How to Hire the Most Innovative Job Candidates

How to Hire the Most Innovative Job Candidates
How to Hire the Most Innovative Job Candidates

This post was most recently updated on May 16th, 2023

Innovation is one of the key ingredients to a successful company; it’s relevant in every area, from marketing to product development. An innovative mindset helps companies adapt to changes in the market, as well as meet the unmet needs of customers that are not currently served by competitors. But innovation also plays a role in the hiring process. How can you make sure that your firm is screening candidates to find the most innovative people for any given position? Here are five ideas.

1. Use a non-traditional hiring process

 Innovation today (in almost every industry) requires a willingness to creatively use and think strategically about technology and digital assets. Ask candidates to submit their applications in a different format (either instead of or in addition to a standard resume). Some ideas include a video pitch, a presentation on how they would spend the first sixty days in the position, or specific projects from a portfolio.

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2. Give a case study

 While case studies have an established role in certain fields like management consulting, all companies can benefit by giving case studies to potential recruits. In addition to demonstrating specific skills and knowledge, it allows you to understand how candidates think, problem-solve, and perform under pressure. Case studies can be used in any position, from engineers to accountants to strategists. Different formats may be applicable, from a written case to a verbal scenario. Make sure that cases at least have a “correct direction” while also leaving room for candidates to show creative thinking.

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3. Ask candidates to facilitate a brainstorming session

 Instead of an awkward group interview, ask candidates to run a brainstorming session around a specific strategic problem related to the position they are interviewing for. For example, a high-level executive administrator might be asked to lead a discussion about streamlining the management process of executive admins across the company. An engineer might be asked to lead a cross-functional team discussion on a coding problem. Innovation can be measured not only in the contributions of original thought but how they structure problems and encourage others to contribute.

4. Explore the non-obvious learning opportunities candidates pursue

 High achievers and innovators tend to be ruthlessly committed to learning. Discuss long-term learning goals with candidates; look beyond traditional management training opportunities and degrees. Does the candidate work with a coach, attend industry conferences, or take part in a mastermind group? What books have they read recently in their field? Do they regularly read blogs or take part in online learning? While these discussions need to be tailored to individual candidates and fields, a few well-placed questions can reveal which candidates have a deep passion for their field and are likely to be exposed to new ideas before the competition.

5. Cross-discipline influences

 Innovation often happens as a result of the integration of different domains. Candidates that have varied backgrounds, whether that’s an English degree and an MBA, diverse work experience or simply broad interests, can bring a new perspective to old problems. One direct way to understand this is to ask candidates to solve a specific problem by applying influences from one area to their primary domain. For example, ask a marketing manager to apply systems thinking to a communications problem. Understanding how people apply diverse influences reveals a lot about their thought process and background, as well as their ability to participate in cross-functional teams.

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By introducing changes to the process, questions you ask candidates, or what you’re looking for with specific positions, it’s possible to more effectively measure innovation during the hiring process. Over time, this will help ensure that key positions are filled with innovative thinkers and ultimately help you surge past your competition.

james border