The use of a technology interview as a second-tier hiring technique is a brilliant one executed by business owners who understand that there is a lot to be gained when a candidate is asked to “deliver the goods” through authentic assessment instead of merely talk about his or her competencies.
Be sure your technology interview includes the following five areas for insights:
(1) Deliver the exam in person instead of leaving the candidate alone with a set of instructions.
This method is highly efficient because the evaluation can happen concurrently with the exam instead of after the exam, which means a quicker turnaround. Additionally, body language, verbal asides, and side conversations give me critical insights about the candidate’s self-confidence, history, goals, and attitudes.
(2) Compare the candidate’s observed level of expertise with what the candidate reported on his/her resume or during the initial interview with management.
This provides the employer with insights into the candidate’s self-assessment, forthrightness, and judgment. I have heard people say many times, “I know Excel,” but just because a candidate has typed information into a spreadsheet does not imply proficiency with PivotTables, VLOOKUP, filters, and print settings. Conversely, with only a verbal interview one of my clients would have missed out on a valuable accountant who was too humble about her QuickBooks expertise.
(3) Witness the candidate’s ability to quickly master new techniques.
Some employers are willing to hire a candidate with less expertise but greater potential than other candidates. Additionally, candidates tend to overstate their qualifications in the verbal interview and understate them in the technology interview. Suddenly they claim that they never learned SUM so they can show how easily they pick it up? Right. “Teach” it to them, but then go on to SUMIF and SUMIFS to watch them sink or swim.
(4) Observe sloppy or thorough work habits.
Accountants who naturally look for opportunities to double-check totals, check off figures, and label data have built strong work habits. The way that a candidate works the computer in an interview reflects the way the he or she will work once hired. If the candidate has established habits like these, they will show up unannounced in a technology interview. When a candidate clicks carelessly, ignores or skips cross-checking, or makes errors and then simply wonders why something went wrong, expect more of the same on the job.
(5) Listen to what the candidate communicates with an outside consultant that they would never express with a potential employer.
Even though all parties are aware that the interviewer has been hired by the employer and will report to the employer, candidates communicate a great deal more about who they are, where they’ve been, and where they want to go when two factors are in play: (1) the interviewer is an outside consultant, not an employee or management of the company, (2) the candidate is looking at a computer screen instead of the interviewer, and (3) accounting tasks which are routine and familiar are part of the interview.