Once upon a time, job interviews were fairly straightforward affairs. They began with a handshake, consisted of questions relating to your skills and experience and if you’d done really well, they’d end on a smile.
Today, job interviews are anything but predictable. As companies strive to find the perfect fit for their organisations, they’re turning to new interview techniques that get to the core of who the individual really is beyond the CV.
There have been stories of candidates enduring interviews by text messages, extreme ethic-challenging tests and even being asked to join their prospective employer for an intense workout at the gym. These unconventional techniques are designed to test more than just the candidate’s skills — they force them to adapt to unusual scenarios and reveal their personality; how they think and what makes them tick.
So why are businesses around the world adopting these strange interviewing techniques? Mike Edwards, Head of People at Love Energy Savings, says it could be job sites. “The substantial growth of the job search industry over the last decade or so has made it easy for candidates to prepare perfect answers to the standard questions asked for any type of job they might be applying for.
“That means interviewers don’t really get an accurate impression of the person they’re interviewing, and could make the wrong hire as a result.”
Business gas comparison site Love energy Savings outlined some tried-and-tested creative interview questions and techniques that you can use to separate the wheat from the chaff and build a team that’s the cream of the crop.
- Ask for an audition tape
The audition tape was perhaps made most famous by Big Brother, when candidates were required to send in a short video of themselves answering some questions. These videos would be reviewed and assessed before deciding whether or not to take the candidate onto the next part of the process.
Tom Head, Director and Co-Founder of the independent digital agency Lab, says that for certain roles, he asks candidates to submit a video answering five questions before they get a face-to-face interview. “That tends to remove around 50% of all applicants at the first hurdle,” he says, “because it takes a lot of courage to submit a video. That’s in line with our value of being courageous. Then we look at how they answer the questions.”
Asking for a video interview is ideal for companies that have a lot of candidates to sift through. It also helps catch out the candidates that look great on paper but might let you down in an interview: it saves you having to book time out of your day to find that out.
- Ask them what they would do in an imaginary scenario
“What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?”
It’s a question that some people will have thought about in a great amount of detail — perhaps over a drink with friends — but don’t see it coming when they go for an interview at the HQ of the US restaurant chain Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop.
The company says that this unusual interview question forces candidates to think on their feet and respond to a question for which there is no right answer. Similar questions that are asked include, “If you had a choice between being invisible or having the power to fly, which would you choose?” (Microsoft) and “If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?” (Google).
Love Energy Savings applies imaginary scenarios to group interviews to examine leadership and communication skills. One scenario asks participants to imagine they’re a space crew whose ship has crashed on the moon. Together, they must rank a series of items in order of importance to their survival. Recruitment and Staffing Manager Alex Bent says: “The exercise brings out the strongest influencers and characters, which helps the employer make a final decision based on how a candidate interacts in certain situations.”
The best thing about weird interview questions and hypothetical scenarios is that the candidate’s reaction is quite authentic. It shows their personality while providing a good insight into how they might negotiate problems on the job.
- Look for radical honesty
Most candidates will arrive at the interview ready to impress the hell out of you. Few, however, will come prepared to criticise your company out of fear that it might risk their chances.
Yet some companies ask interviewees to confront these issues directly. Medical technology company Medtronic asks candidates the uncomfortable question, “What do you think you’ll hate about this job?” Kraft Foods goes one step further: “On a scale of 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer.”
By forcing candidates to answer a question that could offend the interviewer, it disarms anyone who’s relying on sycophancy or even just keeping the answers tailored towards their skillset. Instead, you get to test their emotional intelligence and see how they handle confrontation in an organic way.
- Check that they know about your company
Any good interviewee will have done their homework about your company before their interview, rather than just prepare to talk about their qualifications. Sameer Syned, who works in strategic partnerships at Google, said that the toughest thing to prepare for in his interview was a question about specific products.
Prepare some questions about products or services that you offer that you think the candidate could weigh in on. Their response should give you an indication as to whether they’ve identified what your core service offerings are and whether they’ve thought about them in enough detail to provide suggestions on how to improve them. Preparation is key.
- Get them to make you laugh
At JP Morgan, you can fail the interview if you fail to come up with a good joke on the spot.
Asking your candidate to tell you a joke or a funny anecdote allows you to evaluate two things: whether they can think on their feet and whether they feel confident enough to take a risk. While candidates who try to self-edit too much will end up saying nothing at all.
And let’s not forget that telling a joke allows you to see whether or not your candidate has a sense of humour. After all who wants to work with someone who takes themselves too seriously?
Using some unusual techniques in your interviews is more than just a gimmick — it can make the difference between hiring the right candidate and the wrong one. How will you take your interviews to the next level?