Transforming interviews into auditions

Most of us struggle when interviewing. We want to really know the capabilities and true talent of the individual we are considering for hire. But, as we all know, when seeking employment, candidates are prepared, have well-practiced responses ready, and are posturing to impress. So, how can we get better at revealing their true capabilities in such a contrived, time-limited interaction?

Most business professionals have been trained in a ‘best practice’ interview technique called behavioral interviewing. This is a helpful technique of asking the candidate a question that must be answered by describing specific actions and behaviors the candidate used in the past to demonstrate their ability.

So, what’s missing here? Well, for one, it is historically focused. It is based on the past. And, the candidate, if prepared, can illustrate their qualifications by cherry-picking the best example of their brilliance at work. Great interviewers, by the way, are typically armed with great behavioral examples of their brilliance.

Perhaps it’s time business leaders borrow from other traditions and industries.

For example, the entertainment industry has been interviewing to select the right talent for many years. When casting calls go out, they receive literally hundreds of responses that must be narrowed quickly and efficiently. What can we learn from their experience?

Auditioning versus interviewing

What if we turn interviews into auditions? In an audition, you see how the person performs real time – in this present moment. No talking about it. No conceptualizing. No rehearsing. No preparation will help. Candidates must show up and demonstrate their competence in this moment.


How do we effectively do that? First, you must prepare. Create a common scenario that occurs every day in the course of performing this job. It is particularly helpful if the scenario you choose is challenging for many people you have hired in the past. For example, if the job requires time management skills and sorting priorities, present the typical challenge, and ask the candidate to determine how they would handle it. Right now. As they describe what they would try, throw curve balls and obstacles in their way to see how they think on their feet and respond to challenges real time.

This is particularly helpful when hiring a salesperson who will face obstacles and challenges as they attempt to get meetings with decision makers and face challenges in the sales process.

Role playing

Another way to transform an interview into an audition is through role playing. Instead of asking the candidate to tell you about something they did in the past, role play the scenario in the moment. For example, if you need to make sure the candidate can handle conflict, set up a role play and you play the role of the person who is upset and confront the candidate. Right now. And, don’t let the candidate go out of the role and start talking about what they would do in 3rd person. Insist they stay in character.

Here’s a tip. If you don’t like role playing yourself, you probably won’t want to set up auditions. You may prefer the safety and structure of questions that focus on what the candidate has done in the past. But, if you want to have some fun and see how the candidate is going to act in any common situation the job requires, dust off your acting skills, sharpen your improv talent, and create ‘in the moment’ ‘real-time’ experiences and interactions so that candidates can demonstrate what they are capable of doing.

If the position does not require the ability to interact with others, and is more technical in nature, you can design real-time problems to solve, tasks to complete, or tasks to demonstrate their capabilities and competencies. Again, observing in-the-moment performances.

By not allowing ‘conceptual’ responses, historical data, and rehearsed routines, you’ll get to see what the person is capable of in this moment.

Ready? Quiet on the [interview room] set. “Action!”