Show, Don’t Tell: Use Experiential Interviews to Hire for Fit

If you’ve been in the hiring game for a while, this has probably happened at least once: You come across a great resume, are impressed by the candidate in person, hear them say all the right things in the interview and hire them. Only after they start work do you realize they aren’t the right fit.

Experiential interviews can help you avoid unhappy surprises and hire with confidence. In these interviews, candidates perform sample work or even collaborate with potential coworkers. Interviewers put candidates’ skills to the test and gather in-depth information about their backgrounds instead of relying on short answers to standard questions.

Not only do candidates get to see what the role will actually be like, but employers are also able to more accurately gauge performance and behavior. Done well, this can result in better hires and increased retention. To break away from your company’s templated interview style and start using experiential interviews, why not try a few of these approaches?

Ask candidates to show, not tell, their skills

When hiring for any role, you’ll need to know if the candidate has the necessary “hard skills”: those that are job-specific and quantifiable, gained through training, education or certification. Instead of having candidates tell you what they can do, ask them to show you these skills by performing the essential functions of the role.

To see how they might perform on the job, first create a list of all the hard skills required for the position — then test candidates on those skills by giving them a task on the fly or having them bring in something prepared. If you’re hiring for a role you’re not an expert in, ask someone who currently holds that role for ideas on how to apply key skills. And make sure you give each candidate the same tasks so you can compare them accurately at the end.

Experiential interviews are like an audition for the role you’re hiring for, allowing you to see the candidate’s talent in action before you make a decision. Make sure to watch for body language and nonverbal cues when observing candidates’ behavior, as well, to get a more accurate picture of what they would be like at work. For example, someone who tenses up when asked difficult questions might not be a good fit for a spokesperson role.

Here are some examples of ways candidates can show instead of tell you about their skills:

  • For a job as a Spanish teacher, a conversation with a Spanish-speaking interviewer would be a quick way to weed out candidates whose language skills are not so bueno.
  • For a job that involves writing, ask for a writing sample or give an in-person writing test. Make sure it matches the type of content they’ll be asked to do on the job.
  • For a sales role, ask them to pitch you a product.
  • For a coaching or training position, invite them to run part of a class or practice.

And so on. Think about the work the role requires and come up with a test that makes the candidate show it in action.

Open-ended questions will tell you more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’

In addition to the hard skills needed to…

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