When I studied my MA in Human Resources, I was taught that interviewing was, at best, only 50% effective as a recruitment tool. My experience bears that out. Think about it: for the majority of roles, candidates are only interviewed face-to-face once, for between half an hour and an hour. In that time, it is easy for a well-schooled candidate to put on an act; to make themselves seem like the perfect person for the job, when the reality may be somewhat different. Coaching job candidates is big business these days.

This means that, as well as potentially not getting the best person for the job, you are also, potentially, losing the best person for the job. In fact, it may mean that you lose the best person for the job forever, because they get something better and move onwards and upwards without you. Worse, I think, is getting someone that is simply not interested in the job, they just want a salary, or there are material facts that they hid from you and they end up costing you money. Of course, we all want the opportunity of talking to someone who may be working for us, but it is a bit like dating – you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs.

So what can you do to avoid the potentially costly mistake of recruiting someone who is not all that they appear to be at interview?

I wouldn’t ever suggest doing away with interviews altogether, however, there are a number of other methods you might want to consider as well as interviewing, including:

• Personality tests. There are dozens of them available, just do an internet search. Perhaps the most well known is Myers-Briggs’s, but DISC is also popular, and quite easy to use. We can do something similar in NLP using meta-programmes. Generally speaking, I don’t think you would use these for low paid jobs, but for managerial positions, they can be very illuminating.

• Job-related tests. Used frequently in the catering industry, you might ask a prospective employee to undertake some work as part of the selection process that they would do if they were successful in the role. For example, you might ask a receptionist to operate the switchboard. If you do this, you’d need to make the test quite short, maybe half an hour, unless it’s the industry norm to do it. If you make it too hard for someone to get a job, they may not bother. You may have to test the market to see whether including a test affects the amount of applicants you get, but my personal view is, it’s better to employ the right person first time round than get the wrong person.

• Creativity tests. Employers put a group of candidates in a room together and observe them performing a variety of different tests, all seemingly unrelated to the job for which they are applying, eg making a bridge from straws. This is quite an expensive way of selecting people, and perhaps a bit old-fashioned now, but I rather like it. It tests things that you don’t normally get to see with people doing. It also tests how they work with other people. Of course, you do need to have structured tests and trained assessors to make this work properly but if you are recruiting highly paid people, it’s an option.

• In-tray and other exercises. I differentiate this from job-related tests because although they are related to the role, they are more scenario-based. For example, I had to undertake a maths test for one role for which I applied on promotion. Fortunately, I’m not bad at maths…. Other exercises include giving candidates an in-tray (whether hard copy or online) full of work and asking them to (a) prioritise it and (b) how they would deal with it.

Another one is to present them with a particular scenario, such as where to build a prison. Give them three sets of information and ask them to decide on the basis of that information, providing detail as to why they think that is the right decision. In these tests, it is not so much the actual decision that the candidate comes to, as the thought process that got them there, which can be illuminating. This is cheaper than building models, but you still need qualified people, usually occupational psychologists, to administer the tests.

• Presentations. An old favourite, still used. The candidate is either asked to present on something they know about from their own life, or given a scenario and asked to present on it. They are particularly useful when the role involves giving presentations, but can also help you identify the thought process involved.

Bear in mind with all of these that there is no one perfect method for selection and you need to take into account your company’s needs when deciding which method to use. By company’s needs, I include any potential reputational damage if you employ the wrong person, eg employing a chef who can’t cook. You also need to take into account the cost of using one of these methods compared with the value of the person you are employing. And, beside all this, you have to ensure that nothing you are doing discriminates against anyone with a protected characteristic. This may be one of the reasons that I haven’t seen creativity tests used in a while, so think carefully and ensure, when you are inviting people for interview, that you ask them whether they have any specific requirements

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