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What Is Behavior-Based Interviewing?

CoAdvantage -Traditional interviewing takes a background-focused approach to questioning job candidates. These interviewers want to understand the applicant’s experience and skills to gain a deeper understanding of where the candidate is coming from and whether the new role fits into their career trajectory. This method allows interviewers to get a feel for the candidate in person.

However, it doesn’t necessarily convey how the candidate will perform in the role.

To get at that information, another approach, behavior-based interviewing, focuses on the interviewee’s actions, behaviors, and achievements. Behavior-based interviewing is founded on the idea that past performance can be used to predict future success.

There’s some evidence for this idea. After one study, researchers summarized their results with behavior-based interviewing by writing: “Results indicated that scores based on responses given during the accomplishment interviews added considerable predictive utility to the low prediction demonstrated by traditional interviews.”

To get at that predictive insight, the interviewer focuses on getting the candidate to tell stories – sometimes hypothetical but more often historical – that shed light on how he or she would likely perform in the role for which they are interviewing. Such an interview might include questions like:

  • [Describe a situation the candidate is likely to encounter] How would you handle this?
  • Tell me about a time you encountered a problem [in general, or specifically related to the new role] and no one could help you. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when a professional relationship faltered or ended. What did you do to try to revive or rescue the relationship?

Note that none of these questions call for yes-no answers. They’re intended to force candidates to detail and explore their capabilities and skills. Make sure you also ask about failures and setbacks to gain an understanding of how they manage problems, challenges, and failures.

When not to use behavior-based interviewing

However, behavior-based interviewing has its limitations, and should typically be used as part of a wider interview process. For one thing, remember that normal employment laws still apply, so interviewers should be careful about asking questions that could expose the candidate’s private information or delve into protected information like age or health status.

Additionally, many job seekers will have canned, pre-formulated answers to a lot of these questions, which makes it harder to get an honest understanding of them. Also, don’t ask about past experiences to the exclusion of the present need. At least some parts of the interview should focus on the job role in question and require the candidate to engage in some brainstorming and idea generation rather than just relaying stories.

Lastly, remember that the capability to do the job is only part of the equation; the rest is being a good fit for the job. You could have two applicants where, behaviorally speaking, one marginally rises above the other. But the other will fit into the company’s culture better. The behavioral aspect of the interview is just one data point among many.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.