Take the Road Less Traveled: Alternative Recruiting Techniques

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Ever hired someone who seemed outgoing and capable during the interview, only to find yourself wondering how you could have made such an enormous hiring mistake three months down the road? Most people in a hiring position have had that very experience, often with enormously costly results to their organizations.

So how can an interviewer find out what applicants will REALLY be like on the job?

One method gaining more and more popularity these days is to scrap the traditional question-and-answer format that most employment interviews take. While asking questions for 30 to 60 minutes and then asking if the candidate has any questions is the primary method used in business, it tends to be a dismally poor predictor of how an applicant will perform the requirements of the job.

Charming and articulate candidates with well-rehearsed answers sail through the traditional interview format with flying colors, even though they may have few qualifications for the job. On the other hand, shy or nervous applicants, or those who simply don’t perform well on interviews, are often passed over, despite their outstanding qualifications.

There are a number of alternatives to the standard question-and answer session, and these make the candidate work harder for the position. The work the applicant produces in these exercises is a much better indicator of success on the job.

Consider the following alternative interview strategies:

1) Interview project
Ask the candidate to complete a project during the interview to get a sampling of their work. Evaluation should include organization, writing skills, content and time spent. You might ask a sales management applicant, for instance, to develop a short marketing plan based on your criteria.

2) Provide typical situations
Ask candidates to respond to a variety of daily occurrences they’d experience on the job. To solve these situations, they might have to write a memo, interview someone, conduct a meeting, resolve a customer complaint, handle an under-performing employee, etc.

3) Make a presentation
If the position requires the person to make presentations as a normal duty, this will serve as an excellent way to evaluate those skills. Candidates might be asked to make a presentation on their goals, how their background would enhance the position or a host of other topics.

4) Interview minutes
Have the candidate write up minutes of the interview after it has taken place. These minutes can indicate not only writing skills but how well the applicant pays attention, notices details, clearly understands what is being discussed and produces written work quickly.

5) Full or half-day trials
Bring in final candidates for a paid trial and put them through a series of tasks. This will give you a chance to see them in action — and give the candidates a chance to see if they’d actually enjoy the work. Do they dig in? Hang back? Catch on quickly? Communicate well with others? Are they neat and well-organized?

The bottom-line is that the quality of the hire is a reflection of the person making the decision. If you wing it on interviews by asking a bunch of predictable questions, you’re likely to “miss” as often as you “hit” in detecting winners. But if you develop an alternative interview format that works for your organization, your investment of time and effort will pay off ten-fold in reduced employee turnover and fewer costly hires.

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.