Two points I need to get across before I start this post;
1. I have always believed that testing is the worst form of assessing someone’s understanding/grasp of material. All it shows me is that I can hand you a book, have you memorize that book, then arbitrarily ‘test’ you on information that you memorized. You just need to be able to regurgitate it when the time comes (then never again after that), not actually grasp it. A much better way to test the understanding of material is through a project based/case method. Create a summative situation which requires all the knowledge, have students implement solutions, and ask them why they ended up doing what they did – there’s no way to fake understanding when it comes to actual implementation.
2. I think interviews are a waste of time. Most interviewers have boring vanilla questions, and most interviewees have boring vanilla (memorized) responses. What are your three biggest strengths, weaknesses, walk me through your resume, etc. etc. It’s a broken process; a better idea is to let students do a 2-4 months internship where you can see what they actually produce. No one would buy a car before they can test drive it, and hiring employees usually entails a similar investment.
On To the Point
I am kind of a closet science fiction fan, and in one of my old favourite shows (Stargate Universe) they actually find one of the lead characters – the young genius – through a video game. He finishes the game (which is a series of puzzles that need to be solved), and at the end gets a call from the government asking him to join their ranks. Here is someone who would never have taken or even applied to a government job, but nonetheless found one through an alternate route. I thought it was a nifty idea, but it appears there is reason to take it one step further – and actually do it.
‘Gamification’ is a new and rising form of vetting candidates. Why not leave puzzles, challenges and test code up on your corporate website 24/7, inviting any able bodied person to participate? It’s better than open resume submission, because completion of challenges reasonably assures the candidates qualifications (whereas ANYONE can submit a resume). The interaction is results driven (you only talk to them upon success), and let’s be honest – it’s a lot more fun for the applicant. No more typing up another cover letter, tweaking the resume, and then submitting it all for the hope of getting a response. Now you get a chance to prove your skills in a quantifiable way – and get a much better indicator of whether or not you (as an applicant) will get an interview.
Many companies are already posing similar challenges as a form of recruiting. It allows them to constantly attract educated people who like a challenge – people who want to solve a problem not because they have to, but because they like the challenge of solving the problem. People who are self-motivated, seek out problems, and develop solutions. They don’t need to be micromanaged, and they can teach themselves the skills to solve the problems that stand in their way. Those are the kind of people who recruiters only dream about.
So here’s the question – what can you do to your recruiting process to make it more interactive, enjoyable (for both parties), applicative and quantifiable? Is there any way you can ‘gamify’ certain roles, especially technical roles? Even with non-technical roles (such as marketing), why not make the application more case based? Instead of a cover letter (which in my experience, are quite useless and universal – very few people write a new one for each application), give them a case to answer in a page or less. Example: “How would you improve our profile with corporate customers if you were given a budget of $5,000 and 4 months?” Listen to the answer, talk about it in the interview – then hire them for 4 months and watch them try to implement it. Now that is a reliable interview process!