At Microtraining Plus, a Norwalk, Conn., company that does Macintosh training, prospective trainers and salespeople need more than good interviewing skills and glowing references. "We're hiring people for their ability to get up in front of six people they don't know and present material," says CEO David Knise. Like an increasing number of CEOs, he puts candidates on the hot seat by requiring them to demonstrate their skills before a final hiring decision is made.

Knise asks job candidates to make an hour-long presentation to his eight-member staff on any topic other than computers. "Because we're computer people, we'd focus too much on whether what they say is right or wrong, and not on their ability to teach," he explains. Recently, a report on the solar system was given a thumbs up, as was a presentation on the instruments in an orchestra; attempts to teach Italian, in-line skating, and math were deemed unsuccessful. "We see how applicants organize their thoughts, if they've given themselves enough time to cover the material, and if they have overall command of a classroom," says Knise. He also notes how candidates react to disruptive participants and whether they appear to be focusing on him during their talk. ("The more confident people don't play to me as much," he says.) The success of his auditioning strategy can be seen in the high marks his trainers generally receive on written evaluations from customers.

According to Randall Clark, a senior vice-president at Lee Hecht Harrison, a Hartford, Conn., career-transition management company, employee auditions are now in vogue for middle- and upper-middle-management positions. "The purpose is to find out if people's prior experience is transferable to a new opportunity," he says. "You need to determine what skill sets are needed, and make the audition relevant to that."