The idea of having project-based interviews is not new — and many firms already have strong internship programs where they’re able shape entry-level candidates and assess before extending a permanent job offer. But senior level applicants are not typically able or willing to sign on for a three-month, low paid internship -- which means recruiters have to turn to other methods for assessing top talent.
“Projects are the real future of hiring, especially knowledge working hiring. No matter how wonderful your references or how well you do on those too-clever-by-half Microsoft/Google brainteasers, serious firms will increasingly ask serious candidates to do serious work in order to get a serious job offer." - Michael Schrage, MIT
One of the most effective things you can do while assessing candidates through project-based interviews is to have them solve a hypothetical problem that is facing your company. This will allow candidates to showcase their problem-solving skills, while you evaluate their potential place at your organization.
Asking a candidate tell you how they would solve a problem and observing their quality of work can be two different things. Having candidates participate in project-based interviews will encourage them to put time and effort into preparation and give them a greater sense of your organization. You'll also be able to see the quality of work that you can expect if they are chosen to join your team.
Project-based interviews can take many shapes. Here's a quick breakdown:
- Choose a problem that you would want the candidate to work on as their first project on the job.
- Segment the project into multiple steps and ask the candidates to work on the first couple of steps.
- Have the candidate begin working on the problem. This can be done on their own time, presented during a digital interview, or even during an on-site interview.
- Allow the candidate to report on their results.
The Bottom Line:
Project-based interviews can provide additional insight to both the candidate and your hiring team. Applicants have the chance to experience what type of work they will be doing if hired, and the opportunity to see what the company is really like before accepting a job offer. Your company will be also be able to gain a more realistic look at a candidate’s skill set -- leading to more informed hiring decisions.