Dig Deeper With Experiential Interviews

Stop Asking The Same Questions — The Power of Experiential Interviewing

The failure rate of new hires continues to increase, with one study showing it at 46% within the first 18 months. Interestingly enough, the research shows that a majority of hiring managers ignored possible signs of a mismatch during the interview process simply because they did not give the process the time and attention it needed or they lacked confidence in their interviewing skills to explore the warnings. So, how can you equip your managers to perform better interviews and help them ensure that the candidate is the right fit prior to an offer?

The answer is to implement an experiential interview process. Unlike traditional interviewing, an experiential interview can help you to not only assess the necessary skills of a candidate, but also evaluate their ability to fit within your company’s culture. Focusing on the fit rather than the find is key to hiring and retaining critical talent. By replacing outdated interviewing techniques with more in-depth questions and real-world scenarios, your interview team can more effectively identify perfect fit candidates.

Throughout this blog, you’ll learn the benefits of experiential interviews and how to successfully conduct them, as well as follow the story of Jennifer, a fictional candidate undergoing an experiential interview process. Let’s get started by first answering the question, “what is an experiential interview?”

What is an experiential interview?

An experiential interview fully assesses the candidate’s experience and skills through targeted questions with open-ended responses that provide a multi-faceted view of the candidate. This type of interviewing can be achieved at various phases of the hiring process, beginning with initial phone interviews and ending with candidate “auditions”.

During an experiential interview, use the information identified in your candidate profile to ask questions that will provide more than just a yes or no answer. The candidate’s responses should give insight into who they are as a person and as a potential employee by understanding what they have done and how they achieved their results. For example, if you are seeking to evaluate a candidate’s conflict resolution skills — a key trait for leadership positions — you would ask them to describe a time when they faced conflicting opinions at work and how they were able to achieve an effective resolution. This gives the candidate the opportunity to expand upon their experiences, letting you discover more about their personality and motivators.

An experiential interview goes far beyond the questions you ask. It also includes real-world scenarios that allow the candidate to solve a problem, show their craft, and interact with other members of your organization. It’s situations like these that separate the best from the rest, and offer a real glimpse into this person’s capabilities.

Not only that, but this interviewing method allows you to see which candidates are being honest about their experience. Ever heard the saying, “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?”. It’s no secret that many “ideal” candidates are able to talk their way into your company. Manipulating a traditional interview is easy, and unfortunately lends itself to unqualified candidates slipping through the cracks. However, when challenged with an unexpected scenario that puts their skills to the test, it’s clear which candidates have what you’re looking for, as well as the ones who don’t.

More than just a roll of the dice

Experiential interviews help you to weed out unqualified candidates and focus on those who would fit well within your organization. When hiring for any part of your company, you should feel confident that you have chosen the person who is most suited for your culture and position. However, these feelings of ease are seldom the case.

Traditional interviewing can feel like a roll of the dice, the ultimate gamble to discover if your chosen candidate will help your company grow, or be a stumbling block in its path to progression.

Experiential interviewing, however, offers clear insight into the candidate’s abilities. This not only benefits your company by allowing you to evaluate candidates more effectively, but also it benefits the candidate. In some cases, the candidate may not be clear on what the day-to-day duties of the role include. Similar to test driving a car, letting them interact with your company and potential teammates in an authentic way enables them to decide if the position is truly the right fit.

Attract, employ, retain

Improving your candidate experience goes a long way for your company’s public image as well. If you have a poor interview process, candidates are likely to tell their associates, and may even share their opinions and experiences on websites like Glassdoor. This can harm your reputation, and deter others from applying to your company. At the same time, a positive interview experience can help you to strengthen your image as an employer and aid you in attracting top-talent in a competitive market.

Not only attract talent, but also retain talent. Gathering a robust understanding of your candidates will be proven in the results they are able to deliver. By investing in the right talent, you not only ensure the fit of your new hire, but you are also able to strengthen your succession planning pipeline. Providing continued development and opportunities keeps your employees engaged and fulfilled, increasing your chances of retaining key talent.

“That sounds great, but how can I apply experiential interviews to my current hiring process?” We’re glad you asked.

