What Are Effective Job Interview Techniques?

In this article I want to go a bit deeper into the subject of taking job interviews in order to find the right person for the job. How it is done in some companies today. How others make it their business and how you could avoid loosing time and money within the process by doing it differently. Why? Because I think in traditional ways...

Job interviews are a fraud!

job interview

The perfect series of job interview questions do not exist!

During my career as a manager I have tried a lot of different interview techniques, some were given by HR people, others from fellow managers and others came from the internet. To be honest none of the ones used felt as working well and being conclusive. All were lacking some things and finding those perfect job interview questions is a quest I have never achieved but maybe you did. Then again...

The job interview questioning system analyzed

HR and other managers train each other, you'll get mentored by your superior and you grow or take over using similar or in worst case even the same job interview questions! It is a system that keeps itself up and running since ages and for many ages to come. Along the way the questions got published and answers analyzed providing insights that should suit the organization/manager to find the best person for the job but... In these days of big data, overload on information also these analysis are made public and thus available to us all. There are even websites that will combine the perfect series of job interview questions with the best possible applicant answers (top 50 interview Q's).

Applicants come well prepared

With all the research information at hand every applicant can prepare for a perfect job interview and as such cheat the system. Ok, they did the effort to prepare well, out of experience I can tell you that's already worth something but definitely not enough to find the perfect candidate isn't it?! Instead of getting honest answers you'll get a well prepared answer, that is either exactly the same as the best one from the research or very close to it.

lots materials

External screening companies

So what do companies and managers do that know about this and still want to find the best candidate on the market? Especially when they want to hire somebody for a big shot manager position in the company? The pay huge fees to other, more specialized companies to screen their applicants for them and come back with huge papers of feedback. I have been analyzed by 2-3 of those companies in my past and they really do a great job! Those screening companies provide a lot of valuable and accurate information but it takes them so much time, so much money and trees (read: paper). At least 2 half days working with the applicant, for the sake of sanity let's say they spent one day with the applicants analysis. We get to 3 days of doing work, most probably at least 2 weeks of actual time passing by and this for each applicant that is in the pipeline. You can do the math to fil a single position in an organization, what would you think is the average screenings you'll need? (skipping the ones that already look bad on their CV)

Save money, let applicants do stuff

In order to save some throughput time and money you could achieve similar results by combining some of the well known Innovation Games® and Management 3.0 techniques and practices. Instead of just using the nice job interview tips from your predecessor you switch things around, go out of the box and let the applicants do things instead of just talking. In order to give you a jump-start to a new way of taking job interviews I'll be so kind to give you a series of techniques to get similar insights as you would need to read in a screening document but in a lot smaller time frame, and related costs.

save money

The new plan for a job interview in 30 minutes to maximum 3 hours!

A very short list before we go into the details of each one of them: - Introduction of the applicant: Product box - What motivates the applicant: Moving Motivators - What does the applicant dislike: Worst Nightmare - What skills does the applicant have: Prune the Product Tree - Optional for managers: Delegation Poker - Optional for developers: Pair Programming Of course you should combine or just keep one of the above as you see fit with the constraints you have. Let's get into the details of each of them first before deciding.

Step by step on how to use Product Box to open an interview round - 30 min

Instead of going through a lot of formalities with the applicant you'll welcome him/her into a office where you put an blank, carton box in the middle of the table surrounded with some magazines (tip: take some that are related to your business), glue, tape, stickers, markers... Anything you can think of that would be nice to craft something with. Observe the reaction of the applicant on this unusual setting and you'll already have information on how the applicant reacts on surprises and unexpected things. Now ask the applicant to decorate the empty box as if it would represent him-/herself, similar as a box of cereals for example. Tell that he/she should imagine that the box will be put in a closet next to all other applicants and that the box should really attract the decision makers as well as describe the content. Again, similar as a cereal box. Do not tell the applicant how much time will be available for this, just be quiet after you have explained the assignment. Observe the applicant and you'll learn how he/she behaves in stress as the silent moment and unusual request will generate some internal stress. After 3-5 minutes you announce that there is about 10 minutes left to finish the box and keep track of that time. Also announce the time again when he/she is halfway. Observe how the applicant approaches the assignment, how he/she builds up the box and what materials are used. All of those factors will tell you more than any question would. When the 10 minutes are over you simply ask the applicant to stand up and present his/her box to you. Observe how the applicant is presenting, what emotions are showing up while talking, how his/her voice is changing at certain moments. Again, this will tell you more about the applicant his/her passions, values and interests than any other question would and in the mean time you also have discovered how creative the person is. When using magazines related to your business you could also see what aspects of the business attracts the applicant as those might have been used on the box. In other words, way too many possible discoveries than I can list up. Every list I would try to setup would be incomplete as each box is different and each person is different.

product box

Step by step on how to use Moving Motivators to discover intrinsic motivations (not money) - 30 min

