Have you ever met someone incredible in the interviewing process -- someone you instantly clicked with and who had great stories to tell about their experience where you could tell they really got it. It's a great feeling.
Except when that person struggles once they're actually on the job.
That’s why we created the situation activity step in our hiring process. To minimize the instances where a job candidate doesn't live up to their own hype or fails to live up to your expectations.
We mentioned this earlier, so, here's a comprehensive breakdown of how to run an effective situational activity.
Step #1: Decide What the Activity Will Be
The ultimate goal of a situational activity is to understand how a candidate will perform in the role. To start, think of a common activity this role would do and reverse engineer what it means to be successful at it.
Let’s dive deeper into the client-facing candidate activity we run. For an account manager, running client calls is an everyday activity. On those calls, they do a mix of project management, account management, and consulting.
Every call is different, and it requires strong inbound marketing knowledge, the ability to uncover what a client is really trying to say, the ability to hold clients accountable to deadlines and other parameters that will ultimately determine a client’s success, and most importantly, empathy and compassion.
We can’t afford to make a bad hire and have someone start working with clients, only to find they don’t have these crucial skills. So, we designed a mock client call to test for them.
The call has five or six preplanned agenda items to cover common occurrences like the client being behind on content, the client being frustrated with results and the value they see from IMPACT, and the client wanting to add on more work that’s out of scope.
These are normal things that could happen on a call -- hopefully not all on one call in real life! -- and something a client-facing person at IMPACT should easily be able to handle.
We provide an overview of the “client” and their current situation with IMPACT, along with a full explanation of what situation the candidate is stepping into so they know how to manage the call. An IMPACT team member, usually the hiring manager, acts as the client.
Step #2: Run the Activity & Assess Their Performance
When it’s time to run the activity, we hop on a Zoom video call with the candidate and make sure they don’t have any other questions about it before we get started.
We then reiterate the time limit they have and ask if it’s okay for us to record the call, so other team members can check it out. When the candidate is ready, we launch into the role play and let the candidate take it from there.
While the candidate runs the mock meeting, the person acting as the client completes our standard assessment in the background. On a scale of one to 10, we score for things like:
- Do they understand the client?
- Do they sound professional?
- Are they comfortable challenging client?
- Do I believe they care about my success?
(We evaluate 20 items in total, but we don’t want to give it all away here in case we have some marketing candidates researching us!)
At the end of the activity -- and once the assessment has been completed -- each candidate will have a score out of 100%.
To be as consistent as possible, we also developed a scoring criteria sheet that documents exactly what a one looks like vs. a 10.
Although it’s not perfect, no matter who runs the activity, we’re pretty consistent on how we each score candidates. This is thanks to the documented scoring criteria sheet and the fact that we know what it takes to be successful in the roles we’re hiring for.
Once the assessment is complete, the person who ran the activity posts it to our applicant tracking system with a thumbs up or thumbs down to proceed to the next step.
Step #3: Get Team Buy-In
To avoid the candidate having to do the activity more than once, we record it so internal stakeholders can listen and contest the assessment if needed.
This is another way we try to prevent bias or over-excitement for one candidate.
Before the “Bob call,” we make sure the manager of the team the candidate would go to, as well as their teammates, get to listen and say their peace before we proceed in the hiring process.
We have a hard stance on hiring being unanimous, so all immediate team members must review the candidate’s interviews and activity to ensure they are confident this person would be a good addition to the team.
If they don’t feel like they would, we don’t waste the candidate’s or Bob’s time on the next step.
Everyone, whether they move forward or not, receives personal feedback on their performance. This way we help and coach anyone who put in that much effort rather than leaving them hanging.
This also helps us see how they receive feedback, which is critical to professional development.
A True IMPACT Story: When This Process Saved Us from a Bad Hire
We once had a candidate interviewing for a strategy position that did a phone screen with one director, their 30-minute call with another director. By the end of both interviews, both directors were raving about this candidate. I (Brie) ran his activity and assessed his performance.
His score was an extremely underwhelming 53%.
Although he made a nice deck and seemed to care about the client, I docked points because he never actually did the one part of the agenda around strategy. He completely skipped over it.
When I threw a softball at him and asked directly what ideas he had in regards to the discussion we were having, he said he thought what was already in place was fine -- even though the situation was I was unhappy about my results.
I determined through his activity he would not be moving forward and when I called him to let him know, he got very upset with me. With a sharp tone, he expressed his frustration that I had “wasted his time” telling him he didn’t get the job when a simple email would have sufficed.
Rather than feel insulted or upset, I was relieved when I hung up. He further validated my opinion that he wasn’t a good fit. (Although to be fair, we now make sure candidates know they will receive feedback either way so we don't accidentally get anyone's hopes up.)