THE Obstacle Course™

Asking behavioral interviewing questions gets you to about 55% of predictive behavior. This is a huge improvement from non-behavioral interviewing techniques. With The Hire Effect (THE) System and the use of assignments, we incorporate as a key factor in creating an obstacle course something I call “experiential interviewing.”

THE Obstacle Course™ is our process to follow for any given set candidates; most people think of this as the “interviewing process.” An obstacle course is tied significantly to what position you are hiring for. For instance, if you are hiring a director of sales, that obstacle course is going to look very different than one for an executive assistant, office manager, or COO. Generally, however, an obstacle course with less than three steps will  not be rigorous enough for you to see what you need to see in the candidates that have applied. And an obstacle course with more than five or more steps could actually come in handy for an executive level position.

Low vs. High Touch Steps

Many of you who have conducted interviews know you need to cull the candidate pool in the beginning to save time in the hiring process. Why spend time on interviewing a candidate that doesn’t have the base qualifications you need? Being clear on whether a step is low touch or high touch will help the team to stay on track to make quick but proven decisions about moving candidates on to the next stage.

  • Low-touch steps include tactics like resume and cover letter reviews, five-minute phone screens, online questionnaires, and work sample submissions. There are many more low-touch steps that can be employed here. The better you and your team get at inventing and employing the low-touch steps, the more time you’ll save processing candidates that clearly didn’t fit in the beginning.
  • High-touch steps will take more of you and your team’s time and, with that investment of time, will build the proof you need for the best match possible for THE Right Fit.

The low-touch steps are really meant to clearly identify those that won’t fit, not necessarily to identify and move on the ones that do. The key here is to orient yourself and your team on getting clear proof that someone doesn’t fit. THE Obstacle Course you use which will include high-touch steps will take care of proving the candidates that remain DO fit.

Not to beat a dead horse, but this point has to be clear for the process to be effective. With low-touch steps you’ll be using the context of THE Right Fit to suss out the ones that don’t fit.

An example here might be helpful. Using the bulleted skills and traits below as part of THE Right Fit, you may decide to continue with a candidate whose response to your phone screen had you questioning if they really were familiar with Visual Design Tools. However, you would release the candidate that proved their written communication skills were NOT good.


  • Good Written Communications
  • Familiar w/Visual Design Tools
  • Goal Oriented


  • Social
  • Passionate
  • Focused

High-touch steps include tactics like one-on-one interviews, panel interviews, team introductions, board introductions, and the like. The better you and your team get at inventing and employing the high-touch steps, the more effective you’ll be able to spot components of on-boarding plans, make effective use of you and your team’s time, and indeed, choose THE Right Fit.

Working on the premise that a high-touch step is meant to make good use of the time you are investing by finding the proof, these steps need to be highly coordinated by and among the hiring team members. Each member will make their own observations so the design of this part of THE Obstacle Course will need to reveal authentic behavior—behavior of the candidate that is likely to be how they act normally.

This is “experiential interviewing”—matching how candidates act and listening to what they say. If you have designed a good obstacle course, you will be observing candidates closely and comparing them to THE Right Fit, this is the magic of The Hire Effect.


The design of THE Obstacle Course, as mentioned earlier, includes assignments. Most small business owners and operators are very familiar with assignments as they pertain to the low-touch steps. They gather resumes and sort them from high to low for qualifications. They have candidates write cover letters to see what they would like to highlight about themselves. They have them fill out applications.

What small business owners and operators aren’t very familiar with is continuing the use of assignments into the later parts of the interview process. This is a missed opportunity to observe yet more behavior that will help you make a good choice. Key to designing a good assignment into each step is to keep in mind what THE Right Fit looks like and how you might get the candidate to reveal behavior that is in keeping with that or not.

You’ll want to include these things in each assignment request:

  • a clear description of what the assignment is,
  • a specific date and time to complete the assignment, and
  • to whom you want them to deliver the assignment.

The Obstacle Course helps to locate the Unconventional Hiring Team in the process so they can communicate with candidates and one another. Typically the project manager of the hiring team will likely use it the most. It has a number of parts: identification of the kind of step, the assignments (in the middle), and direction at the bottom of each step on what communication to make with the candidate. Here is an example of THE Obstacle Course tool. This one is for an admin assistant for a flight training company.

Let’s stop and think for a moment about the skill that many job seekers have—they’re what we call in the industry a “good interviewer.” They are capable of putting their good foot forward at every step of a short interview process.

Good interviewers can be very compelling to small business owners that really need to hire quickly. Your intuition is telling you that this is the right person for the job. You should make a move now so you don’t lose them. It would make things so easy to hire them now.

With persistence and a strong commitment to have each candidate go through THE Obstacle Course, you and your hiring team will have the ability to spot the inevitable appearance of weaknesses in the good interviewer, which will be invaluable to your business in the long run. Hiring slow isn’t always an easy thing to do, but sticking to THE Obstacle Course will help.