More Than a Gut Feeling – The Behavioral Interview

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Behavioral interviewing is the process of asking questions about specific examples of what the candidate has done in the past to gain insight into what they will do in the future. The process is behavioral because people have a tendency to behave in the future the same way they behaved in the past. It sounds simple in theory, but it is a delicate skill to make sure that you don’t use biases, stereotypes and “gut feelings” in the process. The following are the basic steps of a behavioral interview.

First an interviewer needs to plan a structured interview that includes precise, pre-planned interviewing questions. In order to do this a thorough examination of the job being interviewed for needs to take place. The interviewer must know the specific skills needed for the job. Once the specific skills are garnered then the questions can be tailored to find out if the candidate has the skills necessary. For instance if the job is for a customer service rep, then questions that gain insight into a candidates past handling of difficult customers should be used.

The behavioral example you ask for should be a specific life history event. It has to be a specific example to be effective. Don’t let the candidate generalize. The candidate might say, “I calm customers down by allowing them to vent.” This may be a good technique but it doesn’t give a specific example. Make sure you keep asking until you get a specific past work event. Make sure you follow up if the example isn’t specific enough and get the information you need.

The interviewer needs to maintain control during the interview. If a candidate has gotten off subject, the interviewer needs to politely interrupt and get the interview back on track. Don’t be afraid of silence during an interview. Allow the candidate plenty of time to formulate an answer. If the candidate gets flustered make sure they are at ease by saying,”take your time.”

During an interview make sure that you know the specific questions you cannot legally ask. This is extremely important in staying out of legal trouble, plus these types of questions do not provide relevant information to a behavioral interview. Write these questions down and memorize them. It helps to refresh yourself before an interview just to make sure. Sometimes during the small talk that begins or ends an interview an illegal question can be accidentally asked. Even something as simple as “Do you plan on having more children?” can be considered illegal, even though the interviewer may have just asked the question to be polite and had no intention of using it in the hiring decision.

Behavioral interviewing is the only way to make sure that biases, stereotypes and “gut feelings” don’t make there was into the interviewing decision. Specific past behaviors are the only way to predict future behavior and they can help managers avoid bad hiring decisions.

ABOUT THE WRITER – Charlie Bentson King

Charlie Bentson King is a writer and producer of training videos for TrainingABC. TrainingABC is a distributor of behavioral interviewing videos such as More Than a Gut Feeling.

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