When to Use Creative Interview Styles

As recent recruitment trends have shown, a highly competitive labor market and easy access to technology can make it difficult to differentiate between job candidates.While in the long run this is probably a blessing for recruiters (“too many good prospects” isn’t a bad problem to have), it can make the selection process a daunting task for many human resources personnel.

To salvage the situation, lots of managers have shunned the traditional panel interview style by adopting more creative selection techniques that are suitable for the changing times. Some of these creative interview styles include:

1. The Audition Interview

This style is best suited for positions where the employer needs to verify very specific candidate skills before making a hiring decision. Typically, interviewers take the candidate through a brief exercise or simulation in order to evaluate their core competencies. This technique isn’t just for actors. It’s increasingly being employed for computer programmers, copywriters, and any role that has a tangible output. Think you can cook fries? Prove it. Think you can run a board meeting? Prove it.

HR don't ask your interviewees to dance

Audition interviews aren’t only for artists. Just don’t ask your would-be accountant to dance! Ken McKay/Talkback Thames

Auditions offer candidates the opportunity to showcase their skills, while giving recruiters an enhanced ability to predict future job performance, and hopefully making a better hire.

2. The Mealtime Interview

As the name suggests, the mealtime interview (sometimes called a luncheon interview) is conducted with food, usually in a restaurant. It can be used to gauge how the interviewee handles herself in a social setting, or how he might behave when tight deadlines mean colleagues eat in the work environment. The interviewers’ focus is not only on the interviewee’s social etiquette, but also their cultural fit, communication skills in a ”natural” setting, and ability to multitask.

Given the nature of the interview, it’s best used when interviewing candidates for positions that require interactions with customers in a social setting, that require the candidate to represent the organization in meetings or businesses forums, or that involve teams working closely in intimate settings. Firms recruiting salespeople, public relations officers and direct supervisors are some of the companies that conduct this type of interview.

3. The Behavioral Interview

This interview style is arguably the best option when you’re looking for a highly experienced candidate whose past experience will apply directly and immediately in the new role. Sometimes also called a STAR interview (an acronym for the common response formula “Situation, Task, Action, and Results”), behavioral interviews are a good technique when the role requires very clearly delineated skills or has a set of commonly encountered problems and frustrations.

In a behavioral interview, the candidate is asked to provide an example of a time in the past where they displayed a specific behavioral trait or solved a particular type of problem. For example, they might be asked to “describe a situation where you had to seek buy-in from colleagues” or “tell me about a time where you had a disagreement with a supervisor.” The best behavioral interview questions should be framed in such a way that the candidate is unaware which behavior is being sought. This tends to improve the credibility of the answers obtained.

Even more so than many other types of interviews, behavioral interviews require significant amounts of preparation for both parties. The recruiter should be sure to conduct an identification exercise to pinpoint desirable behavioral traits for the job position. The interviewee should usually be told ahead of time that the interview will be behavioral, so that they can prepare by coming up with stories to share, and by reflecting deeply on their past experiences. This initial preparation makes the interview process a lot more comfortable for everyone involved.

In general behavioral interviews rely on the disputable assumption that past behavior is indicative of future performance. For this reason, they’re not for everyone, and are usually counter-indicated unless the candidate has prior experience. Some of the behavioral characteristics marked for identification include confidence, integrity, enthusiasm, self-discipline, perseverance, and adaptability.

Creative interview styles have become increasingly common. Even where a creative style may not be helpful in identifying top candidates, companies that go the extra mile by preparing an interesting interview experience are likely to have better luck attracting top performers. Your business can tweak and merge these styles to make them more suitable to your company and culture, and then study what impact they have on your overall recruiting pipeline.

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