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Behavioral Interviewing – A Tool for Employers

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Employers know all too well the importance of selecting the right employee for a position, but the interviewing and selection process doesn’t always come easily. Even experienced recruiters have been dazzled by applicants who know all the right things to say in an interview, but who don’t have the necessary skills to perform the job. Learning behavioral interviewing techniques can be a helpful tool for employers to more effectively screen candidates.

The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. In other words, if an applicant has done something in the past, he or she is likely to do it again in the future. Behavioral interviews incorporate questions that deal with specifics about an applicant’s past work performance. Behavioral interviewing may also reduce potential liability because the process and questions are “job related.” The questions are strictly related to workplace behavior, and all applicants for the same position will be asked the same questions.

To use a behavioral interviewing process, first determine the performance criteria for the job that needs to be filled. Usually a job description will describe the criteria. If a job description isn’t available, make a list of the qualities that are essential to performing the job effectively. Every position has different criteria. Some examples include ability to handle stress, ability to work under pressure, initiative, judgment, professionalism, high energy, customer service skills, written communication skills, sales ability, verbal skills, attention to detail, decisiveness and problem solving.

Once the criteria for effective job performance have been determined, design questions that will garner the information needed to decide if the person being interviewed has those skills.

The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations.

You are looking for answers that describe specific work performance from previous experience because they serve as predictors of how the applicant will perform in your work environment. For example:

Sales skills: Describe a situation when you were able to motivate a sales prospect to buy from you. Describe how you have been able to get past a “gate keeper” and reach a decision maker. Describe the most successful sales presentation you have prepared? What was the key to that presentation? What process did you use to develop the presentation?

Stress: Describe a situation where you were required to work under a great deal of stress. What was the cause of the stress? What methods did you use to handle the stress effectively? What was the result? What would you do differently?

Energy: Describe a time when you had to work at a fast pace for a long period of time. What kind of work did you do? How were you able to maintain the pace?

Customer service skills: Describe a time when you had difficulty handling a customer. How did you resolve the issues? What was the result?

Evaluate the responses from each applicant in a consistent way. Did the applicant answer the question completely? Was the answer well articulated? Did the applicant describe a behavior that is important for the position? Does the person possess the skills that you have determined are essential criteria for the job?

Behavioral interview questions will not replace traditional interview questions that serve to clarify specifics about work experience, education and background information. However these questions may improve the quality of information received during the interview process by providing specific examples of the applicant’s work-related behavioral patterns.

This article is not intended to be construed as legal advice, but is provided as an overview of good business practices.