Once the introduction is done and the ice has been broken you can move on and give the applicant the deck of moving motivator cards. You let him/her have a look at the cards and then ask the applicant to place them in a single horizontal line where the left side is more important to him/her vs the right side of the line. Once this is done the applicant should explain why the cards are placed as they are giving you insights what motivates the person. This way you can evaluate if those motivations are matching your company culture or team culture the person is applying for. Once this has been explained you ask the participant to move cards up or down assuming he/she got the job they are applying for. Up = the new job will satisfy this motivator even more, down = the new job will satisfy this motivator a bit less. When the cards have moved ask the applicant to explain why, this way you'll see if the applicant really understands the job content given,  if he/she did some research on the company and how much he/she is motivated to join your company. This is also the moment for you to provide feedback about the job offer, your company to the applicant to make sure that there is no misunderstandings about the possible match.

moving motivators

Step by step on how to use Worst Nightmare to discover dislikes - 30 min

As every person has some dark side to him/her it is a good practice to let that one out as well. To do so you give the participant a empty flip-chart and ask him to draw or craft his/her worst nightmare related to having a job, doing some work at a company. This could be worst nightmare related to team, bosses, company culture... anything possible related to a work environment. Bases on his past or imagination, all is good. The applicant gets about 10 minutes to get this done and afterwards he/she has to present the flip-chart. This is the perfect moment for you to discover and talk about the dissatisfactions or de-motivators of the person and how they deal or have dealt with less favorable situations.

Step by step on how to use Prune the Product Tree to discover skills - 1 hour

The above will have given you a great insight into the applicant already but maybe you would like to gain some more knowledge on his/her skills, hard and soft skills that is. In order to do so you have already prepared a flip-chart or printed a poster that is representing a simple tree drawing where each branch of the tree is named according to the domains you want extra information on. For example a tree with a branch people, a branch language, a branch Java, a branch .NET, a branch NPD, a branch Agile... You hand over this flip-chart of poster and ask the applicant to complete the tree with apples (post-its) that represent his/her skills within that branch. Low hanging fruit are the skills with a huge competence; high or further away hanging fruit are the skills with average or less competence. Let the applicant explain why he/she is putting fruit on certain branches and distances/places and provide some feedback on that, make it a conversation. Make sure that the applicant is defining some detailed skills, if you allow too general fruit to be harvested then you'll miss the option to discover his/her real capabilities. Questions that might help you to get there are: can you tell me how...; how would I be able to see this...; how would I notice... It is a lot more fun way to really explore the applicant his/her practical skills related to the job than a plain conversation and you'll have something to take with you and compare participants. No further documentation on your part needed.

prune the tree

Optionally Delegation Poker for a management position - 30 min

First of all I want to clear out management position, I am targeting everybody that has to lead another person in some way or the other and this doesn't necessarily have something to do with the hierarchical structure within the organization. Secondly I will not explain the technique into every detail as this has been done in one of my previous articles: Delegation is an art! In short you prepare some scenario's that are suited for the job position the person is applying for and end the scenario with the question what level of delegation he/she would prefer to have/apply in that scenario and let him/her explain why. The best situation is the one where you play along and use your own preferences, this way you easily will discover the differences and can talk about the why in order to prepare the new person better for what is to come or the other way around.

Optionally Pair Programming for a software development position - 1 hour

As we all know the best way to judge people is when you really work with them together and as such it is good practice to prepare a simple scenario of pair programming with the new applicant and one of the senior developer from the team the applicant will be part of or working with. Make sure the senior developer knows the purpose of the session and agree with him that he should make mistakes while programming during the session in order to evaluate the attention of the applicant. In this pairing session you let them switch key boards every 15 minutes so that it becomes clear how the person deals with the stress of having somebody looking at the code, how he interacts with the other and a lot more. Accept the judgement of the senior development in how it is to work with the applicant and his/her development skills.

Conclusion for job interviews

Yes, also these games are a fraud. As I have explained before, if applicants also read this article and prepare well for it then also these games become a scam. Although... cheating a question versus a complete game, where not only one part of the mind is used (memory for example) but the complete spectrum, would  be a lot more difficult. By introducing the games into the process, applicants are forced to use their complete brain and hands to get the assignments done. This reduces the probability of cheating and increases the probability that it is always a different experience. Even when it is done with the same person but on a different time frame or for a different job application you'll get different physical attributes and conversations.

Just give it a try!

If you have some remarkable techniques yourself to perform job interviews then please post a line in the comment, we are definitely interested to co-learn. Contact us if you want to understand more on how to apply Innovation Games or Management 3.0 practices and techniques in your organization or just join one of our trainings: - Management 3.0: Engaging Leadership Practices - Certified Innovation Games® for Customer Understanding - Certified Innovation Games® for Agile Teams

Success finding the right match for your next job offer!

find the right one