Can a Game of Strategy Determine Your Dream Team? How Tabletop Exercises Revolutionize Candidate Assessment

Use tabletop exercises as an innovative recruitment tool to evaluate candidates' problem-solving and strategic thinking abilities. Discover how this method can improve your hiring process.

As a strategy consulting firm, we at LGP are always looking for innovative ways to identify and attract top talent. While resumes, interviews, and references provide valuable data points, they don't always paint the full picture of a candidate's problem-solving chops and strategic acumen. That's why we've started recommending tabletop exercises into the recruitment process – the results could be game-changing (pun intended).

What are Tabletop Exercises?

For the uninitiated, tabletop exercises (TTXs) are simulated scenarios used to test plans, policies, and procedures. They're commonly used in emergency management, cybersecurity, and military contexts to assess readiness and identify areas for improvement. Participants are presented with a hypothetical scenario and asked to work through their response in real-time.

Business should design design custom TTXs that mirror the types of challenges candidates face on a daily basis. Candidates could be given a complex business problem and asked to develop a strategic solution within a set timeframe. They're provided with background information, data sets, and any other relevant materials. The exercise culminates in a presentation to a panel of partners, followed by a Q&A session.

Why Tabletop Exercises?

So why go through all this trouble? Can't we just rely on traditional recruitment methods? Well, we could – but we'd be missing out on a wealth of insight into our candidates' capabilities. Here are a few key benefits of using TTXs in recruitment:

  1. Assessing problem-solving skills: TTXs provide a direct window into how candidates approach complex problems. We can observe their thought process, see how they synthesize information, and evaluate the quality of their solutions. This is invaluable for a strategy consulting firm like ours, where problem-solving is the name of the game.

  2. Testing strategic thinking: Strategy is about making trade-offs and allocating resources effectively. TTXs allow us to see how candidates balance competing priorities, make decisions under uncertainty, and develop coherent plans of action. We can assess their strategic intuition and see how they think about business issues at a high level.

  3. Simulating real-world conditions: Consulting engagements are often high-pressure, time-sensitive affairs. TTXs replicate these conditions in a controlled setting. We can see how candidates perform under stress, how they manage their time, and how they communicate their ideas. This helps us identify individuals who will thrive in our fast-paced environment.

  1. Evaluating teamwork and collaboration: While our TTXs are primarily individual exercises, they still provide insight into candidates' ability to work with others. We can observe how they interact with the panel, respond to feedback, and incorporate input into their solutions. This is crucial for a firm like ours where teamwork is paramount.

  2. Showcasing our firm culture: TTXs also serve as a powerful branding tool. By designing exercises that reflect our firm's values and ways of working, we give candidates a taste of what it's like to be part of the LGP team. This helps us attract individuals who are a strong cultural fit and are excited about our approach to problem-solving.

Designing Effective Tabletop Exercises

Of course, not all TTXs are created equal. To get the most value out of this approach, it's important to design exercises that are relevant, challenging, and fair. Here are a few key principles we follow at LGP:

  1. Align with real-world challenges: Our TTXs are based on actual client engagements and industry trends. We want to assess how candidates would perform in situations they're likely to encounter on the job. This means crafting scenarios that are complex, ambiguous, and multi-faceted – just like the problems we solve for our clients.

  2. Provide adequate context: To level the playing field, we provide all candidates with the same background information and data sets. This ensures that everyone has the same starting point and can be evaluated based on their analysis and recommendations, rather than their prior knowledge or experience.

  3. Set clear expectations: We're transparent about what we're looking for in a successful TTX performance. Candidates know upfront that they'll be evaluated on their problem-solving skills, strategic thinking, and communication abilities. We provide a rubric outlining the key criteria we'll be assessing, so there are no surprises.

  1. Allow for creativity: While we set clear parameters for the exercise, we also leave room for candidates to put their own spin on things. We're looking for individuals who can think outside the box and come up with novel solutions. The best TTX performances are those that surprise and delight us with their originality and insight.

  2. Provide meaningful feedback: TTXs are a learning opportunity for candidates, not just an evaluation tool. We provide detailed feedback on each candidate's performance, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement. This helps individuals grow and develop, even if they don't ultimately join our team.


To illustrate the power of TTXs in action, here are a few examples of exercises that could be used in recent recruitment cycles:

  1. Market entry strategy: Candidates are asked to develop a go-to-market strategy for a fictional company looking to expand into a new geographic region. They were provided with market research data, competitor analysis, and financial projections. Successful candidates crafted clear, actionable plans that balanced risk and opportunity.

  2. Product launch: In this exercise, candidates play the role of a product manager tasked with launching a new software product. They are given user research, technical specifications, and a budget. Top performers developed comprehensive launch plans that covered marketing, sales, and customer support.

  3. Supply chain optimisation: Candidates are presented with a case study of a manufacturing company facing supply chain disruptions. They are provided with data on supplier performance, inventory levels, and demand forecasts.

  1. M&A due diligence: In this TTX, candidates are part of a due diligence team evaluating a potential acquisition target. They are given financial statements, market analysis, and legal documents. Successful candidates identified key risks and opportunities and made clear recommendations on whether to proceed with the deal.

But the benefits go beyond just hiring better talent. TTXs also help refine your own problem-solving approaches. By designing and facilitating these exercises, partners and managers gain new insights into effective strategy development.

That said, implementing TTXs isn't without its challenges. Designing effective exercises takes time and resources. There have also been some logistical hurdles to overcome, particularly when conducting TTXs remotely.

At LGP, we're always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. Tabletop exercises are just one example of how we're innovating in the recruitment space. By simulating real-world challenges and assessing candidates' problem-solving skills in action, we're able to identify top talent and build a world-class team.

If you're a strategic thinker with a passion for solving complex problems, we'd love to put you to the test. Who knows – you might just have what it takes to join the LGP team and help us shape the future of business.

So what are you waiting for? Sharpen your pencils, dust off your thinking cap, and get ready to show us what you've got. The tabletop awaits!


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