4 Steps to Behavioral Interviewing

There’s a saying I remember from my time as a writing student that I know made many of my classmates groan – “show don’t tell.” For example, “don’t tell us its cold outside, show us!” or “don’t tell us this character is mad, show us.”

While this concept seemed unimportant to a class of elementary school kids who just wanted to go outside for recess, “show don’t tell” actually has an important lesson to teach us about how we can conduct interviews that are illustrative, effective and fair.

As a hiring manager, you want to make sure you’re hiring the most qualified candidate for the job. However, it can be hard to gauge a candidate’s potential job performance when your interview questions get responses that don’t really get to the meat of what a candidate can or can’t do, knows or doesn’t know, or that give you the feeling they’re just giving you the answer they think you want to hear. When you want to dig deep into a candidate’s experience, asking behavioral interviewing questions can get you there.

What’s behavioral interviewing you ask? Great question! Behavioral interviewing – considered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to be the most effective interviewing strategy – is a strategy that employs asking questions that prompt a candidate to give direct examples of skills and experiences that will provide you with a better idea of how they will react to potential situations they might face on the job.

For example, if being able to use sound business judgment while working independently is super, super, SUPER critical to your position, having candidates tell you “I have good business judgment, and I’m independent” likely doesn’t give you everything you need to determine if they truly have these crucial skills. Instead, go for a question like, “Tell me about a time you needed to make a time-sensitive decision, and your manager was unavailable for consultation. What did you do, how did you come to that conclusion and what was the outcome?” A question like this will prompt the candidate to give you an example that will help you evaluate whether they have the skills and experience to deal with situations that may arise in the position. Plus, it will help you gauge whether or not their response to the situation fits what you’re looking for in your future employee – you want to make sure they’re a culture fit, too!

You might be saying “this behavioral interviewing sounds great, but I’m not sure how to get started – I’ve already got so many things on my plate!” Fear not – I have laid out some steps below, with some help from the good ol’ SHRM, to help you get you started.

  1. Define the critical competencies for the position: Between you and your selected interview team, come up with a list of the most important skills, behaviors or specific knowledge that will be crucial for success in the position. You’ll likely take these from the job description. If you can, keep the number of competencies between five and ten to allow for a more in-depth interview process around these competencies. Additionally, the quicker you can get your answers to the most pressing questions, the faster you can turn around a potential hiring decision and score that top candidate.
  2. Design behavioral interview questions based on these competencies: Using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Results), come up with interview questions that will prompt candidates to respond with a situation they faced and the task they needed to complete, what action they took and what results came out of it.
  3. Create a simple rating scale: Whether it’s “1-5,” “exceeds expectations to beneath expectations,” create a rating scale that will allow your team to rate the candidate against the agreed-upon competencies. This rating scale will help you compare candidates easily and also potentially cut down on potential bias as each candidate is being evaluated based on the same set of competencies and questions.
  4. Assign competencies to interviewers that best exemplify them: So you aren’t having the candidate sit through the same interview multiple times, assign specific skill sets to interviewers that best exemplify them on the job. They’ll be responsible for asking those behavioral interviewing questions relevant to their competency to gauge whether or not this candidate fits the bill. Ensure that you are keeping your interview panel and questions consistent across candidates to allow for a more direct comparison.
  5. Interview away!

For your next open position, take some stress out of finding your next hire and employ behavioral interviewing tactics – get your candidates to show you what they can do so you can be confident that your next hire is the right one!

Blog inspiration and informational source:  Behavioral Interview Guide: Early Career Job Candidates from SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management)


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