Several years ago I worked with an organisation that wanted to improve its interviewing techniques. The problem lay at every level, whether recruiting graduates or senior managers.
One step we took was to create a pre-work pack that candidates completed and sent before the actual interview. The pack immediately improved the interviewing process. It provided clues to:
* The candidate’s strengths and their potential contribution to the organisation.
* The amount of work they were prepared to put into preparing for the interview and the quality of their thinking.
* The kinds of questions that would prove most valuable to ask at the interview.
Imagine you want to take a similar step in your organisation. Let’s explore how you can make this happen.
1) You can design the pre-work pack for the candidates.
You will obviously design the pack to highlight what you want to learn about the candidate. As mentioned earlier, we used it to clarify the person’s strengths. At the same time, it introduced them to the culture they could expect in the organisation.
Starting with a short introduction, the pack invited people to tackle seven exercises. The exercises were stretching. They asked people to be honest and use their imagination. The candidates were also offered the opportunity to call us for more information. Whilst aiming to test their resolve, we wanted to give them every chance to succeed.
The exercises were on the following themes:
* My professional picture of success.
The things that I want to achieve in my working life.
* My strengths.
The specific activities in which I deliver ‘As’ – rather than Bs or Cs – and my best contribution to an employer.
* My successful style.
The specific principles I follow to do my most satisfying work and how I can follow these in the future.
* Superb customer service.
A time when I have given superb service and how I can follow those principles in the future.
* The Managing Director Question.
If I were a leader, what would I hire somebody like myself to deliver?
* My future work.
The possible routes I can follow in my future work – together with the pluses and minuses of each route.
* My specific goals in the first 3 months.
If I got the role, these are the specific things I would aim to deliver in the first 3 months.
The pack also provided space for the candidate to add any further thoughts they would like to add to their application. The following pages provide a complete version of the pack. You would, of course, design such a pack to fit your own purpose.
2) You can invite the candidates to complete and return the pack before the interview.
This process can be enlightening. We found that the candidates responded in different ways. How they behaved provided lots of information regarding whether or not they might be positive contributors to the organisation. For example:
* Some people completed the pack superbly.
The time and effort they invested was encouraging, as were some of their answers. Some people completed the pack without asking for more information. Others asked for details regarding the exercises, the role and the organisation.
Both approaches were okay. The ways that people answered the questions – and any interactions we had with them – helped to build a picture of their personalities.
* Some people found the exercises challenging, but they still did a good job with the pack.
For some it was the first time they had met these kinds of exercises. Such people needed a bit more guidance, but they were open and willing to do their best. This helped us to find out more about them as people.
* Some people made a poor job of tackling the pack.
There were various reasons for this happening. Some people found it difficult to understand the exercises. Some gave poor answers or did not put in the effort. One candidate for a senior management role, for example, packed the exercises with management clichés, failed to run a spell check and returned the pack two days after the agreed deadline. He did not get the job.
3) You can use the pack during the candidate’s interview.
The pre-work helps to clarify what it would be good to explore at the interview. We often found that it might be useful, for example, to ask the person more about:
* Their strengths.
This helped to clarify where they could deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs.
* Their successful style.
This was often the most revealing exercise to find their preferred way of working and potential contribution to the business.
* Their specific goals for the first 3 months.
This showed if they were savvy and had considered how to make a positive contribution.
Previously the interviewers had spent around twenty minutes asking questions around a person’s CV. The pack provided material that they could use straight away. As mentioned earlier, it gave clues to the person’s attitude and quality of thinking. It also provided a bridge to explaining the organisation’s culture. We wanted people who would take responsibility, make clear contracts and deliver results.
“The Successful Style exercise helped to put people in the right places,” said one person. “It highlighted a person’s ‘default’ – the things they did naturally. It showed where they had a strong drive, natural discipline and attention to detail. If somebody had a track record of building prototypes, for example, it would be crazy to put them into a ‘maintenance’ role.
“We also used the exercise with our current employees during career development sessions. Frequently it helped to create a ‘win-win’. We explored how they could find or create roles that would be a win for them and a win for the company.”
There are many ways to use a Candidate Pre-work Pack. You will, of course, design one that fits your own purpose. Recruitment will always be challenging, but the pack can provide much more information. It improves the chances of selecting people who will help the organisation to achieve success.