Smart interviewing

Also in the event industry, it isn't easy to find the right talent for your company. According to author Wim Thielemans, there's something wrong with the way we interview candidates. Kevin asks him how that works.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Also in the event industry, it isn't easy to find the right talent for your company. According to author Wim Thielemans, there's something wrong with the way we interview candidates. I'll ask him how that works.

Hi Wim, welcome to our studio.

Hi Kevin.

You're the, yes, I may say the inventor of the CACTUS interview model.

But before we dive into what that really is, maybe we should explain, why you invented a model for interviewing or recruiting.

It is very important to hire the right candidate. And a lot of people struggle with this. And especially now, when the labor market does not have any excess of candidates.

So, to make this smart, simple, but also short, I designed this CACTUS-model. Because, people have, otherwise, the tendency to focus too much on one item or two items. And not on everything that needs to come on the table, before you decide about hiring someone.

What's wrong with the way we interview today?

What is mainly wrong, would be, maybe, a better question. Because, there's a lot wrong. There was a recent HBR, Harvard Business Review, article, about that everything is wrong. Which is a little bit stressful. But let me, maybe, take...

The most important one is that the questions that are being used, are the questions that you can find anywhere, and everyone uses. So, when people are coming to a job interview, the only thing they need to do is just Google. And then you have the main questions.


Like: give me your five strengths and your five weaknesses.

Of course, we all heard them.


Or: tell me just a little bit about yourself, your CV.

There's nothing wrong with it, but usually it does not make any difference, between a good candidate and a candidate you won't hire. And that's the main reason why you do this interview.

You made a model, the CACTUS-model, like we said before, to help solve that problem.



How does it work?

Well, CACTUS is actually an acronym. Which stands for: CV or Career, the Attitude, the Competence, the Tasks, what still needs to be Unraveled at the end of the interview, and then the S is when the candidate is gone, the Scoring of the candidate on all these criteria, which we just said before. The CACTUS-model is actually...

I thought: if people...

On average, a job interview is a half an hour to an hour. Sometimes it can be longer, but that's what people expect. So, if I design...

I thought: if I design, for every step, one question. Then you do not get into trouble of time, if you haven't covered, with many questions, this subject. So, with every part: one question. That also has the advantage that every interviewer can add his personal question, that they like. But still stay in this canvas of CACTUS.

Okay, and what questions can that be then?

Let me maybe start with the CACTUS-question that I like a lot. It's the starting not with the CV but starting with the tasks. If you have a candidate and the candidate is interested in working for your organization. Then usually it is for the work itself. And the work itself is described with the tasks.

So, you can start with casually asking: okay, you are interested in becoming event planner for us. What do you think that an event planner is doing? What task do you think that this event planner does? And then the candidate can start with explaining what they think the tasks are. And if they don't know what the tasks are, then you have already some kind of interesting knowledge about the candidate.

But does that mean then, that it is not a good candidate? Or something else?

Well, if it's not a good candidate, or not? It certainly is something that you probably will think: he's not a good candidate.

Yes, that was my first thought, but...

But I wouldn't be so hard. Because, the main reason why people in a job interview, might not answer that question, is because they hesitate that what they are saying is correct. So, maybe they've read it. But they are reluctant to say exactly what it is. Because if they make a mistake, then they'll feel even more foolish.

Si, I wouldn't say that you cannot check who's the bad, but certainly you can check who's the good candidate. That's the one who you meet, that says: yes, I've read and it's that and that and that. So, he stands up.

If you have a candidate who doesn't know, then you can just describe it and then you immediately can check and say: listen, these three main tasks is what you need to do, what do you think about it? So, then, very quickly, you get a feedback. Because if the client...

The client, sorry. If the candidate thinks: oh, but that's not entirely what I thought an event planner is doing, I don't think that that's something for me. Then the job interview is over.


Yes, you prefer not to start with the CV. Ans start with the task-question. But why not the CV?

Because, I would think...

I'm not a recruiter, so I don't know. But I would think: you start with what people already have done.

Yes, it sounds logical. Just for the reason that I just said. If you start with: okay, what is your career? What did you do? What are your attitudes and competences? But then you get to the tasks and they say: what do I have to do?

Event planner, I have to work in the weekend? And sometimes even abroad? And sometimes in French? Oh no, that's nothing for me.

Then you can stop right there.

Then you can stop. And then, all the time that you pass is useless. So, that's why: start with the task. But hey, I am a flexible guy. The CACTUS-model is there. So, I pick up where people, in their minds, are. So, if someone wants to start with career and attitude, in that order, I'm fine.

Where I wanted to go with my question, is: how important is the past? How important is what people have done already, in the past?

It is as important as how much money you are willing to pay for that.

Because, if the person has a lot of experience, it means that the price for his experience will go up.

Of course, it is experience. I don't want to be operated by someone, who hasn't had a lot of experience. If they open my body, I like the surgeon to be someone with at least ten years of experience.

Yes, but everybody has to start somewhere.

Exactly. So, you have to make sure that there is the quality that is necessary minimum to do. That that is what you are thinking about. Before you hire. How much experience is necessary and how much can we help people to grow, in a short time?