How To Perform an Experiential Interview

First, Compare The Candidate To Your Candidate Profile

Before moving any applicant through the interview process, you must first make sure their skills, education, and experience align with the position’s qualifications and that they match the critical criteria established in your candidate profile. If you don’t have a candidate profile, we highly recommend creating one. Here’s how to do it.

Your candidate profile is the blueprint of your next hire. Any candidates who do not match your profile should not progress to the next phase.

Meet Jennifer. Recently, Jennifer applied for a Vice President of HR position with a large financial services corporation. Upon reviewing her application, Jennifer appears to match the position’s qualifications and aligns to the requirements outlined in the candidate profile. Interested to learn more about her, the recruiter invites Jennifer to a phone interview.

Conduct A Brief Phone Interview

A 30 minute phone interview should be all it takes to learn how the candidate communicates as you discuss their background and the role. This also gives you the opportunity to explore the candidate’s values and personality traits that may or may not suit your company’s culture.

Aside from simply discussing their background and the expectations of the job, you need to ask questions that reveal more about the candidate. Questions such as “Why us?”, “Why now?”, and “What job suits you best?” will give you greater insight into the applicant’s motives, as well as the reason behind their decision to job search, and their insights on the cultures and environments in which they would be most successful.

Once again, compare their responses to your candidate profile. If they match the requirements, they move to the next phase.

Still the right fit? While Jennifer appeared as a strong candidate on paper, the recruiter felt unsure about her relational skills after the phone interview due to long and seemingly awkward pauses after questions. However, she continued to display other, critical qualities the company is seeking. The recruiter decides that further evaluation of Jennifer’s relational skills is necessary, and coordinates an experiential interview with the team internally.

Get Hands-On In An In-Person Interview

This is where the art of experiential interviewing presents itself. During their in-person interview, allow the candidate to get hands-on experience, both individually and with other members of the team. The type of assessments in this phase will highly depend on the type of position you are hiring. For a sales position, have them complete a sales call. For marketing, ask them to collaborate with team members to create a campaign. Whatever the situation may be, brainstorm relevant scenarios and tests that would reveal key qualities of the candidate.

The in-person interview process needs to include high-performance employees and key leaders who can provide additional perspectives on the candidate’s actions and behavior. In some cases, this type of interview will be the determining factor between multiple, highly-qualified candidates, so it’s important to take this analysis seriously. After all, the traits, hard skills, soft skills, techniques, and behaviors exhibited here ultimately predict how this person will act as an employee.

Welcome to the team. The hiring department sets up an experiential interview requiring Jennifer to interact with a disgruntled employee in order to test her relational skills. During her assessment, the team realized that the long pauses that seemed out of place during her phone interview proved to be one of her greatest strengths. Jennifer took the time to listen to and empathize with the employee’s concerns, and was able to calmly and professionally defuse the situation. The team was so impressed by Jennifer’s performance that they decided to offer her the position that day.

Optional: Offer a Job Audition

Depending on the position, a job audition may be a valuable final step. Typically, a job audition lasts over an extended period of time, ranging from one day to a few weeks, and the candidate is compensated for their work.

Adhering to the “try before you buy” mentality, this pre-employment tryout allows you to not only see how the candidate interacts with their fellow coworkers, but also gives you an idea of the work they are capable of producing. It also provides the candidate with the opportunity to make sure that the work and culture are a fit.  According to the LinkedIn 2018 Top Global Trends in Recruiting Report, job auditions were identified as an effective hiring tool to minimize interviewer bias, assess soft skills, improve the candidate experience, and reinforce your company’s image as a top-tier employer.

From Candidate to Employee: What’s Next?

When done correctly, an experiential interview gives you a complete view of your candidate — including the parts that you may have initially missed. Like Jennifer, some candidates’ true colors may not fully display until given the opportunity to do so. Experiential interviews allow you to choose the best person for the job, and the best fit for your culture. All that’s left to do is offer them the position. For many companies, the path to hire is anything but a direct route. While including an experiential interview is a key element in the hiring process, it’s only a piece in a much larger puzzle. To learn more about the three steps to employment, download our free white paper, Evaluate, Eliminate, Employ: Your Path To Hiring Top-Tier Talent, below.

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