4 alternatives to the traditional job interview

Feel like your recruitment process could use a little freshening up? From hiring teams to video games, here are some ideas you could use for inspiration.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 22 Jun 2016

Finding the right hire for your business can be a challenge no matter the size of your firm or the skill of your HR team. And the traditional process doesn’t always seem to showcase the best of people. Deciding the current format isn’t working, some organisations have decided traditional recruiting needs a revamp.

1. There’s no I in team

The mobile payments company Stripe is currently hiring, but instead of doing the done thing and selecting individuals, its trying a BYOT approach. That’s Bring Your Own Team. So a group of two to five people can apply all together for positions at the firm.

‘The basic notion that hiring should be oriented around individuals rather than hiring teams is actually a surprising one, when you think about it,’ co-founder Patrick Collison told the BBC. ‘We’re trying to construct teams, yet we’re only looking at individuals. That’s an odd mismatch.’

Why it could work

Many businesses thrive thanks to team-players, but often those who flourish working alongside others don’t succeed at showing off that strength in interviews. This approach could also cut down on a tendency to hire those who are ‘conventionally credentialed’ as Collison puts it. Encouraging teams to apply could lead to greater diversity of applicants and by extension greater diversity of ideas. Before introducing this you’ll want to clarify how you make hires though – at Stripe it’ll be a group offer or none at all.

2. Getting your hands dirty

Online retail specialist Summit asks its potential hires to go all Picasso - candidates are asked to create a mural in their interview. CEO Hedley Aylott says the idea was introduced around five years ago.

‘I was looking for a group exercise that was fun and creative and brought together both candidates and staff,’ he says. ‘The idea is that the team has to pitch to an audience – made up of Summit staff – using the mural as their main narrative without using words.’ The group shares their feedback and assesses whether they feel the candidate would be a good fit at the company. ‘I believe staff should have a say in who we hire to manage them and the best way to get them engaged is to play a part in the recruiting themselves,’ he adds.

Why it could work

Nobody can prepare for painting a mural – it’s a way to combat a case of the over-rehearsed candidate and adds an element of fun to what can be a very daunting process. It provides an opportunity for an individual to show how they think on their feet and deal with a group of people they’ve never met before – both of which can be incredibly insightful. But make sure you’ve got overalls on hand for the unsuspecting candidates, or it could get messy...

3. Stretching your legs

At creative agency 10x, a typical interview won’t be taking place in a boardroom or quiet corner. Instead, CEO Hew Leith has opted for a walk and talk approach, after a coffee shop interview fell through when the place was too busy. ‘It was only afterwards that the whole experience reminded me of a story in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography,’ Leith says. ‘Taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation.’ Believing this could be a route to more fruitful interviews, Leith started conducting his on the go.

Why it could work

It could be a way to see how a candidate rolls with the punches - it's unexpected and may throw some for a loop, but others may take to it with ease. But bear in mind not everyone will feel comfortable traipsing around, doing their best to avoid bumping into other pedestrians while coming up with answers an interview for a job they might be desperate to land.

It does though get you out of the office and into the fresh air. Leith’s last interview was meant to be a 30 minute informal chat, ‘but it went so well we ended up walking for an hour and half covering seven miles’. So it also means you could slot in some much-needed exercise for your day to boot.

Of course with spontaneity comes risk. As Leith notes, ‘We’re in London not Silicon Valley, so the weather sometimes means we do have to revert back to more traditional methods...’

4. Playing around

Deloitte’s new experiment could be a dream for those who are a dab hand at Candy Crush. Those applying to the firm’s apprenticeship programme will be assessed while playing an app called Firefly Freedom. For twenty to thirty minutes, candidates play a series of challenges that assess a number of personality traits.

Why it could work

It can be incredibly difficult to gauge someone’s potential in an interview - particularly those who are inexperienced and not used to the process. Giving applicants a chance to showcase a range of skills in a format they may find more familiar and indeed reassuring could mean you get a better opportunity to assess just what their strengths and weaknesses are.

So what’s next? You may have heard about the prospect of having a robot colleague in the future, but what about a robot hiring manager? It’s not that outlandish. Dan Collier, CEO of recruitment platform Elevate, says intelligent machines can use complex algorithms to identify the traits shared by successful candidates.

‘The technology learns which are the best types of people for a company to hire, and uses data from multiple sources – CVs, social media and personality tests if they’re available – to give a highly accurate ranking of applicants,’ he says. Maybe something to consider next time you’re about to wade through a stack of CVs.

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