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Behavior Based Interviewing

We have found Behavioral Interviewing to be very effective and want to share with you what works well for us.

Why Use Behavioral Interviewing?

Research has proven that traditional "gut feeling" interviewing is a poor predictor of good hires.Using traditional interviewing the odds are that 75% of new hires will not meet management's performance expectations. This makes traditional "gut feeling" interviewing costly in terms of low productivity and poor customer service.

Successful organizations use behavioral interviewing because it:

  • provides a systematic process;
  • ensures job-related questions are asked;
  • acquires relevant information to make a hiring decision;
  • meets legal guidelines;
  • provides objective data;
  • ensures a fair selection process;
  • ensures a good match between candidate and job;
  • results in shorter training time and lower turnover.

What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a structured interviewing strategy built on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance in similar circumstances. The interviewer probes for behavioral evidence of what the candidate said, did, felt, and thought, and what were the results.

Behavioral interviewing allows the interviewer to gather evidence for critical capabilities in a way that is most likely to ensure that a person both possesses these capabilities and is likely to demonstrate them in future situations. It is these critical capabilities, called success factors that identify the very best performers in a given job.

Success factors include:

  • Technical or job specific knowledge and skills
  • General abilities (communication skills, customer service orientation, etc.)
  • Behavioral Traits or competencies (initiative, results orientation, risk taking, etc.)


Behavioral Interviewing Process Model

We have found a four-step model to be very effective in interviewing and selection. The four steps include:

Step 1 - analyze the job;
Step 2 - plan the interview;
Step 3 - conduct the interview;
Step 4 - evaluate candidates.

Step 1 - Analyze The Job

The first step of behavioral interviewing involves a number of background activities that require analysis.

Reviewing the job involves examining existing documentation that describes the position. Review position descriptions, performance standards, and business plans that impact the position.

Developing Success Factors involves identifying a list of capabilities and characteristics - the knowledge, skills, abilities, traits - that distinguish the top performers in the position.

Determine mandatory Success Factors, those you must have and therefore need to hire for, and those success factors you can develop for. The success factors you must have in a hire will become the foundation for interviewing and selection.

Step 2 - Plan The Interview

Develop interview questions for all "must have" mandatory success factors.

Directing questions set a direction for a portion of the interview and are designed to assess specific success factors. Typically, they are used to ask a person to describe an actual past situation. For example:

To assess communication skills, ask directing questions like:

"Tell me about a specific situation where you had to get something across to someone he or she found difficult to understand."

To assess results orientation, ask directing questions like:

"Give me an example of a time when you had to go beyond the call of duty to get a job done."

Probing questions elicit details that help you assess a candidate against the job's success factors. Probing questions can involve asking a candidate for his or her thoughts, feelings, behaviors, dialogue and closure -- how the situation turned out. Examples of probing questions include:

"What were you thinking when that happened?"
"What was your reaction?"
"What did you actually do?"
"What did you actually say?"
"What did other people say in response?"
"How did it finally turn out?"
"What was the end result?"
"Is there anything else I should know about this situation?"

Plan the interview process.

Determine who will interview and for which mandatory success factors. Determine the role of each interviewer in terms of what specifically each will be evaluating and what information each will be providing. Determine who will review resumes and phone screen candidates. Determine what the job and company have to "sell" and assign a "sell" role to one or more interviewers.

Step 3 - Conduct The Interview

Here is a model that we have had success with:

  1. Establish rapport and get background information (5-7 minutes)
    • Ask rapport building questions
    • Communicate how you plan to conduct the interview ("I'll be taking notes, etc.)
    • Ask questions to get background information
  2. Obtain behavioral information on mandatory success factors (40-45 minutes)
    • Ask a directing question and get an overview of the situation (5%)
    • Get background information on the situation (15%)
    • Probe for details (65%)
    • Close (15%)

    Go through same process for another success factor.

  3. Describe the position (5 minutes)
    • Duties, responsibilities, deliverables, etc.
    • Examples of work to be performed
    • Answer questions
  4. Sell the position and company (5 minutes)
  5. Close the interview (3 minutes)
    • Determine candidate's interest
    • Describe next steps

Step 4 - Evaluate Candidates

Assess the candidate against the success factors you are evaluating. To do this, assess the strength of the evidence the candidate presented in your behavioral interview. Document your evaluation and make a hire or no hire decision.


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