Death of the Traditional Interview

Josh Hawkins March 7, 20133 mins read

Has the traditional interview format had its day within contract recruitment?

Firstly to clarify when I say the ‘traditional interview’, I mean anything related to the process of simply inviting someone to sit in front of you before asking them questions around their experience and skill set that is on their CV.

Upon reflection, it would appear we do this because we have always done this and whilst I can appreciate there may be merit in this methodology during a permanent process, I just cannot see the same level of value in conducting a contract process in the same manner.

Traditional format is useful in a permanent process because:

  • Candidates often have notice periods to fulfil
  • The fit has to be right for the long term – company, team and person
  • Succession planning to fill key positions down the line so further insights into candidates’ motivations and ambitions are useful
  • Bench marking to further define the position
  • Best talent ‘in’ the market, particularly within senior or specialist positions, is not usually the same as the best talent ‘on’ the market

The above reasons are often not applicable for contract positions as they arise for different reasons and are usually focused on the job required at that precise moment rather than planning for future requirements.

Temporary job requirements often arise for the following reasons:

  • Project based role – implementation, transformation, back filling regular staff, training
  • Sick cover<
  • Maternity cover
  • Assistance with back log of work or a particularly busy time of year, e.g. year-end within financial accounting
  • Specialist skill set that is lacking in the team currently
  • No budget for a permanent head

These requirements are usually fairly immediate and as such whilst they are not being fulfilled can be disruptive and costly to the business. Often these costs are the intangible costs associated to key stake holders’ time absorbed through completing elements of the role themselves or through CV selection and the interview process.

So, solution time and the answer is ……………………………… The Working Interview!!!


  • Saves the hiring manager time and money – shall I stop there?
  • You get to see the candidate in action (rather than 30 minutes of interview mode)
  • You can see how the candidate relates to the team, the environment and the person they would report to – if it is a team member rather than the decision maker
  • If they work out, not only have you saved a lot of time and money but the time you would have spent interviewing has been replaced with you getting work done and additional work being completed by your new addition
  • There is no reason why a portion of the morning / afternoon that the candidate is on site cannot be dedicated to a conversation (much warmer interview) – at the end is usually good as after working within the environment for a few hours there is often insight and feedback with real substance around how they feel they will succeed in the role


  •  The business and the people in it have to impress the candidate as they have an increased level of exposure to the operation
  • It may not work out (yes, you read that correctly) - this is a process involving people and people can be unpredictable but if a good recruiter has been engaged that has met with the hiring manager, knows the team, the business, what attributes are key for success within a potential employee and most importantly knows their candidates, then 99 times out of 100 it will be a success in my experience.

A few scary new features within recruitment there to digest – proposal to ditch long standing interview procedure within contract processes and straight up honesty from a recruiter!

I have seen this work many more times than not and with happier more productive hiring managers – we all get busy enough without adding to the pile – let the recruiter that has always delivered for you previously do it again.

I would be really interested to hear from recruiters, hiring managers and candidates alike, so please feel free to drop me a comment with experiences or opinions on this topic.

Josh Hawkins's picture
Associate Manager | Accounting & Finance - Commerce & Industry (Contract)