No matter how thoroughly you interview a job candidate, there's always the chance you'll miss something. To minimize the risk without giving people the third degree, consider assigning a take-home exam.

"I tend to be in a hurry," says Marilyn Ounjian, CEO of Careers USA, a Philadelphia employment agency. "Giving take-home exams forces me to be patient with hiring decisions."

Recently three marketing-director finalists were given the following assignment: "Work up some projections for the new program we discussed, and get them back to me whenever it's convenient." Only one candidate queried Ounjian for specifics needed to work up something more than a pie-in-the-sky answer. She also delivered her plan the next day. Ounjian hired her. "She wanted to manage the sales force and get them to do more. The others only wanted to spend more money," says Ounjian.