How does one evaluate a subject matter expert when you have limited knowledge or expertise in that discipline?

Most individual technical/skills based interviews last about an hour. Where time is wasted quizzing on subject matter that may or may not be relevant to the actual role itself. Scratching the surface on the level of depth that is brought to the table.

Consider another option. What I like to call a “working session”.

Invite the person to collaborate on a real problem that is relevant to the opportunity. This gives you unbridled insight into how a person thinks, communicates and solves problems within the context of real life.

This allows you to really drill down to gain evidence to support the hiring decision either way.

Today we’re going to discuss:

  • Why should I care about a working session
  • How to structure and execute a working session/ skills interview in your company

Challenge today?

  • Skills not matching up to what someone claimed (faker)
  • Or... Claimed to be able to handle more than capable (over exaggerator) 
  • Or… Just here for the perks & paycheck (freeloader)
  • What's happening?
    • Hiring Maintainers for builder or improver roles
  • Testing 
  • Outdated concepts - learned in college
  • Focusing on irreverent problems
    • How many quarters can fit in a VW van
    • Smart is good, smart with people is much better
  • Going too shallow
    • Not knowing what to ask
    • Not digging deeper to discover the truth

Why is this important to the company?

  • Too shallow conceals the truth
  • Smart doesn't ensure success 
  • Relevant skills give evidence of alignment 

How do we solve the problem? 

  • Build Interview Structure

    • Only need one technical/skills based interview
    • Timing
    • 2 hours- ½ day
    • Pay for their time (optional)
    • Who’s involved?
    • Co-workers, direct team, anyone in close interaction
  • Define the problem to be solved
    • A current problem that needs to be solved (reason to compensate $)
    • 3 components (key hires)
    • Goals review- understand expectations of KPI’s
    • Data or Gap Analysis- how does the candidate interpret data/requirements/etc
    • Collaboration- Review the details of the problem. Work to solve!
    • Example
      • Goals review - (5 minutes max) 
      • Data Analysis / Gap Analysis - (10 minutes max) 
      • Marketing Plan & Strategy (1: 45 minutes) 
      • Let’s discuss the marketing plan starting with what you feel is the best strategy 
      • Really try to dig into the "Why" How would you bring this plan to life? Based on what you know, what would be your recommendations for reaching the goals? Why? What other angles can we take? What would be the priority? Why?
  • Preparation for Candidate & Team
    • Candidate
    • Let them prepare. Send details in advance
    • Set expectations and discuss next steps
    • Team
    • Coach to be open minded and bias free
    • Ignore opinions, praise evidence
    • Work true - how they act daily
  • Execute to core values
    • Everyone should act as to the standards of the company values

Key Takeaways -Value:

  • Build a working session for each role. Becomes really easy when you get used to doing it.
  • Prepare the candidate for success
  • Team collaboration & buy in based on evidence not “uncertain feelings” - bias

Host Links:

LinkedIn: Company: Podcast: Authored: Healing Career Wounds (Amazon) HireOS inquiry:


This show is proudly sponsored by Criteria Corp:

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