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5 reasons to have a behavioral based interview

January 15 2019 - Hiring the right people can make or break a business. Just one stellar employee can have a significant impact on your entire business, the same way one truly bad employee can actually cost you a herd of good ones. But what makes a "good" or "bad" employee and how do you hire the right people? This is a question that has been asked for decades.

The truth is, the right employee for your business might not be the right employee for someone else's. In addition, the skills and temperament an employee needs to work well with one team or manager might be entirely different from the skills and temperament needed to work with another. In many cases, the people doing the hiring are not actually the people that need to work with the individual being hired. For many years, the prevailing wisdom has been to look for employees that have the right skills to do the job, not necessarily the right temperament to fit in with the culture. That is slowly changing. Google in particular gained fame (and some might say notoriety) for their off-the-wall interview questions, but like all things Google, there was most definitely a method to their madness.

In addition, sometimes employers and HR managers can actually be the biggest obstacle to getting the right people. All too often, the people doing the hiring are unaware of or unwilling to admit to their own biases and prejudices. Biases and prejudices are not just racism or sexism, but rather simply the criteria in which we make judgements about what we like and don't like. Unfortunately, the people doing the hiring are people, and people are notoriously bad at understanding the difference between who they like and who is right for the job. Ultimately, we choose what we like, but the criteria on which we make those judgements might be far more flimsy than we like to admit.

Thankfully, there is a more science-based approach to interviewing that helps you find the right candidates, while eliminating many of the personal biases on which you may unconsciously make hiring decisions. A behavior based interview can help you get the right candidates. Here are 5 reasons to adopt a behavior interview strategy for your next round of interviews.

1. Past performance is a good indicator of future performance

Generally the purpose of a behavioral interview is to determine how a candidate will act or behave in certain situations. Asking how they behaved in similar situations in the past will generally give you a fairly good idea of how they are likely to behave in the future. Just because someone has the title "manager" on their resume doesn't necessarily mean they were a good manager or that they have the trait and skills necessary to lead the specific team that you need them to. Just because they may have thrived in a previous situation or position does not necessarily mean they will thrive in the situation you need them to.

If you are looking for a candidate to replacing a poor manager, you need to make sure they have the skills needed to clean up someone else's mess. If they are replacing an excellent manager, you need to make sure they can keep a high functioning team or location running smoothly. Just because you are hiring someone who has experience as a manager doesn't mean they have experience with the type of team or situation you need them to manage. Asking questions about how they have handled the types of situations you need them to be able to handle will give you some insight into how well they will perform under conditions you need them to.

2. Unexpected questions lead to more revealing answers

Most people go into interviews prepared to wow by having answers prepared to standard questions. These answers are often carefully crafted to highlight all of their best qualities. It doesn't mean they are lying in interviews, but rather simply drawing attention to their best qualities while diminishing their worst. By asking questions they can't adequately prepare for, you tend to get more honest answers, because they haven't had time to prepare, polish and hone them to perfection.

That in and of itself also gives you an indication of how they perform under pressure. Do they take their time, think through the question and prepare an answer before speaking, or do they immediately start talking and formulate an answer as they go? Neither of these approaches are necessarily right or wrong, but they provide definite insight into how the candidate operates.

3. Behavioral interviews help you better evaluate their legitimate weaknesses

One common interview question is to ask candidates what their biggest weakness is. What an interviewee says or even thinks their biggest weakness is, however, may or may not actually be their biggest weakness. It may simply be an answer carefully chosen to impress you even more. Behavioral based questions, however, will give you more of an actual look at their strengths and weaknesses rather than just getting a well-rehearsed response.

4. They help you find the right competencies for your specific needs

Titles can be misleading for many reasons. In some cases, you may have a candidate that has far greater skills than what their previous (or current) job utilizes. In other cases, they may have gotten jobs due to nepotism or other external factors. How well they perform in one situation, however, does not always determine how well they will perform in the situation you need them to. Behavioral questions can help. For instance, if you have a manager that is very hands-on, you will need an employee with different traits from a manager that simply hands out assignments and deadlines and expects them to be met. Behavior question can help ensure you are getting a candidate with the right temperament as well as the right skills.

5. They help you see how a candidate solves a problem in real time

In many ways, an interview is in and of itself a problem to be solved. You have a job to offer that the candidate ostensibly wants. Theoretically, to get what they want, they need to "succeed" in the interview by convincing you to give them the job rather than someone else. Every question that you ask is therefore in a sense also a problem to be solved. On the one hand, they will most likely have at least some compulsion to be honest and yet on the other hand, they will most likely also try to factor into their answer elements of what they think you are looking for. The problem to be solved is to answer each question in such a way as to convince you they are the right person for the job.

Behavioral interviews offer an excellent opportunity to actually see a candidate working through a problem. It also gives you a chance to see how they work through it. When you ask them an unexpected question they don't know how to answer, do they become flustered? Do they simply repeat the question over and over without ever really giving you an answer? Do they speak a lot of words without ever giving a comprehensive answer? When asking behavioral questions, the answers the candidate gives are not always as important as simply evaluating how the candidate approaches the problem of answering them in the first place.

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