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5 Creative Interview Tips to Uncover a Candidate’s Pros and Cons


Recruiting is easy, but talent-hiring is tough. When you’re recruiting, you’re looking at concrete facts — the applicant’s work history, experience in the field, education, and availability. But talent hiring? That requires you to assess traits that aren’t as easy to measure — things like creativity, integrity, and innovation.

There’s no simple litmus test for gauging aptitude in certain areas, but at the end of the day, these are the very things that separate bad hires from the lifetime employees. So shouldn’t you be doing more to quantify these “unquantifiable” traits? Hint: you should. Use these 5 creative interview tips to help.

1. Do your homework.

Your applicant shouldn’t be the only one preparing for the interview. You should too, and simply reading a candidate’s cover letter and resume don’t count. Dive in there and get your hands dirty. Look for inconsistencies or details that don’t add up. A two-year gap in employment? Overlapping positions at competing companies? When you find something that sparks your curiosity, circle it with a big red pen, and jot down your thoughts.

Then look specifically for work experience that echoes what the applicant will be doing with your company. Formulate questions to draw connections between the two:

“So I see you managed a design team at your old firm.Can you tell me about a time when your creatives began to take a project in the wrong direction? How did you get them back on track?” These kinds of personal, experience-based questions will teach you who your future employees really are, not just what they’ve done.

2. Know what you’re looking for.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but when it comes to talent hiring, many recruiters focus heavily on things like education and experience and rely on a sort of “gut feeling” when it comes to things like personal integrity, responsibility and creativity.

Since our intuition isn’t always correct, this is a dangerous habit to fall into. Creating a simple list of positive traits can be a big help, so before an interview, take a few moments to identify the necessary traits needed for the job.

If you’re hiring an event coordinator, the ability to multitask and to stay calm under pressure would probably top your list. If you’re hiring a computer programmer, attention to detail, and a high-level of focus would be key. Tailor your list of traits to each position you’re recruiting for, and keep it at the top of your clipboard during an interview.

Every time a candidate gives evidence that they possess one of these traits (or that they possess the exact opposite trait), take notes. This simple tactic will help turn subjective traits into measurable qualities.

3. Conduct a show and tell.

Instead of reading about a candidate’s accomplishments in some sort of a bullet-pointed list, ask for proof. If an applicant says he’s created dozens of websites for clients, have him bring along a laptop to give you a quick tour of his portfolio. If she ranks a newly renovated coffee shop among her best design accomplishments, conduct your interview there to see the work for yourself.

When assessing creative work, ask about the candidate’s artistic influences. Find out why they chose to go into a creative field. Open-ended questions like these will help you gauge the person’s level of passion, which can give you an idea of how dedicated and involved they’ll be in the future.

4. Throw them some curveballs.

Since there are so many blogs, articles and even personal coaches prepping job hunters for upcoming interviews these days, it’s easy for candidate’s to show up with most of their answers already memorized. So if the questions you ask are covered on every social recruiting profile and employment blog out there, don’t expect genuine replies.

If you want to get applicants to tell you how they really feel, ask them one of our “killer ninja” interview questions. For example: “You can telepathically communicate with animals. How would you command the animal kingdom to overthrow society?” When you ask questions like these, you’ll be able to assess a candidate’s ability to think on her feet, her creative problem-solving skills and even her sense of humor. Those are the kind of traits that questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” just aren’t likely to uncover.

5. Don’t fly solo.

People have good days and bad days. A candidate who gives an Oscar-worthy interview performance one week could completely unravel if tested again. That’s why it’s important not to rely on one interview alone. Instead, conduct two or three interviews. Use social recruiting apps, and get talent hiring managers and even company execs involved.

Having additional perspectives on an applicant can make can make the hiring job easier, after all, and using hiring programs will help you stay organized throughout the process. The Resumator’s applicant tracking tools, for example, allow an interviewer to take detailed notes and then upload them to The Resumator so that they can be shared with co-interviewers.

The group can then discuss impressions or explore any discrepancies discovered during the interview process. It’s a way to get a clear view of an applicant’s true traits — instead of only the ones they want you to see.

Even the most intuitive talent hiring experts will, from time to time, pass on a great worker or hire a bad apple. The Eagle Scout intern with the heart of gold works diligently for a week then disappears without notice. The promising young designer presents a client with a website that looks like it was created in MS Paint.

And somewhere out there, a great employee — one that HR simply missed — is working for another company. You win some, you lose some, right? But when you begin to look beyond a candidate’s cover letter and resume, when you start to quantify and gauge the subjective qualities that matter most, and when you teach yourself to really see the person that’s sitting before you in the interview chair, that’s not intuition.

That’s something closer to objectivity. And that, to us, is the secret of talent hiring.


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