Job interviews aren’t just nerve-racking for the applicant – they’re challenging for the interviewer, too.

If you’ve ever conducted a job interview, you’ll know what we’re referring to. There’s the preparation, the nervousness surrounding who you’re about to meet, the eagerness to create a good impression about the company and the chance that you’ll be hit unexpectedly with an unusual question or challenging retort.

The other problem with job interviews is that they’re incredibly easy to get wrong. The person you meet and by whom you’re impressed on the day might be entirely different when they eventually start working for you, leaving the business in the awkward position of having employed someone who really isn’t fit for the job.

So, what to do? How can you ensure job interviews aid your recruitment drive, rather than hinder it?

Perhaps the answer lies in the way they’re held. After all, sitting opposite someone and asking them the same bunch of standard questions you ask everyone else probably isn’t going to be much fun for either of you.

We’ve got some good news – conducting job interviews doesn’t have to be like this. There are some brilliant alternatives to asking questions, and we’d like to share them with you today!

1. Role playing

The mere mention of the term ‘role play’ often strikes the fear of god into people, but that’s because it’s too easily misconstrued.

This isn’t about acting or being put on the spot – it’s about demonstrating how good you can be at something in a fictitious situation. For job interviews, it’s a brilliant tool, highly enjoyable for both parties and provides the interviewer with a great insight into the person behind the CV.

Rather than ask standard questions, make it clear before the big day that the interviewee will need to get involved in some role playing. This will give them the chance to either prepare – or cancel the interview. Either way, you’ll have got yourself one step closer to the real person.

The role play itself will need a brief. What situation will you theoretically put them in? For instance, if you’re interviewing for a sales role, the role play might see you acting as a potential customer at a product demonstration.

Tell them what to expect, but throw a few surprises in, too (for instance, the odd difficult question while you’re playing ‘customer’ never goes amiss).

2. Problem solving

This is a great technique for technical roles, but can work for all sorts of other jobs, too.

By providing the applicant with a problem that needs to be overcome during the interview, you’ll get a brilliant insight into how they cope under pressure and exactly where their skills lie.

This is often used when hiring software developers. They’re sat in front of a laptop, given a broken app – along with its source code – asked to find the bug, and fix it.

You could do it for our sales example, too. Present the applicant with a scenario where they’ve got to maintain a particular margin despite the customer continually asking for a discount. Are they able to get that sale confirmed?

Problem solving and role play can be combined, too, therefore get creative with the time you have with the applicant.

3. A practical task, outside the office

Who says interviews need to be conducted within the confines of a soulless office?

Depending on the type of business you operate, there should be plenty of opportunities to stage the interview somewhere else. In a field, on the shop floor or at a partner’s premises are just some of the example where you can ask potential employees to undertake practical tasks.

Even better, you can make the task something that is actually a real business imperative, with the output directly impacting the organisation. And, while this might sound a bit daft, if you pick something relatively low-key and which can be easily rectified if screwed up, you’re not really risking anything but the applicant’s chances.

4. Ask the applicant what they’d like to do

Try this one for size.

Rather than dictate what happens at the interview, why not ask the applicant to provide some inspiration? Tell them this isn’t your ‘typical interview’, and that they have free reign (within reason) to suggest how they can best demonstrate their capabilities.

You’ll get some fairly outlandish suggestions, but don’t discount them. By opting for this route rather than a standard interview, you’ll find out how creative the applicant is and how willing they are to step outside of their comfort zone.

Incidentally, you may also end up with a great idea for future interviews which you haven’t had to devise yourself!

5. Presentations

This is quite a common interview technique, but you may not have tried it due to your insistence on a question-and-answer sit down.

Presentations are a brilliant way to find out how well applicants cope under the spotlight. You can make them impromptu if you’re feeling particularly devilish, but the trick lies in asking the applicant to prepare a presentation before the interview date.

interview presentation

Make it meaningful in length (for instance, around twenty minutes), and either pick a topic that’s of great interest to your industry or ask the applicant to suggest their own.

6. Take them out for dinner

Our last tip is one you almost definitely won’t have thought of. After all, why on earth would you take a non-employee out for dinner just to see if they’re fit for the job?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward.

As we’ve already noted, interviewing people is tricky, because applicants will often put their guard up or display a completely different persona in that room. By instead relaxing the situation and taking them somewhere for a table-side chat, you’ll have a much easier time digging into the real person.

It doesn’t really matter what you talk about, either. Treat it as a ‘get to know each other’ exercise, and you’ll naturally fall into conversation about work. What’s more important than skill demonstration and working under impression in this type of interview is the human element.

Pretty quickly, you’ll work out whether or not this person is someone you can work with and who could bring success to the role in question.

Wrapping up

Our tips above won’t work for every type of job applicant – it’s worth bearing that in mind. We therefore recommend trying those out that interest you the most and modifying your approach depending on success.

Interviewing should be fun and, ultimately, result in long-term employment. Try these alternative ways to get to the bottom of each character that walks through your door, and your recruitment drive should become far more successful. We hope you liked this post and if so, please do check episode 12 of our podcast – Media CV and Job Interview Tips with Maddie Turner.