Job candidates are often frighteningly well-skilled at telling you exactly what you want to hear during an interview. So how do you get the real scoop?

At Wilton Corp., a $65-million industrial-products manufacturer in Palatine, Ill., prospective hires are invited into the company for a day of game playing. Kevin Roche, manager of human-resources development, believes it is the most revealing screening tool he has found. Game playing is effective "because you're dealing with behavior," says Roche. "And that's exactly what we're looking to find out about when we're hiring."

After a promising candidate has gone through the traditional interview process, he or she is asked to participate in an "experiential education exercise" at the company. "We talk to whomever the candidate will be working for, and we decide what behavior will be critical for success in that job," says Roche. "Then we choose an exercise that elicits that behavior." The games usually involve completing a task (like transferring marbles down a series of troughs into small cardboard boxes) in a team setting. The other players include future coworkers. If candidates feel uncomfortable about the exercise, that's revealing. "Coming into a new situation, introducing yourself, and working with a group to solve a problem -- that's an analogue for the first day on the job," says Roche.

The company has actually nixed potential hires based partly on the game-playing session. For example, an applicant for the position of operations manager, Roche says, was leading a team through one of the activities and deliberately overlooked a mistake in order to finish the task more quickly. He was ruled out because his quality standards weren't up to snuff. "It's hard to hide when you're playing a game," says Roche. "Your natural behavior comes through."

For more information on games, call the Association for Experiential Education at 303-440-9334.

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