Use Knockout Questions with Caution - Agile Product Solutions
  • Use Knockout Questions with Caution

I recently ran into this question while creating a custom job application for one of our clients.

“Are you now or have you ever been a member of any organization, association, movement, group or combination of persons which advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government, or which has adopted the policy of advocating or approving the commission acts of force or violence to deny other persons their rights under the Constitution of the United States or which seeks to alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means?”

The first thing that popped into my mind was “If there was ever a valid knockout question that would be it.” As the Holiday season is upon us and I start to reminisce about my days as a young developer, I begin by being thankful that there weren’t Applicant Tracking Systems with job specific knockout questions when I was first starting my career. One job that directly led me to where I am today would have never happened if my employer was using knockout questions to screen candidates. ComputerCodeThey were looking for a Delphi developer with Advantage Database Server experience (Advantage? Look it up). I was a C# developer with SQL Server experience and met few of their requirements for hire. Somehow, I managed to score a first interview and during that process was able to convince the CEO of this small company to give me 1 week to go out and learn as much as possible about the Delphi language. Between my first and second interviews, I literally bought 3 books and read countless tutorials on the Delphi programming language and how it interfaces with Advantage. During my second interview, I explained everything I knew about the language, the syntax, compiler, etc. To my disbelief, I was hired for the position a week later.

I tell you that story not to prove how quickly I can learn development languages, but to point out the fact that had I been screened by an ATS with a knockout question such as “Do you have experience with the Delphi programming language?”, I would have never been considered for the position. Instead, I was hired because, according to the CEO, I showed such a strong initiative to go out and learn the language that he had no doubt I would be able to do the job.

Almost 10 years later, those same qualities serve me well as the CEO of a small company myself. How many candidates have you dismissed because you weren’t able to find those “outside qualifiers” that we covet in our employees? Applicant tracking systems are created to assist you in the evaluation of your candidates, but you shouldn’t provide it with questions that miss some of those qualifiers and then expect it to help you hire great employees. Use knockout questions very carefully as you post your job openings and be aware that you might be missing top talent just because they are missing one check on your list.