Experience, qualifications, expertise and fit are all important factors when looking for the perfect candidate. But how they handle pressure, how they delegate to their assistants, and how they communicate with others in the work environment are just as important. Behavioral interviewing may help you determine what competencies your candidates have and which candidates are potentially best suited to the position.
Behavioral interviewing can provide insight into candidates that is difficult to glean using traditional interviewing techniques. Here’s what you need to know about making the most out of your interview.
What is Behavioral Interviewing?
Behavioral interviewing operates much the same way as traditional interviewing, but instead of examining what is merely on the candidate’s resume, you frame your questions to determine how the candidate behaved previously in certain work situations. The theory is that past performance is a predictor for future performance.
Behavioral interview questions can assess competencies which include:
• Common Sense
• Time Management
• Client Service
How Do I Conduct a Behavioral Interview?
The first and arguably most important step is to determine what competencies you’re looking for in a candidate. Do you want a candidate with strong leadership skills or someone more oriented to communication and delegation? Does your company require someone who will keep cool under pressure or someone who is more inclined to respond quickly and decisively to challenges? Considering these questions ahead of time and deciding how your ideal candidate would answer will save a great amount of time and energy when you begin conducting interviews. Use the job description to help determine the important competencies to assess in the interview.
Classic examples of great questions to ask in a behavioral interview include:
• “Tell me about a success story you had in a previous job”.
• “Tell me about a difficult project.”
• “Tell me about a time you had to convince a coworker or superior of your opinion.”
• “Tell me about a difficult customer or client.”
• “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple customer demands.”
• “What is your greatest achievement?”
• “How do you communicate important issues to coworkers?”
What’s most important are not the raw numbers of a success story or the exact demands of a difficult customer. What matters is how the candidate navigated the issues, what calls they made in the moment, and what resources and skills they called upon to solve a problem. Actively listen as the candidate tells you about the situation and then use probing questions to dig deeper and get more information.
An important principle to stick to when developing behavioral interview questions is not to lead the candidate to the correct answer. For example, notice the difference between these two questions:
What is your greatest accomplishment, and how does it continue to motivate you today?
What is your greatest accomplishment?
The first question tells the candidate exactly what kind of answer you’re looking for and how to frame his or her response, so it sounds appealing. You may get the answer you want by asking this question, but not the response you need to truly get a glimpse into the candidate’s mind.
The second question, on the other hand, is much more open ended. It doesn’t hold the candidate’s hand, so to speak, and instead asks them to show you how they operate in a much more honest way. They have to make the connection between the question and the role organically, and whether or not they do so effectively can tell you just as much as the actual answer itself.
What Should I Look for in a Candidate’s Responses?
First, listen for how the candidate frames themselves within the story. Obviously, if they’re describing their greatest accomplishment, they’ll frame themselves in a positive light, but look for how they frame other people in that story. Do they claim to have done everything that led to their success single-handedly? That may be true, but it may also indicate that they lack the ability to recognize the merits and contributions of others. Ensure through your probing questions that you know exactly what their role was and that they’re not talking globally about a situation.
The same principle is true if they’re describing a time of great difficulty in their professional life. Do they accept any blame for the problems they faced? It’s alright if they did; again, what’s most important is that they realized their mistake and how they grew from it. Do they not accept any blame for the problems? That may not bode well for them as an employee or a manager.
You also want to watch for answers that the candidates don’t connect to your company culture or for ambiguities in language. The former can indicate that the candidate either doesn’t understand why you’re asking the question—which speaks to their perception skills—or that they didn’t research your company thoroughly before accepting the interview—which speaks to their motivation. The latter might be their attempts to obscure their actual behavior or actions while trying to present themselves in the best light.
These are only examples, but they indicate the kind of thinking you need to embrace when conducting a behavioral interview. You need to utilize your insight and psychological knowledge to really get an understanding of the candidate and whether they are good fit for your company.
Knowing that you need to conduct a behavioral interview to find the best person for an open job is one thing. Actually conducting one, and keeping track of everything you need to do to make it effective, is quite another. At Insight Performance, we offer a vast number of resources on behavioral interviewing and best practices for recruiting so you can save time and money during the interviewing process. Contact us today to find out how we can help you save and run your HR smoothly.