Friday, 28 February 2014

Play to get a job

At many companies, job interviews are limited to a pretty single-sided meeting of talking heads:
The candidate is interviewed by several people from the employer-to-be, and struggles to present himself in a good light.

At play4agile 2014, a conference aiming to introduce playfulness to the workspace, we challenged that premise, wondering how make these get-togethers more bilateral - and less talk.

The first thought came quickly: Represent strengths by picking one out of a number of super-heroes, represent your weakness by picking a super-villain to match. To spur imagination, the organizers could bring a set of collectible cards representing the individual characters, so the less-geeky have a chance to be part of the ensuing conversation.
We iterated over a number of ideas on that pattern, but stuck with the issue of one-sidedness:
It always felt like the candidate was up for inspection, with the company and managers kept their secrets to themselves.
With questions like "How will you possibly fail us?" and "Why did you quit your last job?" up for discussion, we felt like few candidates were trusting enough to answer honestly.

An ice-breaker was called for, and we found in the form of physical games:
Something like the Columbian Hypnotist will speed things along greatly, allowing both the candidate and the organizers to let go of their preconceptions and find harmony in synchronized movement.

Afterwards, we focused on meeting the candidate on equal footing, with the company or one particular manager giving something of himself for everything that the candidate is asked to give.
Exploring his possible weaknesses as a team member? Offer your weakness as a leader first, and tell him how you are addressing that weakness right now.
Exploring issues with his last job? Be plain about issues at your company and how you are improving things.
To keep the spirit of playfulness, we enjoyed the thought of building this dialogue in Lego, forming a physical interface for the candidate to connect to.

Innovation Games are a great source of inspiration as well, with the "Product Box" a particular favourite of ours:
Ask candidates to build a box representing them to the team or company, while you build one for the respective containers.
This one not only offers points to talk about and greases your thoughts in an entertaining way, it also gives you a physical artifact you could use for a bi-lateral review some months in - possibly to amend it, and review it again at later point.

At the end of either exercise, you can ask the candidate to present the result to a camera for later discussion, giving him the option to take something home with him for later improvement (while keeping your treasured bricks).
The product boxes of successful hires might also make a great gallery for a team room or website!

How do you like these techniques? What are your favorite thoughts for lightening up an interview?
Please leave a comment!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


This is the transcript of a lightning talk I gave at play4agile 2014, earlier this week:

"Today, I was talking to another practitioner, who remarked that there was a mark of excellence he had yet to experience in the workplace. I asked him about it, and he told me: Humility.

In that spirit, I would like to invite all of you, if the guy next to you is really quiet, to ask him to share his wisdom - because by this measure, he has all your problems already solved.

Thank you."