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7 out-of-the-box interview activities

Sometimes, the standard interview questions don’t cut it when hiring. Even after asking out-of-the-box interview questions, you may need some more exercises that help you pinpoint the most ideal people for your business’s open roles.

You’ve come to the right place if you’re in that spot. We’ve gathered seven out-of-the-box interview activities to help you test candidates and ultimately find the perfect fit for your organization.

Let’s jump right in.

Personality Profiles

Having candidates complete personality profiles is a great way to spot red flags before rather than after hiring. Usually administered online, these profiles ask questions regarding temperament, personality, strengths, and weaknesses.

Because they take the face-to-face Q&A format out of the equation, you can sometimes get more realistic responses than what you can glean from a traditional interview setup.

Go Out for a Meal

Having a candidate go out for a meal with you lets you study how they interact with servers, how they manage polite dinner conversation, how much they order to drink (aka his/her situational judgment), general manners, and more.

Do you need to analyze whether or not they salt and pepper their food before tasting it? Probably not. However, this is a chance for you to study their behavior in a non-traditional interview setting.

A Challenging Writing Exercise

We know that writing is an extremely important skill in business (and that it’s costing billions in remedial training, too.) Having a candidate complete a challenging but work-related writing exercise allows you to study their writing abilities. Look at how they structure sentences, their spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and how they organize ideas into a written format.

Note: This is not a take-home exercise. It needs to be completed on-site, so you can be sure it’s actually the candidate’s work.

Wearing Shorts to the Second Interview

Southwest Airlines is famous for their “brown shorts” hiring exercise in which they asked formally suited, buttoned-down pilots, to come to a second interview wearing brown shorts.

While it seems strange, this exercise was a test of culture fit. If the candidate wasn’t willing to wear shorts to the second interview, they probably weren’t a good fit with the company’s laid-back, spirited culture. Candidates, in a way, self-filtered with this activity. You can do something similar.

Pitch an Idea

For roles that require a new hire to frequently speak in front of groups, present ideas, or communicate value, having them make an idea pitch during the interview process lets you see their skills and creativity in action.

Ask them to come prepared to pitch an idea related to the role they’re being interviewed for—complete with a visual aid (a PowerPoint, handouts, a video, posters, etc.) They’ll need to present their pitches to key stakeholders within your business, and the group should take notes on what worked well, as well as potential weaknesses.

Make Them Uncomfortable

Heineken, in 2013, made a video showcasing some of their strange interviewing activities that were used to study how potential candidates reacted. Activities included holding hands, addressing a fictional medical emergency, a fake emergency exit, and other uncomfortable (albeit hilarious, when caught on camera) situations.

If you want to know how a candidate will hold up within a culture with a certain sense of humor or open-minded perspective, these situations put candidates’ personalities on display…in a way that verges on both strange and cruel.

Give Them a Scenario

One of my favorite scenes from the movie The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is when they’re being interviewed for the internship with Google. They’re asked to respond to a scenario in which they’re shrunken down to the size of nickels and dropped to the bottom of a blender. “What do you do?” asks Google employee BJ Novak.

Their response involves letting the blender run until it dies, as well as surviving in the world after escaping the blender as two nickel-sized humans. The beauty of these scenario-based questions is that they allow the candidate to respond creatively. You can use these responses to evaluate certain skills you’re searching for, too.

Out-of-the-Box Interview Activities: Challenge Your Candidates

These out-of-the-box interview activities are a good test for anyone you’re considering hiring–and they’ll help illustrate a person’s real character. Try testing one out in your next interview, and see what new things you can learn from potential hires.

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