The best way to find out if somebody can do something well is to give them the chance to do it. While this isn’t always possible at the interview stage, you do have the opportunity to get candidates to carry out practical tasks.
Better still, have a conversation with them while you do something new together. You can see how they interact, collaborate and react to a new challenge. Generally, you can get a glimpse at their character.
If you have the time, take a journey together. Trips often result in the best conversations, and the moments when you learn the most about other people. The writer Michael Lewis said his most intimate, deepest conversations with his subject Billy Beane, the baseball genius behind Moneyball theory, were in his car, driving back and forth from matches.
“I learned this technique in college, during the best job interview I ever had, he told Robert S Boynton in The New New Journalism. “I was applying for a job to lead a bunch of high school girls on a tour of Europe. When I arrived for the interview, the guy who was supposed to see me was flustered, and apologised.
“He said he was in the middle of moving his furniture from one office to another, and asked if I could help. So we spent the next hour moving his furniture together. It was brilliant on his part. The way he interviewed people was to make them do something with him. He believed he saw character more clearly that way. I agree.”
Next time you carry out an interview, don’t sit at a desk for an hour and ask them what their biggest strengths and weaknesses are. Get them out of their chair and find out.