Cancel Tomorrow’s Candidate Interview

I want to gut your entire hiring process.

Sure, I’ll take a lot of crap from other Headhunters  and from execs who grumble, “Leave me alone, kid. I’ve been interviewing folks for 20 years. I can pick a winner every time.”

interview-candidatesFine. Their loss. I know you’re smarter than that. Because you’re kidding yourself if you think that a slightly-refined hiring process will improve your results. It’s time to implement the proven #1 predictor of a candidate’s success on the job. (I’ll tell you what it is in a minute.)

But first, let’s recap why traditional job interviews are essentially a waste of your time. (or worse, downright hazardous to your hiring health)

From time immemorial, most leaders have relied primarily on interviews to size up a candidate.

By speaking directly to the candidate face-to face hiring managers believe they can form an accurate assessment of whether the candidate is right for the job and the organization.

Yet despite the countless amount of hours that we spend sealed in windowless, white, coma-inducing conference rooms interviewing candidates, about 50% of new hires don’t succeed. (not to mention, those conference rooms develop a noticeable funky smell from the candidate’s nervous B.O. Yuck!)

That’s right. 50%. Bag the whole thing, toss a coin, and you’d get the same result.

Put simply, focusing too much on interviews leads to bad hiring decisions.

I’ll recap why:

Number one, some candidates are great talkers. They interview frequently and are well-practiced in the art of reading the interviewer and articulating what you want to hear.

I’ve found that often, the best talkers turn out to be mediocre performers.

Secondly, unless interviews are well-structured (and they rarely are) they tend to lead to subjective decisions based on the hiring manager’s “gut feel” about the competing candidates.

I ask the same questions to every candidate every time. Instead of making up new ones for my personal entertainment. How can you possibly compare candidates if you’re asking different questions?

Many interviewers gravitate to candidates that are like themselves in background, experience, and style. They sail right over candidates who are better qualified.

And the biggie:

When we first meet a candidate, most of us decide at a subconscious level whether we like the person or not within the first 60 seconds of the conversation.

In fact, our brains are hardwired to decide, “Is this person a friend or foe,” based on thousands of years of conditioning and our innate survival instincts.

Once we determine if we like the person or not, we then spend the remaining 59 minutes searching for evidence that supports our decision and ignore evidence that runs counter to our choice.

This is called ‘confirmation bias’ and it’s a big reason we often get duped by impressive-sounding candidates who don’t have the right competencies for the job and are a poor culture fit.

If that’s not enough reason to distrust interviews, consider this:

81% of people lie to your face during the interview. The average candidate spews 2.2 lies every 15 minutes, according to a University of Massachusetts study.

No wonder interviews stink at predicting how Jill will perform on the job.

Fortunately, you have me, and I won’t let you settle for crappy hiring results in 2020. Instead of a 50% success rate, I know you can get it up to 90%.

Imagine the difference that would make in your business.

Work becomes almost fun when you surround yourself with a team of winners, and don’t have to spend your days having the “Jack, we need to talk” conversation.

I’m about to share the #1 way to pick the best candidates from the bunch.

But first, open your mind. Promise not to poo-poo me.

And really think about what this could do for your company.

Okay, ready?

The proven, nearly-guaranteed, most fundamental way to assess a candidate and predict with near-certainty how they’ll do on the job: The Test Drive!

(triumphant trumpets & bugel horns here)

A test drive – or what some call a job audition or work sample– is a real-world simulation that mirrors the actual work that your candidate will need to accomplish if they get the job. Done correctly, the test drive provides an incredibly accurate picture of how a person will perform in the role.

As a hiring manager, what more could you ask for?

After 25 years in the recruiting business, I’ve concluded that test drives are more accurate than traditional interviews, reference checks, intelligence tests, education, and any other criteria.

In fact, I now insist upon a test drive for every role at every level – from office manager to CEO.

But don’t just listen to me: A landmark study based on 85 years of data, demonstrated that work sample tests are the top predictor of job success. Bar none.

Yet, despite its proven accuracy, only 9% of companies utilize test drives in selecting new employees.

That means you can get a MAJOR hiring advantage over everyone else. Because they don’t know about it. Or are too wed to their old interviewing ways.

How to Design the Test Drive

Test drives can vary tremendously depending on the position.

Here are a few examples:

  • For an individual contributor role, you might have the person work independently over a weekend to create a multi-media presentation or perhaps code a new e-commerce feature for your website.
  • For a senior executive role, you may have the candidate attend a staff meeting to see whether they can make a meaningful contribution and advance the discussion. Perhaps ask them to make a short presentation and answer follow-up questions from the group.
  • For roles with very specific tasks, you could have the person come into the office and do actual work.

For example, a prospective customer service rep could spend a morning taking customer calls. A public relations staff candidate could be asked to write a press release in two hours.

Sure, this takes time and effort, but I have yet to find a role for which I couldn’t design a test drive. You can too.


You can really screw this up. If the test drive isn’t designed correctly.

So be sure to focus the test drive on the essential parts of the job they’ll actually be doing. If they’re not going to be solving cases for a living (what are you hiring? a Private Investigator?), then don’t give them a case!

(It’s the #1 mistake I see people make with test drives)

And be sure the test drive requires the candidate to actually do something, rather than “shadowing” or watching others.

Be consistent. Provide the same assignment to each candidate, with the same time constraints, so that you can accurately compare their performances.

I can’t tell you how many times the test drive has completely changed my mind about two candidates! I’ve seen smooth-talking executive candidates perform dismally when questioned in a group discussion.

Conversely, I’ve been blown away by seemingly introverted candidates who dominated their test drive meeting by virtue of their superior analytical skills and quick grasp of complex information.

The test drive results changes my mind nearly half the time. You’ll be shocked at what you see when you ask the candidate to DO the work, not just TELL you how they’d do it. And candidate’s LOVE test drives. Well, the Rockstars do. Because they love to show you what they can do.

And as an added bonus, I’ve tracked that my offer acceptance rate actually goes up. Because you’ve taken the mystery out of the job offer. Jill knows what the job will actually look like if she says “Yes.”

Given that 91% of companies do not utilize test drives, you have a great opportunity to increase your hiring success rate and outpace your competitors by requiring test drives for every position in your company.

Your boss will give you a standing ovation.

You’ll hire better candidates and build a stronger team.

This is your chance.

The test drive is the most important strategy I’ve ever shared with you.

What do you have to lose? Try it. But don’t boil the ocean. Start with just one role. Just one position. Your next hire.

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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