For Effective Hiring in 21st Century, Engage Candidates in Action Interviews



Posing questions to job candidates in interviews, no matter how behaviorally based, doesn’t show you what they will contribute.  Perhaps this is one reason temp-to-perm positions became so popular even with the buy-out fee the employer pays.  The employer has seen the temporary staff in action.

Yet you can achieve a similar success by engaging job candidates in action interviews.  If you are looking for candidates with 21st century skills like creativity, conceptualizing, synthesis, re-invention, and true empathy/customer service, action interviews will get you there.  You can do them in-person or via videoconferencing.


To find creative problem-solvers …

Hold a mock meeting on solving a generic problem.  Have the job candidate participate.  See if s/he offers out-of-the-box or safe ideas.  Does s/he contribute any ideas or simply listen?  You can assess the people-skills as well as creative problem solving. 

To spot empathetic staff for customer service …

Have your best customer service staff role play true-to-life scenarios with the job candidate.  Use blatant and subtle examples needing empathy and see what the job candidate responds.  It is one thing to discuss how you would handle a customer interaction and quite another to do it. 

To find synthesizers who can see new ideas in disparate details …

Pick a recent example that you solved through synthesis of different ideas. Give the different ideas to the job candidate and see how and what s/he synthesizes. 

To tap the pool of reinvention talent …

Give the candidate 2-3 everyday objects and ask them to make a new useful object out of them.  The useful object can be anything; it does not have to relate to work.  You are tapping innate abilities with this activity that you can later apply to work related challenges.

To find conceptualizers …

Have the team of interviewers and the job candidate play “What If We”.  You can use a hypothetical product or service that relates to your industry or customize it to relate to your organization’s products and service.   State the product or service in question.  Then each person states aloud “What If We …” to conceptualize a new angle or improvement.  This is also a great way to find out what the candidate knows about your industry and company.


Remember: To find the best talent in the 21st century, engage candidates in action interviews.  Replace the bad surprises you get after hiring with happy surprises about job talent you find during action interviews. Combine them with resume/references and certain skill or interests tests where appropriate to get a fuller picture of the job candidate’s potential and interpersonal style.   

I welcome your comments, new ideas, and questions below. 

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

One Response to “For Effective Hiring in 21st Century, Engage Candidates in Action Interviews”

  1. Lubna says:

    Hi Kate,
    I love the idea of tapping the pool of reinvention talent, by giving candidates two three everyday objects. I think this will also show whether or not the candidate is able to think out of the box and be creative.
    Which objects have you used?, if any. Would love to know more.

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