Simulations when hiring

The Power of The Simulation in Hiring

The Scalability Solutions Podcast
The Scalability Solutions Podcast
The Power of The Simulation in Hiring

On this episode of the podcast, Leila Blauner, Team Growth Strategist and Founder of Scalability Solutions shares why simulations are the secret sauce to hiring great candidates. 

Why simulations?

Using a simulation as a part of the hiring process is beneficial for both the company and the candidate. The company gets to see how a candidate would handle real responsibilities, learn more about how the individual works, and gains insights into areas you

Using a simulation as a part of the hiring process not only dramatically increases hiring success for the company but the candidate truly learns what it would be like to work there. Through a simulation, the company gets to see how a candidate would handle real responsibilities, learn more about how the individual works, and gains insights into areas you won’t see on paper or in an interview. 

The candidate gets to learn more about the job, understanding what their responsibilities would actually be like and the nature of the company. The simulation allows each side to determine if this feels like the right fit.

Making your simulations successful

As wonderful as we know simulations are, there are a number of ways they can fall short, so Leila shares why we’re not sAs wonderful as we know simulations are, there are a number of ways they can fall short, so Leila shares some of what she’s learned when running simulations for many years for a variety of clients.

Creating intentional well-thought out simulations is critical so Leila shares how to begin to set up a simulation in the hiring process, and stories of simulations gone well.  


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This Episode’s Transcription

Welcome to The Scalability Solutions Podcast, the show that explores how happy successful teams are created and how to maintain phenomenal retention within your company. Join us for stories, insights, and client spotlights brought to you by Scalability Solutions, a team who believes you can love going to work every day. On this episode of The Scalability Solutions Podcast, we’re joined again by Leila Blauner, Founder and Team Growth Strategist at Scalability Solutions. Today, we are talking all about one of her favorite parts of the hiring process, the simulation.

Now, this might not be something you’ve heard of before but it is a critical piece in the hiring process, giving so much insight into candidates than you can do in a typical interview situation. The simulation really helps both the company and the candidate to make sure that this job is going to be the right fit and just give so much great information. So stick around and join us to hear all about the secret sauce in the hiring process to get great, happy successful team members, the simulation. Leila, welcome back to the podcast. How are you today?

Thank you, I’m good. How are you?

I’m good. I’m excited about this episode, I know you are too because this is a topic you love and it is Simulations in the Hiring Process. But before we start sort of geeking out about them I think we need to tell our listeners what is a simulation.

I do geek out on them, they’re one of my favorite topics. Simulation is an experience that closely mimics what a candidate would experience on the job but they’re not doing actual work that you’ll use. For example, let’s say we were creating a simulation, you are hiring a backup podcast host. You wanted to make sure that, they had talked about their podcast episodes, but you don’t know who was doing what. Maybe someone else was crafting the script or they were doing 1700 takes or you just don’t really know. If we were creating up a simulation for your job we might have candidates create a mini podcast that was five minutes, and we would have them do it on a topic that you wouldn’t actually broadcast so that they don’t feel like they’re doing free work or free consulting.

And then you would have them write questions and interview you as a guest and see how they do. And then you would want to really throw in the types of uh-oh scenarios that they would experience at work. I’m sure you have guests go off script on a regular basis or have unexpected things happen so you would want to design it so that those things happen consistently during the simulation. And what you would find is that each person would submit something totally differently and you would learn much about them.

Yeah, I think that’s so great. So the simulation allows for the people doing the hiring to see what this candidate would be like on the job, and you as the candidate get to see what this job would ultimately be like if you were to get hired for it. And I think a really important point you said is that you’re having them do work that wouldn’t actually get used, right? Because I think that can feel like, “Oh, I’m doing free work.” Or, writers doing a writing test, it feels like, “Oh, you’re trying to get some free work from me.” But the simulation is different and it’s designed in a way that feels good for everybody. We’ve already touched on this, what are some of the benefits of using simulations in the hiring process?

Well, have you ever worked with someone that looked perfect on paper, their experience was ideal and they could speak really well about it. And then they got on the job and you thought, “Oh, this is not who I thought we were going to be working with.”

Yes. I’m laughing because, yes. And actually it was a parallel position to mine. I got hired for the same role along with this other person and I thought, “How did this person get hired?” And then I started questioning myself because I’m like, “Well, they got hired and I got hired.” I’m like, “I don’t know.” And thankfully it worked out for me in the position, I was there very long-term, this individual they kind of realized who they were on paper was not who they were in action. Yeah, I can definitely relate, I think everyone is probably nodding their heads of either having hired a person like that or worked with a person like that, unfortunately.

