get a feel for their personality before recommending them to a hiring manager.

With video interviewing, you are also greatly reducing the costs associated with hiring. Your candidates can save a lot of time with no need to drive to your office, while you can interview many more applicants quickly. Optionally, candidates can also pre-record their responses on their time and you can watch them on yours. Be sure to ask candidates the same questions to helps minimize bias in hiring and promote equality.


Conclusion

This is an incomplete list of modern hiring trends. New tools and methods are always appearing, and if you don’t want to lag behind, you need to embrace them. Look for diversity, try non-traditional interview techniques, and find talent faster than ever before using innovative AI solutions. 

Fortunately, modern hiring managers and recruiters don’t need to rely solely on traditional approaches, which have their weaknesses and are quickly becoming obsolete. New interview techniques allow you to better understand candidates and to evaluate their skills more accurately, therefore making better decisions.


Ester Brierley is a QA Engineer in a software outsourcing company and a competent virtual assistant for College Writers. Adores researching cutting-edge digital trends and sharing them in her writing pieces as a seasoned content creator for many websites. Follow her on Twitter.