Finding and selecting talent takes an enormous amount of time.
Sifting through prospective candidates, narrowing the list to finalists, and then interviewing to find the best match is arduous work. The significant time spent with the candidates that aren’t hired or selected is a huge waste of time.
Unless you decide to make this time extremely valuable, instead.
Evaluating the potential skills, talent, and fit of prospective candidates is the mainstay of the interviewing process. Leaders who want to make the most of this experience and gain true insight into the candidate save their hardest problems for them. You know…the problems you really wrestle with. The ones that keep you up at night.
Problems about the business or enterprise, the team, customer retention, conflicting priorities, strategy execution, and the like.
Without giving away confidential information, the best leaders pose their most complex issues and problems to potential hires who don’t have the same blinders or work from the same assumptions. With fresh eyes, the recruits can tell you how they would go about addressing the issue or solving the problem. You might be surprised by what you learn.
To be fair, most candidates won’t have the context or insight to provide an answer of significance. But the question and response will tell you a lot about how experienced they are and what judgment they bring to a big problem. This is valuable information for assessing how talented they really are.
On occasion, a candidate will provide an answer that gets sparks flying. Perhaps it is not a solution, but an insight that gives you a new idea. Or better yet, they describe how they have seen others engage this issue or problem. Maybe something, which up to this moment, you’ve been blind to. No matter what they say, you can gain some valuable perspective, either about them, about the issue, or both.
Saving your knottiest problems for recruits turns every interview into highly valuable time. Why go through the process and have nothing to show for it regarding those you don’t select? Propose your toughest dilemmas and see how they would suggest handling them.
They may hand you a gift.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an interview process where we employed the strategy mentioned in this blog post, and the results were truly eye-opening. During the interview, we presented a prospective candidate with a complex, real-world problem that our business was facing - one that had left our team at a standstill for quite some time.
As we laid out the problem to the candidate, they listened intently, asked insightful questions to gain a deeper understanding, and then began to brainstorm possible solutions. To our amazement, the interviewee proposed a fantastic idea that our team hadn't considered before. Their fresh perspective and innovative approach not only demonstrated their problem-solving skills and adaptability but also provided us with a potential solution to move forward in our business.
Incorporating this method into our hiring process not only allowed us to assess the candidate's critical thinking, adaptability, and judgment but also helped us derive value from the interaction, regardless of whether or not they were eventually hired. By framing the interview process as an opportunity for mutual learning and problem-solving, we were able to uncover hidden talent and drive innovation within our organization.