You’ve screened dozens of applicants, vetted a select few through multiple stages of your hiring process, and now you’re down to the final two candidates. First there is Sarah. Interviewing  her  is like playing a great game of tennis. You serve the question and she smashes it right back with a well-crafted answer. At times your conversation is like the perfect rally. You cannot fault her game.

And then there is Kate. On paper she looks great. But she is stumbling, struggling to find her feet. She       is just not giving you any kind of game. You think she can do it, but she is not convincing you.

So who do you choose? Sarah, I assume. But is Sarah the best candidate or just the best candidate at interviewing? “In many cases, job interviews are entirely disconnected from the reality of people’s day to day job,” says Ron Friedman, author of The Best Place to Work.

Of course, there are roles that you may want to judge in an interview setup. Sales or customer service employees may well have to be on their top game in similar situations. But the payroll administrator or the software developer? You don’t necessarily need them to excel here.

So how can you improve your chances of hiring the best candidate for the job, as opposed to the best interviewer?

Two things:

Be  really clear about  what you need from the person you are hiring for this role – in terms       of both behavioral traits and skills. (This will help you filter out what is not important.)

Identify the best way for your candidates to demonstrate if they have what you are looking for. (Interviews may not be the best approach for every role.)

So  how do you know what to look for? “Before  you get what you want, you have  to know what     you want,” says workplace expert Cameron Herold. He suggests two steps to help figure it out:

Identify the five core behavioral traits you want employees to have for this role.

Consider the skills they will need to perform the job. Don’t just think about what you have  on     the job description think of the five primary tasks you need them to accomplish in the first year.

So what are the best way to determine if your candidates have the behavioral traits  and skills needed for the role? Here are five ideas to get you started.

Give them a problem to solve.

Start this off by  making it part of  the application process. Describe a  problem they would      be likely to face in  their role and ask  them to respond with how  they would solve it in no   more than 1,000 words.

Ask those you have shortlisted to discuss their response. By discussing their thinking behind their solution, you’ll  verify  both their skills  (the steps they  would take  to  fix  the problem)  as well as their behaviors (how they would approach each step).

Provide a great candidate experience using our “Interview Preparation Checklist”

Give them a project to complete

Ron Friedman calls these job auditions. Prior to any formal interviews, successful applicants  are asked to complete an activity that they would do as part of their job. This shows you what your candidates are capable of before (potentially incorrect) judgments can be made at interview.

Possible job auditions might be:

Sales executive: deliver a sales pitch to you – selling your product Web designer: design a landing page for you

Project manager: write a project plan based on a project scope

Customer service manager: analyze customer service statistics and plan out next steps

This is their field. This is what they should be good at. See how they do in their comfort zone.

Online entrepreneur Melanie Duncan shared that she’s found success in taking this approach one step further. The projects she assigns take about a week to complete. And she throws two additional tests in the mix:

She doesn’t give them a due date. She asks them to submit  the  project  as  soon  as possible to the best degree possible. She will compare work that was completed by one candidate in three days to the work completed by another in ten. (There may be 8-10 candidates in play at this stage). Her business is fast-paced and she needs to get stuff out the door fast. She worries about hiring perfectionists that would find this hard.

She  will allow them to ask questions but makes it clear that the quantity and quality of  questions   will form part of the assessment. She’s a not a hand-holder and wants to weed out needy candidates.

With Melanie, candidates could go through three to five projects BEFORE they get to the interview phase. Phew! If you can devote the time, and your candidate demonstrates the patience, then you can feel pretty certain you’ve made the right hire.

Take them out of the “interview zone”

An easy way to do this is to take your  candidate out for lunch  with the  team  to  see  how  they interact. Think about which  team members you invite. The dynamics will be different if   all the attendees at the lunch are senior to the candidate. The candidate may take pains to     be on their best behavior in this situation, and you won’t get an accurate reflection of who  you’ll be working with day-to-day.

Determine the behaviors you want to observe and pay attention accordingly. Does the candidate listen when people speak? How do they interact with the waiting staff? Are they interested in learning about others or just talking about themselves?

Don’t shy away from more creative ideas. Management consulting firm  Grant  Thornton invites final candidates to a cooking class, for example. Choose an activity that really aligns with your company culture to see how your candidate will fit in.

By making your recruitment process relevant to the role, you’ll know how to hire the best candidate – not just the candidate that performs the best at interview.