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Unusual interviews: 4 ways to reveal candidates’ true selves

The more we hire, the more we see the patterns. The same old polished CVs paired with the same old interview questions will inevitably generate the same old rehearsed answers. These generic answers often make us reflect on the candidate and ask: “Is that who he/she really is?” If you’re asking yourself this, you may need the help of some unusual interview techniques.

The power of unusual interview techniques

Interviewing can be a powerful tool in helping companies determine culture fit (no toxic workers, please). But is a culture fit even possible to identify by talking to a candidate in a single, high-pressure session? Interviewees could find all the interview questions on the web and respond according to whatever they think you want to hear. Most of us are not experienced in assessing people via interviews, either. It’s tough to read between the lines or to catch split-second, revealing facial expressions.

To really reveal an interviewee’s personality, you need to break the interview mold. Candidates often expect to come into a room, sit down, and talk. Disrupt that. Try these four tactics to create your own unusual interview instead.

Similarly, Rabobank in the Netherlands set up their traineeship interviews on their own doorstep. The interviewees were first stranded by the receptionist, then suddenly got a rubber ball rolled towards them during the interview. On their way out, they were transported to a hockey pitch and encouraged to play with the Rabobank hockey team. The interviewees had no idea that their initiative was gauged throughout the process.

3. Day on the job test

You never really know what a person will be like until you actually work with them, right? This unusual interview technique can give you immediate insight into what it might be like to have candidates as your employees or colleagues. Invite your candidates for a day on the job (or a job trial). Have them perform some assignments or tasks related to the role and sit among their prospective team.

A “day in the job” interview could kill a few birds with one stone:

  • See if they fit with the team;
  • judge their skills on the job;
  • and observe how they let their guard down throughout the day.

Have your observers fill out interview scorecards looking for company qualities throughout the day.

4. Reference test

No time (or resources) to set up the team test, surprise test, or food test? This unusual interview tactic could be for you: Ask interviewees specific questions about how they executed tasks their previous jobs. If they did customer support, ask how they handled complaints and requests. If they did project management, ask how they juggled projects and their team’s manpower.

After that, pick up the phone and do a reference check. Where possible, don’t just call the ones who managed them, but also their colleagues. Those who work directly with the interviewees, or receive the interviewees’ work directly have a clearer idea of who they are on a daily basis. Hotjar, one of our customers, has had many successful hires via this simple method.

It’s hard to make sure candidates are the right fit for your company, especially if candidates are well-rehearsed in interviews. Work with your team to brainstorm unusual interview techniques that will help you get a better feel for candidates’ personality and skill and determine cultural fit for your organization.

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