Interview Techniques – Thinking Outside the Box

If you are starting the interview process as a new employer you will soon find that it is extremely difficult to gauge the suitability of a candidate in the 30minutes or so that you have with them during an interview. Traditional interviews allow you to judge what kind of first impression a person makes. This is especially important if you are recruiting for a sales or heavily customer facing role because the employee will be meeting new people constantly and need to come across well. They also allow you to see how well the candidate can articulate themselves which is very important when you require someone with good communication skills.

However, there will always be a measure of the candidate trying to give the answers that they think you want to hear. Just because someone ticks all the boxes in the interview room it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will make a good personality fit with your business.  Try and think outside of the box when it comes to planning the content of your interview. Here are a couple of tips:


Giving a candidate a particular task to do during the interview is a phenomenon that has grown in popularity over the last couple of years. If you are a shop or sales company then ask your candidate to sell a certain product to you in 1 minute. This way you can see if they show initiative and confidence. If you are a journalistic company then give your candidate 10 minutes to write a short article on a relevant subject. I think that setting tasks during interviews is a great way to really see what a person can do as opposed to what they say then can do!

Group Interviews

Organising a group interview, where all of your candidates come in at the same time and are interviewed together, has a number of benefits. Firstly, as a small business owner your time is precious and spending huge amounts of it interviewing isn’t practical. Secondly you can very easily see the social skills of each candidate and how well they work as part of a team. Include some practical tasks like we talked about above but split them in to small groups to complete them. Usually a leader will emerge from amongst the group; someone who diplomatically takes charge and brings organisation, this is the person to really think about as a potential employee. A group interview will help you to develop your management training skills too. It will get you used to managing people of all ages and abilities.


“Give an example of when you have had to work as part of a team” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years time?” We have all been asked these sorts of questions at an interview. They are the kind of questions that provoke the predictable, employer pleasing answers that we talked about earlier. You need to try and be creative with your questions. You know your business and what is important for it to grow and so your questions should reflect this. Here are a couple of great questions that I have come across recently:

-For the first three months of your employment you will be a liability to my company. What will you do to ensure that the risk to me is minimised?

-What aspects of your education make your skills appropriate for my business?

-Who would you regard as your biggest role model in life and why?

Thinking outside of the box when it comes to conducting an interview will mean that you have a much higher chance of getting the perfect employee first time around!