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Creative Interview Techniques: How to Determine a Candidate’s True Potential

Imagine having to escape a room in 60 minutes as part of your interview, that's exactly what the candidates had to do at a recent assessment day in a bid to bag the position of recruitment consultant at Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS).

‘Ability to work under pressure’, ‘team player’, ‘leadership’, ‘great communicator’ – it's no secret, employers are searching for key words and phrases such as these on resumes. But do these attributes actually come across during an interview? Even if they are demonstrated through tangible examples, it’s really hard for the interviewer to make an informed judgment - after all, the interviewer wasn’t there.

Ricky Martin, Managing Director of science recruitment company Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS), decided to challenge the conventional method of hiring. He felt that making a decision on what he heard during an interview wasn’t a true reflection of a candidate’s potential - he wanted to know more about them as people. So what did he do? He locked the candidates in a room for 60 minutes and observed them working under pressure as a team and communicating with each other to solve a problem! How did the candidates get on?

Arriving at the HRS offices in Loughton, the hopeful candidates wait patiently in reception. The day begins with a series of recruitment-related tasks to assess their skills and aptitude, shortly followed by a round of intense interviews with the senior management team.

Thinking that the toughest part of their day (being interviewed by the MD, Ricky Martin!) was over, the candidates were taken to Central London to participate in a top-secret group assessment.

Outside the venue, the candidates nervously speculated among themselves about the challenge that lay ahead. They were advised that part of the interview process would be taking part in a group assessment - however, the activity itself was undisclosed.

Once inside, the candidates sat patiently on the sofas and awaited instruction. The room was dim, there were no clues as to what was about to happen - only a picture on the wall showing the backdrop of London, adding further to the mystery. But wait, what’s that logo? Escape Hunt? Escape? Escape what exactly?

Following the briefing, they learned that they would be split into two teams, locked in a room without their belongings (ouch, no phone!), charged with solving a mystery and escaping - all within 60 minutes. And as if that wasn’t enough pressure, Ricky and the senior management team would be watching the candidates from behind the scenes on CCTV cameras. But was that all that Ricky had planned for them? Certainly not! To make things more interesting, Ricky decided to send in an existing employee! Awkward.

Watching their every move on camera, the SM team duly noted their observations. They were looking forward to hearing the first-hand account of what was actually happening in the room. Would their judgments be confirmed? Who was problem solving? Were the clues being shared among the team? Were they working together? Who was the leader? Most importantly, would any of these applicants make a great recruitment consultant who complemented the HRS team and shared the values, passions and sense of humour of the company?

Ricky Martin: Why we chose this innovative approach recruiting

"We decided to hold our group assessment at London Escape Hunt to assess the capacity of our candidates to work under pressure and solve a problem in a team.

To hire the right person for the job, it’s important to look beyond candidates' CVs, cover letters and perhaps even the interview. It’s essential to learn more about them as people.

Group assessments are a great way to assess performance in a range of situations and are typically designed around assessing candidates against the job competencies. Attitude and work ethic are always more important than a set of technical skills. Almost all skills can be trained, but a person’s personality is very difficult to change.

We all display a mixture of different characteristics in different situations with different people. We chose this activity because we really wanted to look closely at personality and behaviour. Research suggests that there is a difference. Essentially, personality is taken to be what we are, while behaviour is what we do. So being a team of scientists, we decided to test this theory - and what better way would there be than to conduct a controlled experiment!

Science is what we are about. We strongly believe that the science of recruiting is in assessing behaviours. Through observing the candidates’ behaviour in this unfamiliar and challenging setting, we hoped that it would help us determine which applicants would fit in the company well and identify a suitable role and team that would maximise their potential for both them and HRS.

creative interview techniques


Bringing new employees into an organisation really should be a well thought-out process and in some instances, finding suitable candidates for science jobs can be time-consuming. It’s important to have quality employees to help your company run and grow, with one bad hire potentially ruining an entire team's productivity. Of course, employees need to have the skills and experience required to do the job, but they also need to fit in with the company culture.

Whilst it’s essential to consider what a candidate can bring to your organisation today, don’t forget to think long term. What will they bring as they and the organisation grows? As a manager, your vision for your company impacts everything - hiring employees who share that vision and will only help to take your business forward.

The Apprentice was a gruelling recruitment process and looking back, I can really appreciate why it had to be so tough. Lord Alan Sugar wanted to find the right business partner, someone who was really passionate about winning that position. My advice is, whether you are taking on an apprentice, trainee or senior manager, it pays to get the right person, so invest your time in creating a truly innovative recruitment process.” ~ Ricky Martin, Managing Director of HRS

HRS can facilitate events and activities like the above on behalf of our clients. As a recruitment consultancy, we believe in using scientific methods to find scientific people and using such processes for our own science recruitment has proven to find people who are a great cultural, not just technical fit.

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