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What an interview! March 6, 2007

Posted by Abby in innovation, Workplaces.

More and more, some organizations have decided that the normal application/interview process is just too boring.  We need to see the real person and how they’re going to act – enter: something fun and different!

1.  I am going to use the State Department as my first example.  The Foreign Service exam has several parts.  First, the exam itself, is a test of current events and world knowledge.  Actually, my Dad told me that he got into the Foreign Service because a friend of him suggested he take the test after he had won a few games of, what was back then the “newest thing”: Trivial Pursuit.

Another part of the test is sometimes referred to as “the desk” or “inbox, outbox.”  Essentially, the applicant is placed told their title or position in the service, and that this is their first day.  Their inbox has several letters and notes that had been sent to their predecessor.  The task is to sort out all these things, and either 1 – throw them out, 2 – send them to the secretary to address to someone else, or 3 – note them on their ‘To Do’ list.  From this, you can see how the applicant might handle certain situations, and how they prioritize.

Examples of situations:

  • Your boss and his wife have extended a meeting to dinner;
  • An American citizen was killed while on safari;
  • Someone in the office has a complaint about a co-worker;
  • An American citizen lost their passport
  • An American citizen has been imprisoned for stealing, which, in this country, is punishable by death.
  • A prestigious company contact who worked closely with your predecessor would like to meet for lunch;
  • etc

2. My second example, is here at Bucknell.  To increase diversity, we have a Posse program – encouraging and providing underpriviledged overachievers to a college education.  First, these individuals must be nominated by their school, or district to be considered.  Their ‘interview’ process, however, is very different.  The kids get together and interact, while counsellors observe their behavior in different games or icebreakers.  This allows the natural leaders, planners and motivators to stand out.  The personal qualities may not always be apparent from a piece of paper.

** While these methods may be a lot of work for HRM, do you think they’d be more/less successful?



1. Janine - March 7, 2007

This is a clever idea to take the interview process one step further. As someone who has been on plenty of interviews in that past, I have seen firsthand just how cloudy the current process can be. Anyone can glorify their resume, add jobs or job duties that they did not actually have or do, or fib about education level. I have been on interviews where I subsequently got the job, and after a month on this job the employer will tell me that they never called my references! He totally relied on my interview skills. What IF I had fibbed on mt resume? Of course, I didn’t, but that risk is one that some do in fact take.
I think the new method for interviewing will definitely weed out these bad apples, so to say. You get the opportunity to see the candidates in action, and that is more valuable than how well a candidate answers interview questions. In addition, I think this process can allow the organization to see if this person will “fit” the work environment already in place. Will he or she will affect the culture? Or will they fit right in?

My only question about this type of interview process is time. Will it take that much longer to interview candidates, thereby drawing out an already lengthy process?

2. Lady - March 7, 2007

In my opinion, I am in favor of these types of interviewing processes. This is the type of interviewing process used when applying to be an RA for Residential Life here at Bucknell. Potential RAs are put through a series of activities in which OHRL get to observe the student’s behavior and personality.

While a formal interview is conducted as well, I think the additional activities that allow the employer to get to know the potential hire are very much necessary. As Janine said, it is very easy to fluff your resume with things that look good and/or have good interviewing skills in which you talk about stuff that you never really did. I have witnessed this firsthand from students who display themselves well during the interview but then don’t do so great when they are being observed during the activities.

While I agree that this type of interviewing does take alot of time, I honestly think that it is worth it in the long-run. You sacrifice the time in the short-run but end up with a better fit for both the employee and employer in the long-run.

3. silviamocanu07 - March 7, 2007

In my view, the implementation of new interviewing techniques is a positive development, as it more effectively assesses the applican’t personality type and thought process.
Given this, I believe that a better fit between the job requirements and the applicant’s skills can be found. This way, fewer people end up in a job environment that they dislike, or, vice versa, fewer companies higher employees that turn out to be unable to adapt to the company.
Furthermore, the best measure of how well someone will handle their job is to directly assess their reasoning in certain situations, and I feel that the email tactic would be a great measure of this.

4. Stephanie - April 10, 2007

Speaking of interviews and innovation, I was asked in one interview, “talk about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a problem.” I stumbled my way through the question, but thinking about it afterwards, I’m still not sure I have a really great example. Maybe my hangup is on the term “innovative” and the distinction between innovative and creative. Also it seems as though this term is over used. In almost every article that talks about a company or organization in a positive light, “innovative’ is seen somewhere. But are they really doing this? It reminds me of the class discussion about innovation, and fashion and fads. What is truly innovative in your opinion?

5. Abby - April 10, 2007

To innovate is to integrate different things to make a positive change, or making changes to something already established.

While creativity is doing something others haven’t done before, usually relating to art.

6. Jordi - April 10, 2007

Why is creativity more the domain of art than technology or engineering?

Different thought- is observing a group interacting inviting extreme behaviors? If you know how you interact is a criteria for advancement and that you are being watched, would “survivor” syndrome kick in where everyone would be over-reflexive in anticipation for how they are seen? I am just curious. In general, it is interesting to see companies break away from normal interviews.

7. wilson7 - April 11, 2007

I think this new way of interviewing a certain individual is a great technique because there are some qualities that a person may possess that can not be seen on a piece of paper. For example, if a person is outgoing, a great leader, or a good speaker those are traits that you cannot know from a person’s essay. More importantly people could get someone else to write their essay or lie about some of their accomplishments and community services. Face to face meetings are a sure way to find out more about the applicant that a piece of paper ever could do for an interviewer. So I am in favor of this new process.

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