Behavioral Interviewing: It’s Not For The Untrained

Beth Miller |

In a recent post on behavioral interviewing, I discussed how to purposefully create and develop a system of questions when using behavioral interviewing to choose a candidate for a position. But handing over a set of questions to an untrained manager is like handing over a bag of groceries and asking someone to cook a meal without a recipe or any cooking knowledge.

At its heart, behavioral interviewing turns an interview into a conversation based on storytelling. You’re asking candidates to tell you a story about something they’ve done in the past. The story is about an actual situation, task, action, and result. This structure not only tells you if the candidate can recall real details of what happened, but also gives you a consistent method to evaluate them.

According to Money-Zine.com, “Another benefit of the behavioral interviewing approach is that the entire process makes it much more difficult for the job candidate to exaggerate or create hypothetical situations.  As an interviewer, always be prepared to politely ask the candidate to elaborate if you think they might be saying something misleading or stretching the truth.”

Your priority in developing leaders to effectively interview is in teaching them the best ways to ask questions developed beforehand. Training your managers in the following will help insure a consistent interviewing process.

  1. Make sure that interviewers know that they should ask open-ended questions. Avoid leading questions that give away the answer—you want to know what the candidate has to say, not what they think you want to hear. However, if a candidate answers something vaguely (“I always provided good customer service…”) your interviewers should know that it is good to ask for more details, or more specific examples of situations. If the candidate is not particularly talkative and needs more prompting, teach your interviewers to ask questions like “What factors led to this situation?” “What was your role?” “How did you respond?” and “What was the outcome, and would have done something differently, looking back?” This will help you make sure you get the most crucial information out of candidates.
  2. Also important is teaching your interviewers how to listen and direct the conversation in a focused way. When recounting an event or story, candidates may wander off topic. Keep them on topic using some of the questions above to prompt them back into a certain direction.
  3. To create an atmosphere where candidates will feel comfortable answering fully and honestly, let interviewers know not to pass any judgment or approval/disapproval in response to a candidate’s answer, both in words and in expression. Candidates are also evaluating the company at which they are interviewing, so it is important to be organized, cordial, and interested, so that they will want to work for you if you decide that they are the best person to bring on board. Interviewers should be just as aware how important it is to make eye contact and take notes as the candidates undoubtedly are from their own preparation.
  4. Finally, it should go without saying, but all interviewers should know that it is always necessary to treat all candidates with utmost respect, and to not evaluate them based on superficial impressions but on the quality of their experience.

How do you intend to train the people interviewing new talent in your company to provide consistency in results

Image Credit: The Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu) User: tsk

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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