Innovative interview techniques for employers

Small companies thrive on teamwork, shared values, and collaboration. This can be true especially when it comes to how to interview candidates. So when a CEO slips up and makes a bad hire, everyone suffers.

That’s why it makes sense to make absolutely sure that every employee not only fits the skill set you’re seeking to fill, but brings the right energy to your corporate culture. Sure, you’re familiar with all the tried-and-true interview questions, but are they working for you?

If your company seems to have sprouted a revolving door when it comes to retaining employees, it’s time to get creative. Here are some innovative interview techniques for employers:

1. Look for patterns

Aaron Patzer, who sold his online personal finance company,, to Intuit for $170 million, swears by an interview method called topgrading. It involves identifying the long-term patterns in human behavior by always asking the why rather than the what.

Patzer says topgrading was “over 90 percent effective” in identifying people who worked out and worked well at The method involves asking candidates detailed questions about success, failure, decisions, and key relationships in every full-time job they’ve held, in chronological order.

“I had one guy say he left a job because he didn’t get along with the boss,” recalls Patzer. “And then he said he left the next job because his boss was kind of a jerk. So you say, wait a minute, maybe it wasn’t your boss—maybe it’s you!”

2. Involve your staff

Eric Shiffer, owner of CEA Business Solutions in Montgomery, AL, says that he sets aside “a good portion of the interview for the person to interact with current staff. I will introduce them and then leave the room for 15–20 minutes or so.”

It’s not only an opportunity for employees to evaluate a prospective co-worker, but also a chance for the candidate to ask questions about the owner’s management style. “If the staff noted some things that I did not see and they were really against hiring the person, no matter how much I like them, I would not hire them,” says Shiffer.

3. Test critical thinking

Whenever Tom Szaky hires a new employee at Trenton, NJ-based TerraCycle, he always asks the same question: “If you move into a new market and you have a negative $10,000 budget, how do you break even?” When vice president of public relations Albe Zakes first interviewed at the company, which makes consumer products out of waste materials, he was initially thrown off balance by the question.

“I stumbled through some answers and then said, ‘This is a tough question, can I email you with some answers?’ Tom told me later that he liked the fact that I didn’t give up.”

So it’s not the answer to a tough question that matters, it’s how a prospective employee reacts to a challenge, and the process that they use to come with a solution to a thorny problem.

4. Tease out behavior

At Meathead Movers in San Luis Obispo, CA, brute strength alone won’t get you a job. Co-founders Evan and Aaron Steed know that every employee at their moving company will reflect the brand that they have worked so hard to establish.

“So when we hire, we gauge character,” says Aaron. Prospective employees are told ahead of time to come to their interview in a collared shirt and to make absolutely sure they’re on time. “If they don’t, then they don’t get hired,” says Aaron.

Likewise, Barry Steinberg at Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown, MA, asks his interviewees to show up at 7 a.m. because that’s typically when customers start dropping off their cars at his company. If the candidate makes a poor early-morning impression, there’s no chance of being hired.

5. Hold post-interview reviews

You won’t hire every candidate, but you can learn from every interview. Sometimes you will pick up new interview techniques for employers.

Hold a post-interview roundtable with colleagues, especially those involved in the hiring process. What impressed them? What questions did the candidate raise? What answers did the candidate provide that were weak or incomplete?c

“By sharing these impressions, other interviewers can verify their own candidate reactions,” says Eric Herrenkohl, founder and president of Herrenkohl Consulting. “Inevitably, one interviewer catches something that everyone else missed.”

Even if you passed on the candidate, that one lesson could be a game-changer for future interviews.

Successful interviewing is about learning

Anyone can conduct an interview, but creative interviewers do it better by learning new interview techniques for employers. With expert recruiting advice and the latest hiring information, Monster Hiring Solutions can help employers find new ways to hire the best workers.