8 Cool Tasks To Help You Identify Top Candidates

Discover 8 cool tasks you can incorporate into your interviewing process! These tasks have two main benefits. First, they will help you identify top job candidates. Second, they will differentiate you as an employer!


Upgrade your interview with cool tasks

You can only learn so much about a candidate from their resume and cover letter. But it is the recruitment process itself that reveals the most about your potential new employee.

Interview is your chance to really get to know the candidate - if you use it well.

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Asking the typical interview questions such as “What do you expect from this role? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?won’t get you far. Candidates know these questions will be asked a have the right answers prepared.  

This is why you need to choose your interview questions wisely

You should also consider giving your candidates some creative tasks or assignments that really dig deep into who they are and what they bring to the table.


Read on for six cool tasks that you can use to identify the top candidates during your recruitment process.

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8 creative recruitment tasks 

Here are 8 creative tasks you can incorporate into your interviewing process:

8-Cool-Tasks -to-Help-You-Identify-Top-Candidates

Task #1: The in-tray

A popular interview task with recruiters, the in-tray is something we’ve probably all faced at some point in our careers without realizing its value as a recruitment task.

The task:
Your candidate has just returned from a two-week vacation to find their email inbox overflowing with 200 emails. They have a meeting in an hour and need to process every single one beforehand.

Expert tip:
Vary this according to your industry. For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, task your candidate with processing a high volume of orders rather than emails.

What to look out for: 
Some candidates might become flustered and panic during this stage. But others will approach this methodically, sorting emails by their importance to your business, your client, or their team. This task is great for identifying candidates with a strong work ethic and a calm demeanor in the face of adversity.

Task #2: The role reversal

This one is a real curveball, and you’ll definitely have a few stumped interviewees after asking (and you’ll need a thick skin if you choose this task). 

The task:
Simply ask your candidate to rate you as an interviewer. Ask them to pick out a few pros and cons about your style and technique.

Expert tip:
Yes, it’s bold — but it can reveal depths about your candidate. Not only does it show how good their perception of people is (vital if you’re working client-side), but it is also a good indicator of their diplomatic skills too.

What to look out for:
You don’t want to employ someone who is too blunt or overbearing, but you also want to avoid a candidate who is too meek to be truly honest. A successful candidate is honest, but approaches the issue with delicacy and nuance.

Task #3: The show-and-tell

This one is simple but can reveal multitudes about your candidate. 

The task:
Simply ask your interviewee to bring in an object from home that best represents their personality, and have them explain why they chose it.

Expert tip:
Change this up by increasing the number of objects your candidate needs to bring, or by stipulating certain types of objects they need to bring. A piece of clothing, a book, and a mug, for instance. 

What to look out for:
Does the object they choose have sentimental value, or does it relate to a hobby or passion? As well as listening to the reason your candidate chose it, consider why you think the candidate picked it. Did they want to emphasize a strength, or a facet of their personality? This will reveal depths about your candidate as a person, rather than as a worker.

Task #4: The river crossing puzzle

River crossing puzzles are literally hundreds of years old, and while it probably wasn’t intended to weed out poor candidates, it’s still a valuable interview task for recruiters.

The task:
The one you’re probably most familiar with is the farmer, the fox, the chicken, and a bag of seed. A farmer has a fox, a chicken, and a bag of seed, and needs to cross a river via boat to transport them across, but can only carry one item with him at a time.

Expert tip:
If he leaves the fox alone with the chicken, it’ll eat it, and if he leaves the chicken alone with the seed, it’ll eat it. It’s a head-scratcher, but there is a solution. Click here for some more river crossing puzzles you can use.

What to look out for:
Some people are naturally better at this than others. The more logically-minded candidates will find this task a breeze, but even if they don’t get it straight away, it says a lot about your candidate’s problem-solving skills.

Task #5: The angel investor

The task:
Ask your candidate to imagine themselves as an angel investor, tasked with turning around the fortunes of an ailing business. Give them a set budget and get them to create a short plan that outlines what their business strategy is and how they can implement it.
As well as getting your candidate to formulate a business strategy, get them to choose a business niche to invest in. Some candidates might simply choose a business that appeals to a personal interest, e.g. a fitness lover might invest in an activewear brand.

Expert tip:
Innovative candidates may use a more calculated approach to this, for example by conducting competitor analysis to identify existing businesses that are failing to spot profitable niches. When individuals display a methodical approach to business, it’s a sure sign you’ve got a top candidate on your hands.

