Recruiters should go beyond simply asking questions from a behavioral interview template. Probe further so you can get the information you really need to make a hiring decision.
Behavioral interviews are becoming increasingly popular as the “in” thing in recruitment processes everywhere. You’ll find tons of resources online that give candidates all sorts of advice on how to ace a behavioral interview.
Oddly enough, what’s offered to most recruiters is simply a template with a bunch of “behavioral questions.” To conduct an effective behavioral interview, what you do with the answers is far more important than the questions you ask. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)
Here are three easy tips to get the most out of behavioral interviews:
1. If at first their answer doesn’t succeed, ask, ask again
Behavioral interviewing is based on the belief that past behavior is a predictor of future performance. The key words here are “past behavior.” Too often, candidates have a tendency to respond to questions hypothetically. But that only tells you what the candidate thinks they would do (or thinks you would want them to do) in any given situation, not what they’ve actually done in a similar situation in the past.
If a candidate can’t think of a real example, broaden the parameters of the question. Suggest they give an example from their personal life instead of a professional example. You could also try rewording or paraphrasing the question to help a candidate who’s stumped come up with an acceptable response.
2. Know your ideal answer before you ask the question
Interpreting responses to behavioral questions can be tricky. These questions are typically multidimensional, so the answers can be complex and misleading. Some candidates are also adept at this sort of interviewing and have practiced the art of sounding eloquent while avoiding giving a real answer.
Each specific behavioral question is typically meant to assess a particular skill. Having a good idea of what you’d like to hear (similar to creating an ideal performance profile) will help you hone in on the competency or skills you’re assessing.
For example, consider the question, “Tell me about a time when you’ve failed at work.” Answers may range from “I’ve never failed” to some version of, “I’m human and I’ve made many mistakes.” The candidate may describe a mistake with negligible impact or give an example of a huge blunder.
Ultimately, the actual mistake they made doesn’t matter. The ideal response includes three components: details of the mistake, remedial action taken to correct it and any steps taken to prevent the same mistake from happening in the future — which is the most important part. Very few candidates get to the second or third parts of the answer without prompting.
3. Dig deep to make this interview really count
You’ve probably sifted through volumes of resumes and profiles to find a few candidates worth getting to know. You might have also invested time in intermediary steps such as phone screens to create a short list of candidates you want to bring in for a behavioral interview. So make it count. Ask follow-up questions to probe deeper. Ask clarifying questions to understand the context of examples the candidate gives.
Be curious, but don’t interrogate. Make it a conversation. Assure them there are no right or wrong answers. Some answers may not impact a hiring decision, but may simply indicate areas where training or coaching are required.
Above all, aim to disarm the candidate. After all, you’re trying to get a glimpse of how they behave outside the interview setting. If it’s worth going through this process, it’s worth doing it right.
Deepa Barve is Sr. Recruitment Leader at SSOE Group, an architectural and engineering consulting firm. Deepa has more than seven years of recruiting experience in engineering, healthcare and hospitality and has authored career advice articles on www.examiner.com.