Unfortunately, yeah. I’ve asked that question a lot and I think it’s very unfortunate that most people can totally relate when I ask that. That’s one of the big reasons. For the right candidate, it really gives them an opportunity to showcase their skills. And another question on the flip side is, have you ever started a job and you thought you knew what you were getting into and then it was totally different than what you thought you were signing up for? That, it really allows candidates to make a very informed decision about where they’re going to work and a really well designed simulation. A big benefit, it allows you to widen your candidate pool because if you design it right, and people always think, “No, no, no, it’s not true.” You can see both learning aptitude and the real core skills and qualities.

And I’ve had lots of times and we’ll talk about this later, I’m sure, but I’ve had lots of times where someone with all the right skills and qualities totally outperformed someone who had been doing the actual job. Those are important and then it just allows you to learn so much about a candidate, not just the… because again, if you design it right it’s not a pass-fail test where you’re looking at just the skills, you also get to learn about how they show up.

Before the simulation even starts, we’re usually doing an intro call, for example, and I can tell so much before they’ve actually even started doing anything. I either know that they really need to be spoonfed and need to repeat the same thing, need to have the same instructions repeated and just don’t capture verbal instructions in ways that other candidates do. Or, they might say they have no questions and not clarify what they think their understanding of the instructions are and then do everything wrong. And that tells you a lot about how they might show up on the job.

Definitely. Yeah, these simulations are helpful for the company doing the hiring as well as the candidate. The company can learn a lot about the potential candidates and the candidates can see this as what it would be like to be on the job. And you said something there that I love, is that it can kind of widen that candidate pool and allow people who might not seem like a fit to actually come through as a good fit in this process. But, I’ve gone through a number of hiring experiences and I’ve never had what I would call a simulation. Why aren’t these common in the hiring process?

Well, a lot of people just haven’t thought about it or don’t realize its possibility. And then when they do hear about it… I’ve worked with so many companies on simulations and they’re always really excited about the concept, they are, “Oh, it’s so great, but I don’t see how we could do it for this particular position.” And there’s never been a position and I’ve worked on some really odd positions, there’s never been a position at any level sea level to $13 an hour level where you can’t create some sort of simulation.

Interesting. Now, do simulations changed when you’re hiring for remote positions? I think especially in today’s world, there’s a lot of people who are hiring for non face-to-face. I won’t ever physically be in the same space with you, so how might that change?

Yeah. And I, myself hire for remote positions all the time so I do have that on my mind. There are certain things that are really important for people that work remote, can they proactively communicate? Generally people that are really good at that haven’t had a lot of micromanagement in their past because they are just good at proactively sharing what’s going on. Can they focus productively or are there a ton of distractions? Can they work autonomously? Those people that need to be spoonfed really aren’t going to do very well. They’ve got to have those like figure-it-out skills is what I call them, and the ability to follow instructions and then clarify their understanding of the instructions.

But something that I want to point out is that remote or not, simulations change significantly for every single type of position. There’s even been times where I’ve worked on two positions, the same title. And the example I have in my mind was a project management physician for two different companies that were in the same exact business. The companies were around the same size, they had the same types of projects and the same types of clients. And the simulations were totally different because it was a different culture, it was a different system that they were working in, it was different management style, different expectations of the candidate. And so no matter what, there’s always going to be unique differences for any simulation.

Yeah, and something that came to mind for me as you were talking. A couple of things, one is that I love this idea of a simulation because when people are going through their job searches they get good at answering questions, right? There’s some similar questions that tend to come up and you get pretty savvy. If you’re interviewing for project manager role, you kind of have an idea of what they might ask or if it’s a remote position you know they’re going to ask you about communication and attention to detail and organization, and you kind of have your answers ready for these things. Sometimes people get a little better practiced at those even if they can’t practice what they preach, but the simulation really allows for them to show who they are and how they work, can they walk the walk not just talk the talk.

That’s right. And they’re times and they’re set up in a way, again, it’s all about the design, the design is so important. Some people would take two days to do something that someone else would take 20 minutes to do so you get to see that as well. And then also when people are interviewing, you don’t know who else was involved, what help were they getting? They might be talking about something as their own experience when really it was the whole team. You get to see them in a very intentional designed custom experience and you also get to see it in the way that it would be for your company, because they might have been a star project manager in their company, for example, that’s just one of many positions, but maybe their project management style would not work in your company. And you can talk about it in an interview but you don’t really get the full flavor, otherwise.

Definitely. And yeah, going back to a project manager role, that’s one I’ve been in and I’ve looked at other positions, I’m like, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve done before. That’s so interesting that that’s what they call a project manager.” And you start to think, “Well, maybe I could do that because I’ve done this role, but could I really?” Again, I love that the simulation helps to highlight for both the company and the candidate, can you do this? Is this a good fit? And there’s just so much both sides can learn from that process. And I know you’ve created so many simulations over your years of doing this. Do you have a favorite or a memorable simulation that you helped a company do, and what made that such a successful simulation?

