Are you interviewing a Bot or a human?


  • Jason Allie

What are you hiring?


ou are looking to hire someone or interview a new member of the team. You know the drill: read the resume, think of something relevant to ask, describe the job...and hope that it works out. Are you ready? No you're not—unless you understand what you're up against.

Globalization has incentivized some recruiters and candidate networks to overwhelm and outwit you. The hiring process has been studied, analyzed and hacked for the past 20 years to squirrel candidates into your organization at your expense. As a result of this monetary incentive the industry has honed its skill at submitting lesser quality, rate-pliable candidates and repurposing them for your position requirement.

The “Bot” Candidate

Over the last 1, 5 or 10 years, has your salary ever depended entirely upon hiring the best candidate at the best rate? Likely not.

In order to meet this sales pressure, some have resorted to creating ‘bots’: candidates that have been scripted and rehearsed to act like your best candidates. They are provided question/answer samples and coached to say the right things.

There is no real way to tell who they are and if they’re a good fit for your team. And, if they’re not a fit, you’ll have to laboriously remove them and restart the hiring process. You waste time, energy, and some sanity.

But, there is a way for you to crack their hack.

Pealing the “Bot” off the Candidate

Remember, in the interview, you control the dialogue. Ask questions to throw the “bots” off the script and discover what’s underneath.

What we do is to first ask questions covering basic requirements. If candidates don’t pass this initial filter, then you have fair reason for ending the interview and moving on.

After that, there are two key questioning strategies that can scrape off the “bot” veneer. Namely, ask about their

  1. Tools & processes reflections and
  2. Personal reflections

Tools & Process Reflections

If candidates have used a tool or process, or managed a team, they have experience to reflect upon and draw conclusions from. The wiser they are, the more they’ll be able to get at the root cause of why something worked or not or where it could be best applied next time.

So, ask them questions about how they deal with a situation or how they would prepare themselves and the team for using a tool or process. There’s no possible way to answer this without showing your experiences or lack thereof. For example:

  • What tools do they recommend for a situation and why (why would it work or not work)?
  • What processes would they recommend and why (why would it work or not work)?
  • What types of team members would they want to work with on a project and why?

Personal reflections

Lastly, ask how they feel about things: about themselves, about ideas, about their project evaluations. The reason this works is that personal reflections cannot be easily scripted. Also, this line of questioning reveals the candidate’s disposition and character. For example:

Themselves: Ask what color they think their mind is.

  • I did not come up with this, but have grown to love using it. It swiftly removes the candidate from the normal context of the interview and having no right or wrong answer, requires them to speak their individual thoughts.

Ideas: Ask about a methodology intrinsic to the role your hiring for and how it should be applied.

  • For IT projects, ask them what they learned about how to successfully setup an agile project. Or, ask them how to successfully implement a QA review process. If they have true experience, they can share what they saw work or not work in reality. The more experience, the wiser and more succinct their answers should be.

Project evaluations: Ask what project they loved being a part of and why.

  • For this open-ended question, candidates must supply all of the context, problems, solutions and results. But, you must ask follow—up questions—only then will you burst through any scripted experiences.

Living with your selection

I know these strategies will help your organization. I’ve been using them for years and have saved a lot of headache and candidate-churn for our clients with this insight.

At Acumenity, not only have we found ways to crack the “bot”, but we cherish what each of our candidates has to offer. We strive to find the wholesome fit for your team and candidates. In the end, you’re both satisfied with the arrangement and are more successful.