11 Innovative Screening Techniques

By Jenn Steele - Feb. 19, 2014
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innovative screening techniquesGoogle’s big data analysis on hiring techniques last summer confirmed that interviews stink when it comes to selecting the right person for a hire. There’s really no method in our madness – it’s just that we can’t think of or – let’s be honest – be bothered to do the recruitment process any differently.

Well it’s time for a change! If you’re really going to find the right person for the role, you need to change up your hiring techniques. We’ve pulled together 11 examples of innovative hiring techniques that you can employ in your next hire to cut through the façade and find the real skills and culture fit you need.

Why Use Innovative Screening Techniques?

The best feature in creative interviewing techniques, and one common to most of those we’ve outlined below, is that they weed out the slackers. You know those people who just click ‘apply’, paste a generic cover letter and make you read at least 15 seconds of their resume before you realize they’re not a fit.

Setting up a more creative interview process requires a candidate to take the time to make the application. This means you’ll get applications from people who are genuinely interested. Don’t forget to make sure you respond with an equally courteous reply – whether or not they made it through – that appreciates the effort they put in.

So here are our top suggestions:

1. Describe in 100 Words or Less…

If you’re totally sick of reading four paragraph cover letters, ask the candidates to send through their resume with 100 words describing why they want to work for you and why they’d be good. Their ability to do this shows creativity and an ability to communicate succinctly. Also it’s a lot more entertaining than reading ‘Please find attached my resume in application for blah blah blah…’ a hundred times…

2. Video Introduction

You may be aware of the rise of video interviewing but have you thought about requesting a video introduction? If presentation is important to the role’s success, weeding out those with a lack of pizazz will save you time in setting up and conducting an interview only to discover they’re a DOA (Dud On Arrival).

Emphasize that the video doesn’t have to be good quality – it can be shot with a smart phone or old school handy cam and set a time limit – maximum 2 minutes – and a theme. Alternatively, check out online applications (like ours 🙂 ) that run the candidate through the process and coordinate the review of applications across multiple staff members.

3. External Contests

MasterCard receives outstanding responses to its InternsWanted campaign, now about to enter its fourth year running. Candidates from over 6 countries are invited to submit a ‘creative submission’ profiling their idea to promote a part of MasterCard’s vision – such as a cashless society – including blogs, videos, or designs. The winners get summer internships at the MasterCard office of their relevant country.

If you’re looking for someone creative, particularly for a role that is likely to have a large number of applicants with low levels of distinguishable experience – such as an intern – a creative contest can help filter through to those who really want the job and have the ability to stand out.

4. Open-Source Solving of Real Company Problems

If you have a problem that can withstand exposure to your competition, consider hosting an Open Innovation Challenge or hackathon. You will use a genuine problem that your company is facing and asks for submissions on how to solve it. It’s a bit risky to offer a full time position as the prize. It is, however, an opportunity for work experience, recognition of the winners, and a tangible prize to make you look like an awesome company. This will help you attract worthy candidates that may not have made it through a more standard interview loop.

5. Get Them to Game Their Way In

The US Air Force successfully used a game, simulating the real challenges and opportunities given to Air Force recruits to stimulate interest in joining. The game allowed players to choose their Squadron, emblem, and mission and work their way up the ranks. The game attracted many young people with keen minds for strategy and warfare, and it educated the players about roles with the Air Force as they played.

6. Group Interview with Teamwork Challenges

Group interview techniques receive mixed reports. The words ‘team player’ don’t really mean anything until you’re in a high-pressure team problem-solving situation – then you’ll really get to see temperaments shine!! Group interviews can be great if your role requires the ability to present well in front of a group; rather than an intimidating panel of current staff members, the candidates can present in a slightly less intimidating room of other potential candidates.

7. Case Study

Case studies are widely used in management consulting, as they are thought to reveal the way a candidate thinks and approaches problem solving. If the role for which you’re recruiting requires an analytical brain, provide the candidate with some hypothetical case studies. They should be able to ask questions and use a calculator if necessary.

8. Job Simulation

Frankly, there’s no greater test to see if someone will be a fit for the job than actually DOING the job. One of our training clients always provides second-round candidates with a brief for a 20-minute presentation and asks them to present to their staff. A sales department of a large energy company requires candidates to do a “trial session” where they work alongside a current rep for an hour and sell the product door-to-door. Ask yourself; what are the core competencies of this role that could be distilled into a 20 – 60 minute trial? Then design a project around them

Keep this screening technique for a latter stage process because it’s likely to take a good deal of time and preparation on behalf of the candidate.

9. Work Portfolio

Long used in the design industries, work portfolios can be extended to other professions that don’t typically require them. Events management, product management, content marketers, and even landscaping are all professions that create projects worthy of visual representation. Ask for examples of work and see what the candidates return.

10. Let Them Interact with Current Staff

If culture fit is of big importance, which usually applies to smaller businesses or tight-knit teams, you should to let candidates interact with your staff. This doesn’t have to be anything formal. In fact, you could offer to show them around the office after the interview (which just so happens to be during a lunch break) and leave them in the kitchen area with a couple of staff members for 5 to 10 minutes.

11. Create a Professional Talent Community

This is a long-term strategy to attract large numbers of folks with a particular skillset to your organization. Set up a community event – training, information, networking, or just simply social – for those types of people you want to attract (e.g., PHP programmers, events managers, personal assistants). As you build a valuable community, you will also be building a positive employer brand. You’ll also have a ready group of immediate connections familiar with your organization the next time you need to fill a role!

A word to the wise – creative interview methods take more time and effort to set up at the outset. You may need to come up with a tough problem for a candidate to solve or put aside an entire day to see candidates in action. Recruiters, typically, aren’t as comfortable with out of the box recruitment methods, so you may need to find a recruiter who specializes in the methods (or is game to give them a try!). If you’re going to attempt a creative interview process, don’t just slap it on so you can say, “Ooh look! We use innovative hiring techniques!” Make it relevant and high quality, or you’ll waste just as much time as if you stuck with traditional interviews.

At the end of the day, it’s not about which technique you use. There’s no one perfect technique (which is exactly why we should stop going so gaga over interviews!). Rather, each role will require a different mix of challenges, discussions, and tests to determine the best fit for you and your company.

Image courtesy of Kelly B.


Jenn Steele

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