Experiential Interviews: Four Steps to Help You Identify Superior Talent

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If you’re still using conventional interviews when hiring, I’ve got bad news—common interviewing methods set you up to pick the wrong people. Why? Because conventional interviews give only the smallest glimpse of the candidate—and an inaccurate one at that.

During conventional interviews job candidates are always on their best behavior. They say what you want to hear and share only the best parts of their backgrounds. This is why the person interviewed isn’t always the same person who shows up for work.

To combat the inaccuracy of conventional interviews, hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across the globe are turning to experiential interviews—the kind where the candidate does real work to demonstrate his skills—to fill positions in their companies. Experiential interviews allow you to base you hiring choices on facts instead of guesses.

During experiential interviews, you get to see candidates doing sample work rather than speaking conceptually about the job. What does this look like? Computer programmers can be given specs to write computer code, accounting candidates can analyze financials, and marketing staffers can design a promotional campaign.

Regardless of industry, embracing experiential interviews can help you spot better talent faster. When you get to witness candidates doing the job firsthand, you can automatically assess their skills and instantly have a complete image of the person you’ve just met. This way, there are no surprises or disappointments.

To incorporate experiential interviews into your hiring routine, follow this four-stage process

Stage 1: Compare the candidate’s written materials to your company’s hiring profile.

Your hiring profile—the specific standards, skills, and qualifications you require job candidates to meet—gives you a point of reference when viewing each candidate’s qualifications. Compare all candidates to your hiring profile by viewing their résumés, job applications, plus, if needed, a few written questions. Any candidate who matches the most important skills, experience, and education level moves on to Stage 2.

Stage 2: Conduct a brief phone interview.

For most roles, a 20-minute (or less) phone conversation allows you to hear how the candidate communicates as you review their background and discuss the job. This stage also provides an opportunity to discover how their values, helpful behaviors, and personality features may or may not fit into your company culture.

Effective phone interviews can cover lots of ground using short and simple questions. For example:

  • Why us?
    Motives are important. Knowing whether your candidate is inspired by your company’s mission or just looking for a job will help you pick the best people.
  • Why now?
    Knowing what’s driving a candidate’s decision to job search is vital in choosing the right people for your company. Is the candidate desperate to make a change and ready to leap at the first offer? Or, is she happy and simply open to a new opportunity that could make life even better?
  • What job suits you best?
    Too often, interviewers ask candidates about their perfect job. Such a question sets up the candidate and the employer for failure, since jobs and companies are rarely perfect. Instead of asking about perfection, ask about personal fit.

If the candidate matches these additional requirements, they move to Stage 3.

Stage 3: Hold an in-person hands-on interview.

Here, you’ll have the candidate do sample work—both alone and with others—while interviewers observe. The interviewers can use this time to assess how well the candidate performs. If the candidate demonstrates an ability to do quality work, they move on to Stage 4.

Stage 4: Complete reference checks.

Reference checks (and background checks, in certain roles) are used to confirm that the candidate fits all of the required criteria for the job. If they pass this last stage, they’re offered a job immediately, or the next time a seat opens.

Leaders are challenged to find the very best talent available. Experiential interviews are key in this process, and help you really get to know the talent and see how they will perform in real work scenarios. Allowing them to show not only who they are but what they can do helps them shine, and helps you make the best decision for your organization easier, faster, and more accurately than ever before.

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