It is commonly known that all individuals should put their best foot forward throughout the interviewing process – both applicants and hiring managers alike. Offices are tidied up, everyone is polite with introductory small talk, and professional game faces are on.

“My greatest weaknesses? I work too hard. I sometimes care too much about the work I do. I don’t know when to quit; some have even told me my tendency to over-achieve makes others in the department second-guess their value on the team.”

Sound like a familiar iteration of an answer you have heard before, perhaps a time or two? Many would liken a first interview to a first date, which begs the question: when do you really get to know what is underneath the surface?

When the right talent is working together as a team, miracles can happen – but assembling that talent is an ongoing challenge all leaders face. The truth is that hiring is hard. No organization has perfected the process as to how to exclusively hire the right people, but our SRA Update shares some of the bold, quirky, and unique best practices that may be incorporated into your own evaluation system.

Cultural Connections
After a successful first interview, digital music giant Spotify takes candidates out of the office and into…the bar? That’s right; this non-traditional setting allows candidates to mix and mingle with potential co-workers where guards are let down and the atmosphere is more relaxed. Alcohol is of course not required, but this environment allows managers to evaluate how the candidates interact in a group setting and with their potential peers. Spotify has sought to create a culture where employees are friends who get along, and this step in the interview process aligns with that objective.

Not ready for the group happy hour quite yet? Southwest prides itself on a culture that finds funny, outgoing people. Generally, the first interview is a group interview, so screeners can see how candidates interact with each other. Don’t limit yourself to thinking of just pilots and flight attendants when you think of Southwest; this group interview can be a phenomenal opportunity for evaluating roles involving customer service, sales, or any situation in which the majority of time will be spent interacting with others.

Most candidates know to be friendly with everyone they meet the moment they walk in the door, but some organizations take it to the next level when interviewing out of town candidates. Sedan drivers are a part of the process, providing feedback to the hiring team as to how they were treated by the candidate, their demeanor, and overall genuine and positive interest in the prospective opportunity.

Get Creative
As generations evolve, so can the preferred means of communication. Organizations such as Zappos are keeping up with that evolution by eliminating job postings. Instead, candidates must create a profile on Zappos’ social media site, including a video cover letter designed to showcase their true colors. Pizza Hut has mirrored Twitter in their approach to hiring talent for their digital media teams: each candidate is given a 140 second opportunity to showcase their skills. Although certainly not appropriate for every role, this method shows that Pizza Hut understands what they want in a candidate (expert micro-bloggers who can capture attention immediately) and how to creatively screen for that skill set.

Pattern Interrupt
Disrupting the expected course of conversation can be an effective method to digging beyond the surface answers that a candidate has mentally prepared. Off-the-wall questions purely for the sake of jarring a candidate are unnecessary and may leave the individual feeling turned off from the opportunity, but questions designed to achieve a certain objective can certainly be incorporated. As an example, if the objective is to understand how much of an active learner the candidate is, asking about the most recent book read can reveal a more accurate answer than simply the direct question of “do you view yourself as an active learner?” If trying to assess for personality fit, questions such as “one time my sense of humor helped me was…” or “my personal motto is…” One organization wants to assess how willing a candidate is to pitch in whenever asked, so the question posed in the interview is “the newest hire in our organization is tasked with taking out the trash each night, until the next new hire starts. How do you feel about that?” The bottom line is if you ask the same interview questions asked by every other firm, you will likely get the same surface answers candidates have become comfortable giving. A pattern interrupt is a way to change a person’s state or strategy; consider incorporating into your search process for more in-depth answers.

Paint a Picture
Take a look at the “join us” section on your website; first, do you have one? If not, get going! If so, take a deeper look – does it do little more than list open positions, or does it tell a compelling story of your organization’s culture, your value proposition, and what others who have joined your firm have accomplished since joining? Although listing vacant positions seems logical, consider the opportunity this page holds for talking less about what you need in a hire and more about what you offer to someone and their career. Consider sharing testimonials from recent hires who can attest to the significant differences now that they are with your firm. Consider creating a video with clips from around the office, community, and spotlighting superstars – this can be an effective way to share “why your firm” to any prospect considering applying to your organization.

—Karen Schmidt