The Interview Screening Test
“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”– John Wooden
Author Michael Lewis applied to be a tour guide for a boutique travel company when he was graduating from college. When he arrived, the owner said, “I don’t have time for the interview because they’ve just told us we need to move our office furniture around. Will you help me?” Lewis agreed and they spent the next hour rearranging the furniture. The owner called him the following day to say he’d landed the job. Turns out each applicant was given the same story. One would move the furniture out and the next would move it back. The owner wanted to know what the applicants were like in action, how they collaborated, and, most importantly, how they handled the unexpected.
Many interview processes involve formal tests—behavior assessments, skills checks, psychological profiles, software proficiency, etc. Applied uniformly to applicants, they can help identify the best candidates. But I also like informal screening tests like the one for the tour company. They can provide clues as to which candidates best fit the role and the culture. I almost always test candidates for mental agility. When I greet them for the first time, I will ask a three-part question. Something like: “How did you find out about the position, why do you want to work here, and what makes you a good fit for this role?” I love it when candidates can answer all three without needing a reminder.
Some of the best interviews often happen when candidates may not be aware they are being interviewed at all. Many companies make candidates wait in the lobby so they can see how they interact with the receptionist. Executives are often taken to a meal, so managers can observe how they interact with service staff. There is the side applicants show the interviewer, but how will they treat people who aren’t the decision-makers?
Gene Rivers once shared a great interview test for real estate sales associates. His theory was that phone presence mattered. So the only way to apply for a sales job was through a number that went to an answering machine. The recorded message invited applicants to answer a series of questions and when finished send their resume by email. Anyone who couldn’t follow instructions was eliminated. Real estate demands a certain amount of attention to detail, after all. Some rambled through some answers after the beep. They didn’t make it either. The best candidates would hang up, think through the questions, and then phone back with well-rehearsed answers. Voila.
Two things. First, if you’re hiring, follow a process. Our course Career Visioning is the best I’ve seen. I helped author two versions of the course and have still attended a dozen or more times. Second, consider creating an interview screening test specific to the role or your culture. Every extra insight can make the hiring decision easier.
One question to ponder in your thinking time: How can you bring more process and rigor to your hiring?
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