Commercial airline pilots can spend upwards of a month in aviation simulators before obtaining their licenses. FBI agents-in-training carry out mock missions in immersive simulations that mimic the high-pressure situations they may face in the real world. While marketers may not have the lives of others literally in their hands, they and their potential employers stand to benefit from utilizing simulated environments as part of the interview process.
How Marketing Position Job Interviews Go
Many interview processes utilize the STAR system of interviewing: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
This framework maintains that by asking candidates for "a time when," the interviewer is able to glean how candidates will react to a given problem, based on their past experiences. There are a few fundamental issues with this process.
- It's the past. How and why someone did something in the past is not necessarily indicative of what they would do or how they would perform now.
- Perception. How and why someone did something in the past and their memory of it is guaranteed to be flawed. Very seldom does someone understand all the inputs and outputs of a situation. And even rarer still is their ability to explain the details effectively.
- Comparison. You may be able to determine personality traits and soft skills from these answers, but it's challenging to compare candidates when the reacts to situations aren't consistent.
- People can (and do) lie. If you're a great storyteller, which many marketers are, they can easily bullshit their way around STAR questions.
The other problem with the STAR method is that it allows interviewers to make excuses on behalf of the interviewee. Maybe they have no experience thinking of creative solutions because their previous employer didn’t give them the opportunity, or they were blocked by others higher up in the chain of command. Whatever the case may be, the traditional way of getting to know a candidate or employee’s situational strengths and weaknesses can’t accurately account for what really matters - their performance under real-world conditions.
Potential employers stand to benefit from utilizing simulated environments as part of the interview process.
How Job Applications with a Practical Element Go
Ok, so maybe you've been down the STAR road and you know it's just not working. Maybe you've even implemented a process which includes a practical element. Most practicals for marketing positions include real-world scenarios. Write a press release. Create a marketing campaign to drive tradeshow attendees to our booth. Create a content plan to nurture new leads for our new product.
This is certainly closer to a strategy that will get you true insight into a new hire's abilities, but it has a major flaw too... time. It's EXTREMELY time-consuming for the hiring team. The breakdown of the project and the review typically takes at least an hour. If you have five final candidates, that's a big time commitment. The other major issue with this approach is that it also only tests one element of what is likely a MUCH larger skill set that you need.
Introducing Simulation into Marketing Interviews
Ok, smartypants, if everything we're currently doing sucks, what SHOULD we do? Practical labs.
You remember science class, right? To prove and test what you learned, you would execute experiments. That's what marketing departments should demand of interviewees to prove both hard and soft skills in a real-world environment.
Simulations are a showcase.
They provide tangible feedback to abstract competencies like attitude and leadership. Organizations can assess the skills that are most important to them and actually measure the results in meaningful ways. Combining self-reporting through pre- and post-simulation questionnaires with data from the simulation itself, employers can skip the asking a candidate to describe a time they showed great attention to detail, and get right to seeing it in a relatable scenario.
Not only is simulation-based assessment a great way to make hiring decisions, it’s even more effective at getting current employees to learn and utilize new skills. Industries are always evolving, meaning that what was once effective may no longer yield the same results. Instead of always searching for new managers and new team members who are ready-made, organizations can take advantage of simulation learning to assess the relevant skill level of the people already in place and train them to cover any deficiencies. The advantage here is that you’re already aware of employees’ strengths, so the simulation helps you know what to expect going forward and make any necessary adjustments.
Simulation-based assessments and training are the future of marketing talent management.
I firmly believe that simulation-based assessments and training are the future of marketing talent management. It’s as hands-on as you can get without actually having a real team or client meeting. Since marketers are especially drawn to data-driven measurement tools, the benefits of providing this unique type of on-the-job training are farther-reaching than just one employee or candidate. Let people fly the plane on the ground first and watch them soar.