As Michael Schrage, of MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, wrote back in 2012: “projects are the real future of hiring, especially knowledge working hiring. No matter how wonderful your references or how well you do on those too-clever-by-half Microsoft/Google brainteasers, serious firms will increasingly ask serious candidates to do serious work in order to get a serious job offer.”
It’s clear this idea of having candidates perform projects is not new — and many firms already have strong internship programs where they’re able shape entry-level candidates and see the quality of work they are able to produce before extending a permanent job offer. However, senior level applicants are not typically able or willing to sign on for a three-month, low paid internship.
When screening candidates, one of the most important things you can do in an interview is to have them solve a hypothetical problem that is facing your company. This will allow candidates to showcase their problem-solving skills, and you will gain a sense of their past performance.
However, telling you how they would solve a problem and observing their quality of work can be two different things. Instead of simply asking a question, consider having your final candidates complete a project. This will encourage them to put time and effort into preparation and give them a greater sense of your organization. In addition, you will be able to see the quality of work that you can expect if they are chosen to join your team.
This, of course, can take many shapes:
First, choose a problem that you would want the candidate to work on as their first project on the job. Then segment the project into multiple steps and ask the candidates to work on the first couple of steps.
Next, have the candidate begin working on the problem. This can be done on their own time, presented during a digital interview, or even during an on-site interview.
Finally, allow the candidate to report on their results.
Having a project-based interview will provide additional insight to both the candidate and your hiring team. The potential employee has the chance to experience what types of work they will be doing if hired, and the opportunity to see what the company is really like before accepting a job offer. As a result of the work, the company will be able to gain a more realistic look at the candidate’s skill set to make a more informed hiring decision.