I love Nick Corcodilos of Ask the Headhunter fame. Among the plethora of gems in his wealth of sage advice for all of us -- candidates and hiring authorities alike -- is his mantra to do the job in the interview. In other words, a successful interview is not the hiring authority asking you a prescribed set of questions to which you provide a pre-rehearsed set of stock answers. Think about it: how do the participants in an artificial conversation like that determine authentically how well they will partner and contribute to the bottom line together, or not?
Instead, Corcodilos encourages candidates to adopt the salesman's stance to discover the business needs the hiring authority has and then effectively provide and demonstrate how their needs will be met / exceeded during the interview. Clearly, a much more authentic and revealing evaluation.
One of my best experiences of doing the job in the interview was when Bill, the best mentor / manager of my career to date, gave us both a break from the formal interview and asked me to write a press holding statement based on a chemical accident scenario he provided, giving me 15 minutes to do so. I loved it. I banged out the holding statement in 5 minutes and handed it over to him. Bill looked at me, looked at his co-interviewer and smiled. I knew then that I had the job. More importantly, I had the wonderful experience of witnessing Bill's appreciation for my talent and abilities as part of the interview process. Because Bill had the insight as the hiring authority to ask me to do the job in the interview, we had each other at hello. It was the beginning of a rewarding work experience for both of us.
During this last transformative trip to the Recession Rodeo, my trope or variation on this theme is to do the job before you're hired: as a 1099 contractor / consultant performing a small / short-term project for the potential employer.
Doing the job before you're hired via a contract project is all upside. Both you and the hiring authority get to experience what your shared work life will be like, allowing both parties to assess each other in much more detail than the much shallower artifice of an interview process. You get to interact with both your potential boss and your potential co-workers in the daily routine of their work environment. You can weigh the positives and negatives of working with the potential employer more objectively when they are your customer: frankly, it's less emotional and for the most part, more collegial. It also levels the playing field to the cost / benefit of a commercial relationship, rather than the often distracting power dynamic of the employer-employee relationship.
During such a contract trial period, the employer benefits from the product you produce to move their business forward, and you are paid for your work product / talent in the process. It's a business transaction: it's a win-win.
And if one or both parties decide not to move forward with an employment relationship, no harm, no foul. The employer has not made a bad hiring decision; and you do not have a short tenure on your résumé to explain to the next hiring authority.
Both interview parties -- candidate and hiring authority -- literally putting their money where the static interview used to be: now that's a human capital investment I can get behind.