Transform the hiring process with experiential interviewing

Interviewing is a complicated, expensive process, but it doesn't have to be. Photo credit: Getty/Monkeybusinessimages

We’ve all been there. A reminder pops up on our computer for the interview we have in 15 minutes, and we spend the next 14 scrambling to find the application and remind ourselves what we’re hiring for. We may or may not have a job description, we may or may not have a place to sit and meet. When the candidate arrives, we ask about the best boss they’ve worked for (to make sure it’s someone like us) and have them describe why we should hire them instead of the other candidates. When that’s finished (phew!), we return to our desk feeling like we really accomplished something.

This scenario may be a familiar one because our industry experiences high turnover and, thus, spends a sizeable amount of time interviewing. Turnover, though, typically consumes far more time and dollars than interviewing. How can you invest your time and dollars in the interview process to make better hiring decisions instead of spending those resources on processing turnover? Turn your interviews into experiences!

Begin by thinking of the very best employee you have in each position and list the key competencies that person has mastered and exemplifies. Then, consider what you can do or say in the interview to determine if candidates have those qualities. Sometimes it’s a process or an experience—experiential interviewing.


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Words can only convey so much during an interview, so making the interaction more experiential may be more effective. Photo credit: Getty/Julief514

Instead of relying on a list of stale questions, have the candidate show you how he or she would perform. When interviewing for housekeeping positions, prelitter the interview space with paper clips on the floor or thread on the chair and see if your candidate moves to tidy the space. Better yet, stage a guestroom with obvious cleanliness opportunities and see how many the candidate can find. Walk with the candidate and notice whether there’s a sense of urgency and if your pace is being matched.

For sales positions, have the candidate demonstrate how he or she would make an initial call to a new client. Ask banquet-server candidates to show you how they would carry a tray loaded with full plates. Instead of asking how someone reacts to sudden changes, create one during the interview and notice the reaction.

Research suggests that only 7 percent of our messages are conveyed by words alone. In an interview relying solely on dialogue and theoretical questions, we are missing opportunities to see a true representation of what candidates may have to offer.

Serah Morrissey is area director of human resources for the WB Hotel Group in Edina, Minn. She is a member of the board of directors of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers and can be reached at [email protected].

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