The Appliject

September 12, 2012 § 3 Comments

Are ‘projects’ the New Job Interview?

In a 2011 Forbes Blog, George Bradt succinctly summarized what top recruiters say are the three true job interview questions:

  1. Can you do the job? (Strengths, & Assets)
  2. Will you love the job? (Motivation).
  3. Can we tolerate working with you? (Fit).

Most experienced HR professionals, hiring managers, and job candidates are pretty good at addressing the strengths question.  Behavioral interview questions presumably help the interviewee talk about prior experience that relates to the job they are seeking – and supposedly gives a fairly accurate picture of capabilities. But how do you get at Motivation and Fit?  How will the candidate go about influencing others?  Will she act as collaboratively as we need her to?  What aspects of a project will she dig into?  What will she avoid?  Will she thrive in our team’s climate, or once in, will she reject us?

Enter the “Appliject.”  A term used by Michael Schrage in his May, 2012 HBR Blog Network Post: Projects Are the New Job Interviews. In his words:

“…serious firms will increasingly ask serious candidates to do serious work in order to get a serious job offer.”

He calls this practice the Appliject to describe a better way to efficiently and effectively get the best answers to those “three true job interview questions.”

Used by some businesses already, the Appliject is a prolonged, on-the-job experience for a high potential candidate, applied prior to a hiring decision. That decision to hire is not made until the team and the manager has had prior experience with the job candidate as a freelancer, or now as a temporary worker hired for the purpose of screening them prior to any formal job offer.

For example, Schrage sites a software company that won’t hire a candidate until h/she has participated in at least two “code reviews.”  They do this to get a feel for the candidate’s critical thinking and collaboration skills. The point here isn’t about free or cheap labor, though that’s part of the reality.  The below-market rates paid to candidates can be a benefit for BOTH sides in the interview process, for two reasons:

  1. If chosen, the high-potential candidate’s experience now becomes part of the on-boarding process.
  2. It’s a value-add for the candidate because h/she actually gets to experience the company, the team and the boss – BEFORE they sign up, and regret a decision. Let’s not forget that any interview should be a two-way street.

The Appliject looks like a viable way to reduce the often misleading effects that result from iterative interviews that could be experienced as a form of Kabuki theatre, no matter how well structured.

According to Schrage, the Appliject will likely gain popularity in the design of business projects.  Incorporating job candidates into a project’s process will be a useful and interesting, if not challenging dynamic – especially when there is more than one job seeker on the team.

§ 3 Responses to The Appliject

  • Bob Faw says:

    I think this is a phenomenal idea. I know in our consulting firm that we already do this in a way. We have a potential trainer/consultant observe us, we observe him/her, and then hire them for a training or two before making any further commitment.
    I think this would take a fair bit of work, but could end up saving a lot of time replacing folks that don’t fit.

  • Thanks Bob. Yes, it does take more work, but always, when I hear the ‘mishire’ horror stories, I see that the cost of fixing the mistake clearly is worth the investment at the front end. Like marriage and divorce. First one is easy to do, second is difficult/costly.

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