Behavioral interviewing is not new. Since the 70’s managers have heard that behavioral interviewing will change the way they hire. It is somewhat surprising then to find so many people doing it poorly.
One part of behavioral interviewing is asking a candidate how or why they have done something in the past. The assumption is that if a candidate has behaved a certain way in the past he or she will continue to behave that way in the future. Right now some of you are arguing that people change and you can’t always expect for them to behave the way they always have. You are right, people do change as they age and gain experience, and I would never recommend you use a behavioral interview as the sole factor in your decision making. That said, your argument would also indicate that criminal background checks are irrelevant because “people change”.
The second part of behavioral interviewing is asking a candidate what they might do in a certain scenario. The scenario does not necessarily need to be work related. In fact you can sometimes learn more from a real life scenario than a work related scenario since a real life scenario is not seen as having a “right” answer and the candidate is less likely to just say what you want to hear.
So far so good right? Behavioral interviewing makes sense as a part of the interview process. You can get insight into how the candidate has behaved in the past, and into how they tackle problems now. So what is the big problem? The problem is the way companies are implementing behavioral interviews.
If you were to Google “behavioral interview questions” right now, you would find a number of web sites listing commonly asked behavioral questions and how to best answer them. These lists exist because companies often pick 3 or 4 behavioral questions and use them to interview every candidate who comes through the door. One of my favorites is “What is your greatest weakness?”. I’m sure the first time that question was asked in an interview the candidate squirmed in their seat trying to come up with a good answer. But now it has been so often used, so thoroughly analyzed and debated, that everyone comes up with an answer like, “I work too hard” or “I’m loyal to a fault”. A posed, practiced answer gives us little or no insight into the candidate and we are back to square one.
Even if the candidate hasn’t researched and prepared for behavioral questions on the interview, many companies are asking the same questions for every candidate in every department for every job title. This is something I really don’t understand. Does it really make sense to ask a salesperson and an IT manager the same questions? Of course not, if the questions are generic enough to be used for both positions, they are too generic to garner any valuable insight into the candidate. At the very least companies should be using questions specific to the role for which the candidate is applying.
Getting the absolute best results requires a company to go one step farther and use questions tailored specifically to the candidate. This is best accomplished by giving the candidate a behavioral assessment before the interview. A good behavioral assessment will highlight possible areas of concern, and offer targeted questions to explore those areas during the interview. A thorough behavioral interview is especially important for supervisory and customer service positions where the candidate will not only have to manage his or her own behavior, but also the behavior of others around them.
If you are not currently using behavioral interviews as part of your hiring process, give it a try and see how much more you learn about your candidates. If you are using behavioral interviews, make sure you have a program that is targeted enough to provide you the very best results.