What is the Behavioral Interview
It Begins with the Interviewer…
So, what’s the problem? Is it us or them? Is it the people we are hiring, or is it the people who are doing the hiring? Sometimes, the people you hire just do not seem to work out. You have people who know how to interview. You create a series of questions according to the requirements of that position. What could you be doing differently? Are your interviewers talking more and listening less? Allow the interviewee to do most of the talking and the questions you ask can help you do that.
Consider behavioral interviewing. It can yield significant insights about the person sitting across from you. It can help you uncover key behaviors and attributes. It can help you identify the performance potential of the person you are interviewing.
What is it and why do it? Behavioral interviewing was developed in the 1970s by industrial psychologists. The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that it is the most accurate predictor of future performance. While there are no guarantees, behavioral interviewing and the questions you ask can provide you with more relevant information about the candidate, and his or her performance, fit for your organization.
What behavioral interviewing can uncover is the extent to which the candidate has experienced the same or a similar situation, and what they did or did not do to handle that situation. Design your questions to uncover how a candidate communicates his or her experiences, and how their performance resolved the situation (or not). The responses demonstrate a person’s ability to formulate a response and communicate that response in an effective and persuasive manner.
Prepare for the Interview
There are many ways to establish a performance-based behavioral interview. One way is to think in terms of themes or general behaviors and practices that you (and others) believe are relevant for the position (and any position within the organization). You can focus on the candidates’ technical abilities and qualifications, but often what separates the best candidate from others are their people skills and how effectively they interact with others to get things done. Create a set of questions for the themes-competencies for each position and/or function.
As a starting point, consider these themes and sample questions for your next interview.
• Assertiveness: Give me a specific example of a time when you presented your immediate manager with an idea or concept. How did you proceed? What was the result?
• Creativity and Innovation: What has been the most creative thing you have ever done in your life?
• Customer Service: Do you believe the customer is always right? Why or why not?
• Decision Making: Describe a decision you made only to regret it later.
• Planning and Organizing: How do you decide which projects or tasks get top priority when you schedule your time each day?
• Time Management: How do you decide what tasks to work on first?
• Self-Management: Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What were the consequences? What did you learn?
• Risk Taking: How do you decided if an idea or plan is worth the risk?
• Working with Others: Tell me about a time when you had a major conflict with another employee. What was the cause of the conflict? What did you do to alleviate the situation? What were the results?
Converting Questions to Performance-based Behavioral Questions
Doubtless, you have a series of questions you ask now. You can convert any question into a behavioral question. Here is a very short list of some typical interview questions and how you can convert them into the behavioral format.
• If you now say, “Have you ever helped reduce costs in your department,” consider rephrasing your question to, “Describe how you have helped reduce costs in your department.”
• If you now say, “Are you creative,” or “How creative are you.” consider rephrasing your question to, “Describe one of the most creative ideas you have proposed to your immediate manager (or others in your organization). How was that idea received? What happened as a result?”
• If you now say, “Tell me about yourself,” consider rephrasing your question to, “How would you describe your style (leadership, management, supervisory, or working with others)?”
• If you now say, “Do you think you are a good leader,” consider rephrasing your question to, “Give me an example of when you had to demonstrate good leadership.”
Larry Cipolla is a recognized pioneer in the design, development, and implementation of performance-based assessments. He was the first to integrate feedback with training and development, self-directed action planning, and pre-post assessments to measure individual effectiveness over time.