Yeah, I have so many. But the one that immediately pops into mind is there was a service coordinator position and this is someone that coordinated field techs. The person in this role needed to talk to clients. They didn’t need to be technical but they needed to have a strong enough technical aptitude to be able to ask the right questions so they get the right information to set up their technicians for success. And then they needed to have all the strong organizational chops to be able to handle all the logistics and problem solving and the people skills to handle customers that were really freaking out.

And so we had two finalists. The first finalist, and we were really torn about both finalists. The first finalist had seven years of experience in a company that was almost exactly the same, same geographical area, same size, same projects, same types of clients, the same position. The job postings for both would have looked the same. She performed terribly. As an example, she didn’t ask any probing questions even though she had been kind of coached to do so. And she ended up sending a mock technician to this mock client. And that mock technician had already been there three times and when she talked to him, it would have been clear that wouldn’t have helped and she would have had the same exact results. And she wasn’t graded, deescalating with the client either and she didn’t look at the mock schedule close enough to see some issues.

Before you go into that, so we have this person who looked great on paper, who has done a role so similar to what we’re looking for in a company. So similar to this new one and she doesn’t do well in the actual on-the-job piece, which you would not have known had you not done the simulation? That’s interesting.

Yeah. And that client I hadn’t interviewed her, maybe I did, I can’t remember it’s been a while. He sent her to me for a simulation. Like I said, sometimes we do the full thing and sometimes it’s pieces. But I know he was really excited about her from the interview and from what I did speak to her she did sound… she said all the right stuff.

Right. Yeah, it’s so interesting. That’s why, again, these simulations can be so helpful. What about, there was another candidate in this scenario, tell us about her.

There was, and she did not look like the winner on paper. But she interviewed really well and my client had a sneaking suspicion that she might have some talent and I did as well. And she had been an office manager for a couple of years, that was her whole career, but she had become the defacto IT person. That wasn’t part of her job but people figured out quickly that she had a strong technical aptitude and really good troubleshooting skills and this curiosity that made her good at figure-it-out skill that I was talking about earlier, right? And she killed it when she spoke with the upset client, which was me by the way, the role play in those simulations is really fun to play a lot of characters. And so as a client I was really upset, she did a great job of calming me down. And then when she was talking to the mock technician who was not helpful, he was like, “I don’t know. I’ve been there three times, I don’t know what’s wrong. I checked everything, everything’s fine.”

Two minutes, she figured out something that would normally take… my client said it would normally take someone two hours to figure out, it was something with the settings. And that wouldn’t have even been part of the job but it was this bonus that she had this amazing troubleshooting technology. It was about a security system, she didn’t even have experience with security systems. And then in two minutes you asked the question that solved the problem. And then her follow-up in that simulation and organizational skills, it just killed it, she killed it in comparison to that other candidate.

On paper she would have totally been overlooked but because my clients saw something in her, sent her to me for the simulation, she ended up killing it, she did great, she was the one that got hired obviously. And then her learning aptitude was so high that… a lot of times people are really reluctant to hire people without industry experience or role experience because they think the learning curve is going to be tremendous. For her the learning curve was actually so high that she blew through it faster than certainly that woman, that other candidate would have done. And she’s just been a superstar at that company, it’s been a couple of years now and they love her.

That’s amazing. And like you said, on paper she had some qualities and she interviewed well, but I think without that simulation it’s very hard for a company to take a risk on someone who doesn’t quite look like they’re going to do it. But you know and I know having gotten jobs that I on paper was not super qualified for but strongly felt I could do it that she could do well. And I think that simulation not only allowed her to shine but gave the company confidence that she could do well in this position.


Obviously we love simulations and can’t talk enough about them. But how might a simulation fall short, what challenges might come up?

I started doing this, I’m not sure how long ago, 18, 20 years ago, something like that for my own hires. I’ve had a lot of trial and error and it just took several years of trial and error and constant fine tuning because again, it’s all about the design. How they could fall short is just not thinking through the design, and the design is so important. There are a million ways, just a couple example is making sure that… learning how to give the background information and instructions in a really effective way, figuring out exactly what qualities to evaluate and how to evaluate them. What’s going to really work, how exactly to capture all that. Thinking it all the way through, and it does seem easy and it’s possible for absolutely any position but it really requires some intentional design.

Definitely. So if a company is excited about using simulations, where should they start?

Reach out to me. As you can tell I love talking about this and I’d be happy to just talk through it and provide a free consultation.

Awesome, yes. We could talk all day about simulations, but we’re going to end it there. Thank you, Leila so much for sharing all of this fantastic information about the power of simulation in the hiring process.

Thank you so much, this was fun.

We hope that you’re now excited about the idea of using simulations in the hiring process. But if you’re not quite sure where to start, you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about the idea, don’t worry we are here to help you. Hop on over to to read more on our blog or sign up for a free consultation with Leila and our team so that we can help you create happy and successful teams.

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