Do traditional job interviews lead to the right hire?
Three reasons we replace the traditional interview with a technical project
The Neurodiversity in the Workplace team consults with company partners to alter the traditional interview process, aiming to remove barriers for qualified autistic candidates. Each of our technical projects are specifically designed to align with the requirements and skills needed for the identified open positions. Teams of qualified candidates are recruited to engage in the project over multiple days and document their work process to show directly to hiring managers at the end of the event. This allows for direct skill demonstration and replaces the traditional interview for the following reasons.
1. It is more accessible for those with divergent communication styles
Traditional job interviews rely on particular social nuances and expectations in order to determine the candidate’s fit for the role and company. Questions such as “What are some of your weaknesses?” are not as straightforward as they sound, which can pose difficulties for literal thinkers and communicators. Similarly, showing excitement and interest is highly valued during the interview process. Interviewers may be looking for enthusiasm in smiles, eye contact and vocal inflection, but missing valuable indicators like asking detailed questions and showing in-depth company knowledge. As a result, interviewers are unknowingly excluding qualified candidates.
Traditional interviews also open up interviewers to biases. Instead of choosing an employee with the best technical skills, an interviewer may select the most charismatic or personable candidate. It is natural to select the candidate with whom you had the best rapport, but this approach can lead to problems later on if the employee cannot perform.
Utilizing a technical project minimizes these biases and makes for a more accessible opportunity for all candidates, especially those with divergent communication and socialization styles. It’s a chance for candidates to accurately showcase their skills, without having to navigate the ins and outs of traditional interview questions.
2. It provides more data points to hiring managers on candidates
We frequently get feedback from hiring managers that a technical project gives them a more well-rounded depiction of each candidate compared to a traditional interview. In a project format, we are able to observe candidates over a longer period of time and in a variety of settings. We witness how a candidate works in large groups, small groups, individually, and remotely.
We compile this data in a workstyle profile, which we provide to hiring managers at the end of the program. This profile provides an overview of each candidate’s technical skills, professional abilities, and their preferred working style (e.g., autonomous versus collaborative). Hiring managers appreciate the amount of data points that are provided through the technical project, and this information allows them to make a more informed hiring decision.
3. It’s a more accurate depiction of work performance and collaboration style
Not only do hiring managers get more data points from projects, but the data they get is also more reliable. The traditional interview is not always an accurate predictor of a potential employee’s work performance. We think there’s no better way to assess a candidate’s technical skills than through a project that requires them to utilize and apply these skills to a realistic scenario. Being able to describe your skills is not the same as being able to apply your skills.
Technical projects also provide insight into a candidate’s approach to collaboration. Interviewees are prepared to discuss their experiences working as part of a team and might sell themselves as team players, but these qualities are nearly impossible to judge from a traditional interview setting. In fact, portraying oneself as a strong team player is more indicative of someone having learned the “right” things to say in an interview than of someone’s collaboration skills. In a technical project, hiring managers can see how a candidate communicates with a team, divides up responsibilities, handles stress, and provides and receives feedback.
Technical projects are opening up opportunities for neurodivergent candidates across the country, and they are helping companies find and retain talented employees. Many candidates in our programs have interviewed multiple times through mainstream hiring practices at our partner companies without any success. And yet, these same candidates are hired when given the opportunity to showcase their skills through a technical project. Accessibility will only be aDochieved if we continue to innovate and question whether the traditional way is the best way.