Ask Candidates to Show, Not Tell, What They Can Do

One of the most important challenges hiring managers encounter is deciding whether candidates’ skills and experiences will translate into success in the new position. Can a sales manager who has created and implemented a comprehensive training course for his large sales force design a series of online training videos to help new users master a software program?

The requirements are similar; they involve discerning problems trainees may encounter, call for innovative ways of conveying information, and seek to incorporate various media that transmit information in complementary ways. But the execution is different. User skill and intuition may vary, commitment to the outcome may wane; and trainees may respond differently to the trainer’s management style.

More and more companies are implementing test projects into their interviewing and hiring processes. Project-based interviews challenge applicants to complete an assignment similar to those he will encounter on the job. It gives the candidate a chance to shine beyond the question-and-answer interview.

At the same time, it gives firms another assessment tool, one that enables them to holistically evaluate the candidate in terms of communication, management, problem-solving, and autonomy. Most companies will prefer employees who get results over those who excel in interviews. By basing an applicant’s interview score in large part on how well he completes the project, companies can mitigate the effects of subconscious factors that can influence hiring decisions, such as appearance, age, and gender.

To implement a project-based component to the interview process, follow these guidelines:

  1. Make the project relevant to the job requirements
  2. Find a balance between the project’s complexity and the time constraints on an applicant
  3. Force the candidate to think, research, and analyze the project and its purpose, rather than
    simply cranking out a response to the issue
  4. Give the candidate some leeway in how he presents and delivers his output. Judge it based on
    content and function, rather than form

By assigning test assignments, hiring managers can examine the applicants’ processes, not just their final projects. They can judge how well the prospect researches a project, whether he considers alternative approaches to accomplishing the task, the metrics he uses to eventually arrive at the most effective means of completing the job, and what he considers the project’s most important goals.