Strategic Hiring – Going Beyond the Behavioral Interview

Behavioral interviewing, which came into fashion in the 1970s, has long been a trusted tool for hiring managers to use when selecting talent for the organization. By using questions that are structured in such a way so that the candidate can “Tell you about a time when…” and so forth, behavioral interviewing has given leaders insight into understanding how candidates think and how they have behaved in the past. Behavioral experts believe that the best way to predict future behavior is past behavior. Behavioral interviewing builds on this premise.

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

In order to get as well rounded and complete a picture as possible, it’s crucial that leaders incorporate an interviewing process and style that blends different methodologies and practices into one, instead of solely relying on behavioral interviewing, even when based on specific competencies.

Behavioral interview questions can be effective if the interviewer is careful about how the questions are structured. Be mindful that your question structure doesn’t give away the “answer” you’re seeking. Let’s consider the question: “Tell me about a time when you turned an unhappy customer into a happy customer?”

By asking this question, you’ve given candidates the answer roadmap: share a success story and avoid talking about failure. To increase the question’s effectiveness, instead leverage the behavioral interviewing structure but make it open-ended so that it is more of a conversational interview. Think about asking: “Tell me about a time when you failed to provide service.” By asking the candidate to talk about a specific incident in their past, you can get a sense of not only how they behave in the face of obstacles, but you don’t lead them to an answer, ruining the effectiveness of the question. In addition, the candidates choice of which situation to discuss is great information in itself of what the candidate considers noteworthy. This type of open-ended, conversational behavioral interview question helps you gauge how the individual may handle failure and what you may expect from them on the job. While behavioral interviewing is a lot more than simply the questions asked, and listening carefully (while probing) for the answers, it has proven significantly more informative than off-the- cuff interviewing by an untrained hiring manager.

It’s not only about the type of questions you ask, but the interview process itself.

  • Schedule candidate interviews with several different individuals so you can get multiple perspectives
  • Remember that the interview process is as much abut the candidate interviewing you as the other way around. Provide them ample information and opportunities for questions and answers about the company
  • Train interviewers in interviewing, especially behavioral interviewing using clear selection criteria (or competencies), to increase the likelihood of accuracy and consistency in hiring
  • Consider using job suitability assessments designed to measure affinity for specific behavioral traits deemed essential or desirable for the specific job and cultural factors that fit with the organization.
  • Leverage reference checking and background screenings to minimize the potential risk accompanying the hiring process.

Finally, as recommended by Lazlo Bock, author of Work Rules! and former SVP of People Operations at Google, don’t be afraid to move “beyond credentials” in candidate interviews and overall assessments. Studies show that interviewers who rely on credentials do so to prevent being blamed for recommending someone who doesn’t work out. The excuse becomes, “Don’t blame me for hiring him. Who would think a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School wouldn’t do well here?”

On the plus side, Bock is a strong proponent of structured behavioral interviews and behavioral interviewing. He notes, “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable “meta” information you get about the candidate is what they consider difficult.”

For more information about strategic talent selection and retention strategies, and executive search assistance, contact our experts at PeoplescapeHR.