FRIDAY HR FAQs – Should you set a task at interview?

Date: Friday, 20th July, 2018

In essence there is no right or wrong answer to this question, it’s a decision you will need to make based on what competencies and skills you want to assess during the meeting.

As part of the selection process, employers may conduct numerical testing or ask candidates to complete a technical questionnaire to establish their level of knowledge on a certain area of the job.  These are quantitative approaches and provide easily comparable results between candidates.

If you want to find out about a candidates communication skills, how they approach scenarios, what their level of enthusiasm for working in your industry is, or whether they prefer following a process or their gut feeling, then setting a task for the interview could be beneficial.

Tasks require the candidate to come prepared to talk about a particular area of the job or company during their interview. Setting a question accompanied by background information in advance for the candidate to prepare a response, will encourage creative thinking. Your candidate can then plan a well-rounded argument with the benefit of being able to research the topic and fully understand the brief.

Allowing candidates to come prepared with an answer to a task will no doubt help you to get the best out of them and reduce the risk of uncomfortable silences from springing tricky questions on them.

That’s not to say that challenging, on the spot questions should be avoided at interview, and this approach is tried and tested and allows the interviewer to see how the candidate thinks on their feet and whether they react well under pressure.

However giving a candidate the chance to prepare and hopefully excel on a particular topic is also a useful interview technique, as it can reveal other important qualities and traits about them.

Interviews are generally seen as nerve-wracking, with the employer doing the grilling and the candidate often crumbling under the pressure.

So it’s important to remember that the interview scenario should be an opportunity for you to build rapport by speaking openly and honestly with your potential new team member, and so you should want them to do their best and hope they leave the interview feeling positive about working for your company.

Consider using an interview task to dig a bit deeper into why a candidate wants the job. The right task, which focusses on a plausible work scenario or issue, can reveal what the candidate’s ideas are about the industry, their plans to develop their position (or even wider team and business), and how their previous experience has set them up for the challenge.

You may want to suggest they prepare a PowerPoint presentation or bring handouts, as these will also give you an insight into their writing style, presentation skills and also how committed they are to getting the job depending on how well they prepare.

If you have any handy hints, tips or real life experiences we would love to hear them, please reply in the comment section below.

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