Technical skills are the knowledge and skills specific to a particular occupation. Programming is a technical skill. But so are sales, marketing, writing, customer service, accounting, and so on. The best way to evaluate high technical skills in any area is to not to interview for them but to test for them.

I first saw the testing approach many years ago by watching interviews for software engineers. A potential new hire gets invited to the company to meet with one or two trusted members of the existing software team. The interviewee is given a laptop and a series of software problems to solve. Right there on the spot, the interviewee must code solutions to those problems.

Two things struck me when I first saw this interview technique. One, it’s a fast method to assess someone’s technical skills. Two, why in the heck wasn’t this same approach being used when hiring for every other position in the company? Need a VP of Marketing? Test their technical skills on the spot by having them write a press release or create an ad campaign. What about a VP of Sales? Have them pitch the room as if it were a sales prospect. Need a secretary? Have him or her answer the phone and deal with an emergency.

Of course, assessing for cultural fit, PSIU style fit, and aligned vision and values are a different interviewing challenge. But using a technical skills test allows you to quickly assess someone’s capabilities so that you can focus on those other areas of alignment. So the next time you’re interviewing a candidate and it’s time to assess their technical skills, remember to use this simple approach: “Don’t tell me; show me.”