Job interviews are predictable. There is a meeting in one of the fancy conference rooms, the job applicant sits down on one side of the table and the interviewer sits on the other side of the table. The interviewer reels off a list generic interview questions. Where do you want to be in 5 years? What are your strengths and weaknesses? If the interviewer is a little more sophisticated, they will go to generic competency questions such as “give me an example of a time…”. The applicant responds with the usual generic answers. This is usually combined with some polite small talk at the beginning and the job applicant asking some questions at the end. Boring!
Provide an office tour
If you want to mix it up and get some interesting insights that could not be uncovered in a normal interview, take the job applicant for a walk around the office while interviewing them. This is a great way to assess cultural fit, see how they interact with the team and the level of interest that they actually have in the organization.
You should introduce the applicant to individuals as you walk around the office and observe their interactions. Are they polite and formal? Are they personable and warm? Do they inquire as to what the person does or how they like working here? Do they notice something on the persons desk and discuss it? Do they act like they may fit in with the organization? Do they ask any follow up questions that relate what a person does to the larger company objectives? The other benefit of this approach is that you can see how they react to people with different levels of seniority. Are they as polite to the receptionist as they are to the head of department? It is a great way to get true insights into the personality of the person.
Have a breakfast or lunch meeting
This is something I have seen a lot of senior leaders do before hiring someone into a management role. They will invite the potential employee out for a meal, it is a great way to see how the person treats other people. As the famous quote goes “you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him”. Most people are on their best behaviour when in a formal interviewing setting. But in a setting, such as at a restaurant, there are a number of people who they will have to interact with, that they are not there to impress. This behaviour can be very eye opening.
At a basic level, the first thing to assess is whether or not the person is polite to the staff. If they do not do the basics like say please and thank you, how do you think they will behave in the office? Then go deeper. What happens if someone gets the order wrong? Are they rude and aggressive? Do they look people in the eyes when they speak with them? Did they walk in front of the pensioner on the way to the table, or did they allow them to go first? All of these interactions provide important behavioural insights in to the character of the person you might hire.