Why you aren’t getting results from behavioral interviewing

Why you aren’t getting results from behavioral interviewing

The concept of behavioural interviewing is nothing new. In fact, I would wager that a majority of you reading this have used the technique in your own hiring process—or at least you think you have. That’s the thing about behavioural interviewing, the concept is simple, but actually applying it correctly is trickier. And if you’re not applying it correctly, it’s likely not helping you hire the right candidates.

There is a trick to making this method of interviewing work harder for you, and getting that right is an important interviewing skill to add to your arsenal. I’m going to share that trick with you in this blog.

Let’s start off by being clear on what we mean by behavioural interviewing. This method of job interviewing is focused on uncovering examples of how a candidate behaved in specific work situations. It’s based on the premise that past behaviour is a strong predictor of future performance.

If you’re asking questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?  Where do you want to be in five years?  Can you work under pressure?  Are you a team player?  How would you handle this situation?”  You’re using traditional interviewing, not behavioural interviewing. This kind of interviewing will not help you identify A-level talent.

I can hear the collective “duh” from many of you out there. “Of course we know what behavioural interviewing is. And we’re using it.” You’re probably asking questions that start with “tell me about a time that you …”

That’s a good start, but that’s not behavioural interviewing; at least not on its own. The piece missing is what comes after the question: the probing. That’s where behavioural interviewing brings real value.

The trick to more effective interviewing

Behaviour-based interviewing adds value because it offers a window into past behaviour that, in turn, provides an insight into how a candidate will behave in your company. In working with our clients, though, we find that they are often met with one of three types of responses when they ask a behaviour-based interview question:

  1.        Silence
  2.        Vague generalities
  3.        A verbal explosion

None of these responses is going to give you what you need. Whether they are unable to think of an example, only give you vagaries, or go off on so many tangents that you lose track of the conversation, you fail to get the value from the question.  

In order to take control and get the response you’re looking for, you need to probe them with the SARR method.

Situation: What was the situation? Get a description of what they were facing, who the players were.

Action: What did they do? Them specifically, not “we.”

Result: What was the outcome?

Reporting: Who were they reporting to?

Using SARR enables you to draw out the silent one, drill down with the vague responder and focus the verbal explosion, getting to the information that enables you to make a better hiring decision.

Many people ask us about the last question about reporting.  The reason you want to ask this question is as a bit of a check for the candidate.  You want to make sure that they know you’re going to check on some of these stories to make sure they’re real. 

You can also use this method in your reference checking, too, but that’s a topic for another postTo explore some other common interviewing mistakes, read this.

What are your thoughts in behavioural interviewing? Do you use it? Does it work for you? Let us know in the comments section.  


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