I’ve been thinking about auditions since I had a conversation with a friend who hired a bunch of analysts who all reported they’d worked with use cases, but when it came to actually working with use cases didn’t have a clue.

I asked my friend if he’d used auditions as part of the hiring practice. He hadn’t, because he was worried that candidates would be insulted that he didn’t take them at their word. Further, he’d never been asked to do an audition as part of the hiring process, so he assumed auditions aren’t standard practice.

If they’re not, they should be. Candidates don’t have to perform perfectly in an audition, but you do want an indication of how they think about the problem.

For my friend’s analyst position, I can think of at least three auditions:

1) Given a domain and a goal, ask the candidate to draft a set of interview question to ask the customer or subject matter expert.

2) As a follow up, have the hiring manager play the SME, and have the candidate perform an interview.

3) Provide a set of actors and goals and, with the hiring manager playing the SME, have the candidate tease out the use cases.

4) Give the candidate a set of story cards (with big stories) related to the domain and ask him to break them into smaller stories that have business value.

5) Have the candidate demonstrate one or more prioritization methods he’d use with a customer. If you have multiple customers, have the interview team act as the customers and have the candidate lead the group in prioritization.

Okay, I’m on a roll…And I bet you can think of a bunch more.

Don’t hit a candidate cold with auditions, tell them when you set up the interview that you’ll be asking him to demonstrate some of his skills.

If you haven’t prepped the candidate that auditions are part of the process, avoid asking, “Can you do this” followed by “Show me.” That one-two punch is a set up for “What!? You don’t believe me?” response that my friend worried about.

Johanna has a post on auditions on her Hiring blog.