Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Newest Tool in Interviewing

I posted the job opening on a Friday afternoon as I knew people preparing for the weekend, either at work or at home, would be able to find and respond to my posting. I only posted it in one spot and two weeks later I am still getting resume applications. 150 applications later and one solidly worn out printer, I felt like I was swimming in a sea of white.

I made my appropriate piles, but two-hours into my sorting and over 40 resumes in the "good" and 20 resumes in the "great" pile, I knew I did not have time to interview 20 candidates before the deadline to hire in two weeks. Final interviews with managers needed to be done the second week, leaving me either a solid week of interviewing with no client meetings or a new way to process all this paperwork.

That is when I started using the newest tool in interviewing: THE EMAIL INTERVIEW!

Based on actual things that happen in the company and that specific position, I developed four scenarios for the "great" candidates to answer. I figured that the interested people would respond back and then I could match answers with how I want that person to naturally respond to day-to-day scenarios. This reduces my need to retrain a psyche and instead focus on training the person I hire on technical things. They should naturally just react the way I want them to.

Here are the scenarios I created. Read through them and decide how you would answer.

Email Interview
The following are questions asked in our email interview. Please answer the questions to the best of your ability and email the answers back to angie.brown@angeionconsulting.com at your earliest convenience. The answers to these questions will be used along with your resume regarding the (insert company name) position of Customer Sales Assistant.
Scenario One
Please prioritize the following tasks to the best of your ability with the information provided:
·         Instruction Cards for Production
o   Instruction cards are used in the production process and are instructions about the usage of the cases. These are usually asked to be done by the Production Manager and are on an “as needed” basis.
·         Filing Customer Information
o   Customer information is to be filed twice per week and usually takes 1-2 hours to complete. This task allows the managers to find the information about their customers regarding previous orders.
·         Inputting Invoices into Database
o   Invoices need to be entered into the database to ensure that invoices are paid and production times are responded to appropriately. This is done about once a week and usually takes about an hour.
·         Responding to Manager’s Email
o   Managers email employees multiple times throughout the day regarding updates to their schedule and daily tasks for you to complete.
Please provide an explanation as to why you ordered these tasks the way you did.
Scenario Two
You are working in the office on a few high profile tasks given to you by your manager and the manager of the production department comes in and tells you that he needs 200 instruction cards as soon as possible. It is currently 11:32am and you get a one hour lunch starting at 12pm. Each step is outlined below:
1.       Print out card
2.       Cut card
3.       Laminate card
Each card takes 4 minutes to create from start to finish for one card. If you do each step in mass (i.e. print out 200 instruction cards, cut 200 instruction cards, and laminate 200 instruction cards) you can do each card in 2 minutes, however you not have any cards finished to give to production by the end of the day. What do you do? Please be sure to include verbatim what you would tell the Production Manager.
Scenario Three
Your manager asks you to hold their calls because they will be going out to the warehouse to review production details and prefer to not be interrupted. A potential client calls regarding receiving a quote from your manager. You can:
a)      Send the potential client to voicemail
b)      Send the potential client to another manager
c)       Place the potential customer on hold and go get your manager
d)      Pull up the product on the website and quote the client
e)      None of the above. Instead I would ___________(fill in the blank)_________.
Please give a reason why you chose your answer. Also, include the exact words you would use in your phone conversation with the client.
Scenario Four
The phone is ringing and you are in the middle of counting invoices and checking them for possible mistakes. Your email also informs you that you have an unread message as the production manager approaches you and tries to explain that they need 75 additional instruction cards (see description in Scenario Two). Please explain what you would do in detail.

The ideal answers are then reviewed to see how that person thinks about things. For example, a person can order filing customer information and inputting invoices into database as either three or four, it didn't matter to me as long as reading the manager's email was one and working on production cards was number two. I wanted to see why they would order one above the other and their thought process.

In scenario two, I wanted to see what the candidate would do about a solution and how they would naturally react. Since this is something that happens relatively frequently, I needed a problem solver instead of a finger pointer. The person that put the time into figuring out that the cards wouldn't be finished by the end of the day and asked the production manager how THEY would want them to complete the cards was the best answer. Also, the person that figured out that they could produce at least 100 cards within the time constraints to give to the production manager by the end of the day was another great answer. The person who also remembered they were working on high profile tasks and that those were still of importance was also considered to be thinking "big picture".

In scenario three, the main point was to catch the word "prefer". What does the manager mean by this? The person that went to the manager to clarify that meaning scored major points as a client could potentially be very important. I also made sure to include a major problem in the company with people quoting wrong quotes as a letter they could choose. A person who naturally feels they can quote would be problematic.

Scenario four addresses how people can multitask relatively quickly. The people that thought to mark the place they were at in the invoices, answer the phone and place the person on hold and then responding to the manager, knew that there was a process to the madness, but also an efficient solution.

Basically out of the 20 people that were sent an email interview, 9 responded. NINE! I thought there would be more than that, but there weren't. This made my job even easier because out of the nine people, only four had really exceptional answers. Out of those four, only two I felt were good enough to pass onto the company. These two were the best of the best and cream of the crop. I would send them to Top Gun!

In all honesty though, this process helped me see into a person before actually conducting an interview face-to-face and spending 1-2 hours of my time. We have all been there where the interviewer decides that the interviewee isn't all that interested and the interviewee has already decided they don't want to work for the interviewer, but because of formalities, you still end up in an hour interview.

Feel free to comment about what you think about this new type of interviewing. Would you find it helpful?


  1. Nice! I think you'd have hired me! ;)

    1. Way to go Denise! This type of interaction is important between companies and candidates AND allows companies to "interview" a greater amount of candidates!