What to look out for: 
Once you’ve selected a business, task your candidate with increasing its profits. Do your candidates look to implement new strategies, such as a paid ad campaign, or work on fine-tuning existing ones? Do they look to new investments, or terminating existing strategies? This task is ideal for identifying recruits for a managerial role.

Task #6: The ecommerce entrepreneur

This task is in a similar vein to the angel investor task mentioned above, but instead relies on your candidate starting an entirely new ecommerce business from scratch. 

The task:
Task them with picking a content management system, a niche, a basic marketing plan, and so on.

Expert tip:
Obviously, your candidate isn’t likely to come up with the next Apple, but this is a useful task for learning how they approach ideation and strategy on the fly. As before, look at how they approach the task and have them explain their thinking afterwards.

What to look out for: 
When it comes to choosing the right platform for their business, do they opt for a ready-made store builder or an open-source coding option? Do they copy an existing business model, or do they strike out on their own? Choices like this can reveal depths about your candidate’s mindset, and how they might fit into your company and team as a whole.

Task #7: The color description

This task is guaranteed to stump even the most confident of candidates. 

The task:
Ask your interviewee to describe, as best they can, one or more colors to a blind person.

Expert tip:
Some candidates might adopt a scientific tact, making reference to physical instances of color that a blind person might be familiar with e.g. “yellow is the color of warm sunlight on your skin.”
Other candidates might take a more creative approach, describing it in emotional terms. For instance, one might describe red as a color of passion, of love or rage.

What to look out for: 
Obviously there is no one ‘right’ answer to this. However, the aim of this task is to discern your candidate’s communication skills. The answer you’re looking for will depend on the requirements of the role you’re recruiting for. For example, if you’re looking to fill a creative role such as a graphic designer, an imaginative approach will suit you.

Task #8: The pizza delivery

You’ve probably heard of the “how many uses for a lemon” puzzle. It’s an easy little task but tells you a lot about your candidate. 

Expert tip:
But you can take this even further with some inspiration from Apple. Apparently a popular question with the tech giant during its recruitment process, the question reveals a candidate’s creative problem skills.

The task:
Ask your candidate how a pair of scissors would benefit them if they were a pizza delivery person. Get them to list as many uses as possible within twenty minutes, and then discuss them afterwards. Another fairly simple task, but one that reveals a lot about your candidate.

What to look out for: 
Beyond focusing on the best use of the scissors, see if your candidate has an awareness of the pizza delivery guy’s role. This shows empathy and appreciation of a potentially unfamiliar role.

Conclusion: Upgrade your interviewing process with these cool tasks

Go beyond the usual interview questions with the cool tasks listed above. 

Ultimately, the answer you’re looking for will vary depending on your brand, industry, and the role you’re recruiting for. 

But whatever your position, you’re guaranteed to find the top candidates with these simple but creative recruitment tasks.

About the author

Micro Startups is your online destination for everything startup. We’re dedicated to spreading the word about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world. 

Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe follow along on Twitter.

Frequently asked questions

What are Some Innovative Tasks to Include in Job Interviews? 

Innovative tasks to include in job interviews are designed to reveal more about candidates' abilities and fit for the role. These include tasks like the in-tray exercise, role reversal, show-and-tell, the river crossing puzzle, and the angel investor scenario. Each task provides insight into different aspects of a candidate’s skills and personality.

How Does the 'In-Tray' Task Help Identify Top Candidates? 

The 'In-Tray' task involves simulating a scenario where candidates must prioritize and manage a large volume of work, such as sorting an overflowing email inbox. This task assesses candidates' organizational skills, and ability to prioritize and handle work pressure, revealing their potential effectiveness in a real-world work situation.

What is the Purpose of the 'Role Reversal' Task in Interviews? 

The 'Role Reversal' task, where candidates are asked to rate the interviewer, is designed to assess candidates’ perception, diplomatic skills, and ability to provide constructive feedback. This task is particularly revealing of how candidates handle delicate situations and their interpersonal skills.

How Can the 'Show-and-Tell' Task Be Utilized in Interviews? 

The 'Show-and-Tell' task, where candidates bring in an object that represents their personality, is a creative way to understand more about a candidate's personal interests, values, and creativity. This task gives candidates a chance to showcase aspects of their personality that might not come across in a traditional interview setting.

Why are Creative Interview Tasks Important in the Recruitment Process? 

Creative interview tasks are important as they go beyond standard interview questions to uncover a candidate’s problem-solving, creativity, communication skills, and personality. These tasks provide a deeper understanding of how a candidate might perform in real job scenarios and fit into the company culture.

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