Having Difficulty Hiring? Try Our Chemistry Test

March 25, 2021
Having Difficulty Hiring? Try Our Chemistry Test

Are you in the process of hiring new people and are struggling to determine who is the right fit? In this resource, I'll outline steps to an original CFS practice called “The Chemistry Test” which helps identify strong candidates for your organization.

During the interview process, hiring managers often look for 3 things:

  1. Talent. Is the person skillful? Do you like how they think?
  2. Experience. Do they have past experience that shows they are capable of fulfilling this new role?
  3. Chemistry. Could you see this person working well within your organization?

These first two qualities are easier to recognize; you could read a person's resume, or watch how they solve a problem. The last quality, however, is more difficult to pinpoint because interviews can be nerve-wrecking experiences for candidates, meaning most people are not 100% themselves when you meet them for an interview. Plus, it takes time to get to know people really well.

That being said, it is extremely important that there be good chemistry between your organization and the candidate you hire.

Consider this: would you rather have a talented, experienced person join the team who ends up working terribly with others, or a less experienced person who gels well with the team they're looking to join, and who is excited to learn and grow once hired? Personally, I'd choose the latter and hire the less experienced person with potential, and who seems like they'd be a pleasure to work with.

So how can an organization determine if they have good chemistry with the candidates?

When we hire an employee, either for our own company or for our clients, we employ a simple but effective exercise within a rigorous hiring process called “The Chemistry Test”. While the majority of the employees we hire are either in sales or marketing, this specific exercise works within other industries as well.

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The Chemistry Test

The Chemistry Test should take place in the first or second interview. Assuming the candidate has passed the initial qualifying questions about their work experience, we ask prospective hires to give us a very simple presentation via Zoom. (We used to do this in person, but since the pandemic, we now do this remotely.)

The purpose of the presentation is to get to know the candidate better.

We like to see how they handle being given a task on the fly, think on their feet, engage with the team, and might present themselves with clients. (And yes, I did say “team”—we suggest bringing in multiple people to interview the candidate, such as the head of marketing, the head of operations, perhaps the CEO, and certainly the hiring manager.)

What exactly do we ask the candidate to present?

First, put the candidate at ease. Maybe even let them know at the beginning of the interviewing process that they will be asked to deliver a short presentation down the line. The key is to make this exercise easy, yet very telling, without spooking them.

To begin, send a document to the candidate with the following columns:

Column 1: “What are your core values?”

Column 2: “What don’t you like to do in your job, but will do anyway?”

Column 3: “What is a personal and/or a professional win for you?”

Column 4: “Anything else you want to communicate to us.”

Then, ask the candidate to share their screen on the Zoom, display the document, and type their answers in the columns.

As they type their thoughts in each column, the interviewing team might be observing how the candidate responds to the activity and asking them to expand on a thought or to give examples.

For instance, I often see “integrity” as a core value. I almost always ask, “What does that mean to you?” or “Could you give us an example where you put that into practice?” This allows me to see how they react to questions, how well they explain and clarify their thoughts, what their eye contact is like (even on Zoom), and so on.

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The Hiring Process: Test Results

It’s amazing to me how much gets discovered in this simple exercise within the hiring process! Since candidates don’t know what you’re looking for and don’t know what the “right” answer is, they can't help but think on their feet. Plus, it will quickly determine if someone has any red flags about them.

In conclusion, establishing an open dialogue in interviews and including some sort of chemistry test in your hiring process will really help you determine who is the best fit.

Good luck!

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For more updates from CFS, follow us on Twitter at @CFSPlayBook! What are your strategies for hiring candidates? Tell us in the comments!


  • Monty Smith - Reply

    Awesome article guys I love it and want to use it!

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Monty! We’re glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Eliza - Reply

    Really great post. Thank you!

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Eliza!

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