Behavioral Interviewing … why this style?

Interviewing Skills CourseBehavior based interviewing has been defined by business Professor Emeritus Herbert G. Heneman, III of the Dickson-Bascom Business School at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. as “A thorough, planned, systematic way to gather and evaluate information about what candidates have done in the past to show how they would handle future situations.”

The key assumption is that job candidates who have previously demonstrated a particular behavior to address a situation will repeat that behavior in the future when confronted with a similar set of problems. The hiring authority determines which specific behaviors are necessary for success on the job, and then seeks out candidates who have shown that they are capable of exhibiting those behaviors.

To utilize behavior based interviewing successfully, it is necessary for the interviewer and the line manager to agree to use this method which will include some form of the following steps:

Identify the knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and core competencies that are key or critical to successful job performance based on an analysis of the job and the incumbents.

Develop questions that focus on the key competencies for the job and ask each candidate the same questions. Look for consistency of responses that can be scored and comparable attributes between candidates. For example, if the job required people to multi-task, you would want to determine if they have had that experience in a previous job.

Determine which behavioral or situational questions elicit the desired behaviors for each particular job. Questions might be phrased along these lines:

“Think of an occasion when you…” and then describe a particular situation. Another approach might be, “Can you give me an example of…?” A follow-up question might be, “What needed to be done about that situation?” And finally: “What was the result?”

These questions are designed to address the various themes of behavior exhibited by successful incumbents. Questions should address values/ethics, work intensity, relationship skills, problem solving, people management, and other skills associated with success on the job.

Develop a tailored, structured format for asking the questions.
Open-ended, structured questions can be developed and incorporated into an interview instrument. These questions can be very effective toward the end of the interview after the applicant’s basic skills and qualifications for the position have been determined. The interviewer can then begin to focus on deciding if the candidate has demonstrated the behaviors that will assure success on the job.

Devise benchmark responses prior to the interview that represent examples of “good”, “average”, and “bad” answers to the questions.

There should be a scoring process. If the candidate’s response to the question matches that given by the best incumbent performers, they should receive a positive or numerical value for this question. Less satisfactory responses should receive lower or negative values.

Interviewer notes should contain actual responses and omit prejudicial or judgmental comments so that a consistent record is maintained for each candidate. Additionally, a standard set of questions should be developed for each position. There should be an opportunity to pose optional questions when necessary. After a number of candidates have been interviewed, they can be compared on a consistent, “apples to apples” basis.

Behavioral interviewing is becoming increasingly popular because of its usefulness in predicting position success. There are some limitations of behavioral interviews. Since each job is unique, it is necessary to determine and get line management to agree on what specific behaviors are associated with position success. This is a time-consuming process, so it can be best justified when there is a need to recruit many people for the same position. Successful utilization also depends on the skill level and training of the interviewers.

Extracting the Facts
As a manager or team leader, you must do a great deal of questioning and listening. It is therefore necessary to effectively elicit ideas and information. To effectively manage people, you frequently have to find out what they know, think, or feel, and asking questions is the best way to do it. There’s nothing foolproof about asking questions. If you want to find out what “employee X” knows or thinks or feels, you can guess or you can ask. There will be times when your intuition is accurate and you learn what you need to know simply by keeping your eyes open. More often than not, your hunches, intuition or eyes will not provide you with the information you need. You’ll have to ask.

However, asking isn’t always as easy as it seems. Not everyone knows how to ask the right question in the right way at the right time. Therefore, we will review some guidelines and techniques on how to properly ask the right questions.

Good questioners must be able to follow conversational twists and turns that they had no way of foreseeing by asking unplanned, spontaneous questions. The ability to ask unrehearsed and spontaneous questions is important in all give-and-take situations. We do not suggest that you plan each question down to the last word, but you should do some planning. You should do enough planning to keep you on track, but not so much that you are locked in once you get started. One method of planning is to anticipate some of the questions you could ask under different situations.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Hiring, Professional Skills

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