Innovative techniques to better screen job candidates

Innovative techniques to better screen job candidates

Traditional job interviews remain a popular recruitment tool, but talent scouts recognise their shortfalls and are turning to innovative techniques to compensate.

The structured job interview, in which a recruiter asks a job applicant a set of primarily predetermined questions in person or over the phone, remains the most-used tool to screen job applicants worldwide, according to a LinkedIn Talent Solutions survey of nearly 9,000 talent recruiters from more than 20 countries. Three-fourths of the respondents (74%) said they use them frequently or always, and nearly nine in ten (88%) considered them somewhat or very effective.

Where traditional job interviews fall short, respondents said, is in adequately assessing job candidates’ soft skills (63%) and weaknesses (57%). Also, they can be compromised by a recruiter’s bias (42%) and take too much time (36%).

To increase efficiency and to increase the hit rate of good hiring choices, or to reduce the risk of passing on good job candidates, 56% of the polled talent scouts said innovative interviewing techniques are going to be very or extremely important in the future.

“The major problem with traditional interview questions is that most of them have become a cliché,” said Raju Venkataraman, FCMA, CGMA, an executive coach and founder CEO of Ecsel Consulting in Singapore. “There are books and websites and career coaches that provide candidates with the ‘right’ answer to the ‘Top 100 interview questions’. This information, then, enables them to fine-tune their perfect answers to each of your questions.”

Venkataraman, former CFO and head of strategy of The Walt Disney Company in Southeast Asia, said he still interviews job candidates the traditional way, but he also uses innovative tools such as vetting a candidate’s social media profile and arranging peer-to-peer and key stakeholder interviews to assess team and culture fit. Also, he said, it is now fairly common to use soft skills assessments such as the one developed by Pymetrics, a US startup that combined neuroscience research and artificial intelligence to match employers and talent. Pymetrics developed games that job candidates play and algorithms that interpret the data generated to look for cognitive and emotional traits.

Venkataraman also pointed out that while seeking to hire younger job candidates (Generation Z and Millennials), interviewers need to keep in mind that their perspectives on work and life priorities are often different. Including questions that are relevant to those candidates will show them the company understands and listens to them. He suggested considering topics such as their expectations for feedback and their interests in volunteer work, and blending in experiential interviewing such as job auditions and the opportunity for reverse interviews.

“In-person and phone screening calls are still the most common approach” in the UK, said Duncan Brodie, FCMA, CGMA, director of Goals and Achievements, a UK-based training and coaching company that works with accountants.

Brodie agreed with Venkataraman that new interviewing techniques are needed for keeping pace with changing times.

In the past, Brodie said, he has supplemented structured interviews with other techniques, such as asking candidates to give a presentation, analyse financial performance and make recommendations, or write a report. He has also used role play. For senior-level roles he has found short meetings with different groups of stakeholders useful.

Also, he added, “I know Excel tests [online tests that measure skills in that software] are also used from time to time. With the changing role of the accountant, I can see the potential to use these more to test digital skills.”

5 innovative interviewing techniques

The LinkedIn Talent Solutions study identified five innovative techniques that employers are using to make better hiring decisions more efficiently:

Soft skills assessments. Online tests that measure core soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate, curiosity, or how detail-oriented job applicants are. Questions tend to address past work experience, work style, and work scenarios. Test scores can be used to assess a diverse pool of job applicants by comparing each of them to benchmarks set by top-performing employees. Financial services company Citigroup uses soft skills assessments.

Talent auditions. Job candidates must master situations that reflect on-the-job conditions. Employers get to observe and assess the skills of potential hires during the auditions, and job candidates get a feel for an employer’s culture. Auditions may last a day or involve a paid trial run that lasts several weeks.

Interviewing in “real world” situations. This technique doesn’t predict job performance, but it allows employers to get a sense of how job candidates deal with adversity, or what type of people they are in a relaxed atmosphere. Charles Schwab’s CEO Walt Bettinger, for example, invites job candidates to breakfast and asks restaurants to mess up their orders. Others conduct interviews while riding on a Ferris wheel or in a Mercedes.

Virtual reality. Job candidates perform tasks in a virtual reality (VR) environment rather than describe how they would perform them. Lloyds Banking Group, for example, uses VR technology to assess finalists for job openings. The technology allows 360-degree movement to complete tasks and includes customised, standardised metrics to rate behaviour, which can reduce unconscious bias and promote a more diverse workforce.

Video interviewing. Job candidates record on video their answers to a handful of questions after they apply for an open position. The video interviews are screened by recruiters, who can review, replay, and rate job candidates and pass their notes on to hiring managers. The consistency of having all job candidates answer the same questions makes it easier to decide who may be a good fit. KPMG Australia, for example, is using 20-minute video interviewing to screen job applicants. The technique doesn’t force applicants to travel to in-person interviews, which broadens the applicant pool, and allows the employer to winnow down candidates for positions in which communication skills are key.

— Dan Holly is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Sabine Vollmer, an FM magazine senior editor, at