So, that's one. But two is: when you ask too much experience and when people come and work for you, they have no real challenge anymore, in their job. Then, they sooner or later, or quicker, they will get bored in the job. We like, as a human being, we like to be challenged. So, that's why I move from one organization to another job. Because I like the challenge. It's not only the salary. It is the challenge, why I make the move.

So, you need to hire people with enough qualities, competences, attitudes, that is necessary. But not that they already are there.

If I look at those qualities or competences. Are that things like being social for a sales person? Or being very clean at your desk, because we need somebody who's very ordened, or...

What do I have to think about that?

I would get the same question again, but then now for attitudes. So, we'll start this again. Because, my book and my work is more on attitudes than on competences.

But what is the difference between them? For me, it's all the same.

Well, for my model...

Because it's very complicated, if you ask this to hiring people or HR people.

What I think is that, to make it easy: competence, I use that for something that you already possess. And I refer more to technical skills. If you're a cameraman, it's a technical skill you know how to work and operate on this machine.

You know where the play-button is.

But an attitude or a personality trade is then something like: are you a nice guy, next to operating on the machine. So, I put that under attitudes.


So, does that make sense?

Yes, it makes sense.

But, hey, if you ask a lot of people, they make it very complicated. And that's what I call the trap of the consultant. They made these models of competences, made so complex, that people who are occasionally recruiting, don't understand it anymore and they need an expert. So, that's the consultant trap. Then they need the consultant to even hire someone that they used to hire on their own.

But, in your opinion, every business owner should be able to do the hiring.

Exactly, yes. I would recommend that, if it's high stake, I would recommend that he involves a professional. But he should be involved in the process. Because, it's actually him...

If that is a person who he is going to work with, on a daily basis, he needs to be there as well.

So, with the CACTUS-model, what I did is: the attitudes is actually a description of how someone is, if he's doing a particular job. And that is a very tough discussion or a very hard discussion to have, as a recruiter, if you go to a hiring manager. So, I tried to design something, so that it's easier to...

Is that the Attitude in a box card-deck?

Yes, that is the Attitude in a box. Attitude in a box is designed that, when you talk with a hiring manager, or you talk with a candidate, that you can easily get people on the same wavelength of what their attitudes are.

For a hiring manager: what the attitudes of the candidate or the new hire needs to be.

And for the candidate how they are.

So, how does it work?

In the card-deck, you have a card with 0-1-2-3. And you have cards with a description of an attitude. Sometimes in duo, or sometimes in a trio. So, you give this to the hiring manager, and you say: okay, here is a set of cards. You need to make them into an order of three points. So, you can take a card on three. Because, you want the candidate to be only that. And then the opposite is: you don't want them to be this, so you put it on a zero. But you can also select a card, saying: he needs to be more this, that's a two. And from time to time that: that's a one. So, that's three again. So, with this card-deck, you can go to the candidates as well and then you can compare the results, easy. Everyone can do that.

One last question, Wim. Can you give an example of a question that asks for an attitude?

To make it a little bit more concrete, so I know what you're talking about.

Maybe, to make a comment on this: attitude-based interview is actually the advanced version of the card-deck. I first designed the attitude-based interview and then I found out, for on a regular basis, that people are not able to, maybe, design the questions. So, that's why I designed it. But the attitude-based interview is parallel with the card-deck. So, let me start with a question to you. You are a presenter. How do you know, Kevin, that you're a good presenter?

That's a good question. Maybe because I had some training for what I do. I already did it a lot. I've made over five hundred interviews now. So, I think I do have some experience. And I also like to prepare interviews. So, I know what I'm talking about, when we have the interview. And at the same time, I try to give my guests the opportunity, the space to also have their own say in what we're going to talk about.

So, I think that helps being a good host, but whether I'm a good one or not, that's not for me to judge.

Well, actually, what I do when I ask this question...

I teach people...

Was it the right answer?

It's always the right answer. You wouldn't be running this for seven years, like you told me before, if you're bad. People won't be watching your shows. So, what I observe when someone answers this question, is actually two things. It's either when you answer the question: where is the place of the decision? Is the place of the decision, is that inside you? We call that internally referred. Or if the place of the decision is outside of you, we call it externally referred.

So, inside of you is when you know it yourself, actually. External is when someone or data needs to tell you that you're doing a good job.

Now, if you take jobs, universal, some jobs need a lot of internal reference. And some jobs need a lot of external reference. Some jobs need both. And with the tasks that you need to do, you can design what is exactly the amount of internal / external reference that someone needs. So, when I ask that, I do that in the context that I'm interviewing you. And then I can guess: okay, this is...

So, you already know I'm not an analytics guy, I don't like numbers.

Yes, that's true. You didn't mention anything...

Yes, I could have answered: look at the view rates, or something like that.

Yes, that's true. So, that's one of the questions that the attitude-based interview...

The methodology is not on the content. But, it's actually on how you design your answer, that is being measured.

Okay. You mentioned the Attitude in a box. If people want to know more about it, where can they find more information? or

We'll put the link below the video, Wim. Thank you very much for coming over.

Thank you, Kevin.

And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.