An estimated 30%-33% of companies in America use behavioral interviews. Behavioral interviews are based on the principle that a candidate's past behavior is the best predictor of their future performance. A traditional interview might include questions like "tell me about yourself" or "what do you consider your greatest strength." A behavioral interview, on the other hand, will include questions that aim to find out what a candidate did in a specific situation.
Behavioral interviews have certain pros:
You can see if the candidate's skill set meets your standards. Let's say one of the skills you need in a new hire is the ability to build and lead a cross-functional team. A behavioral question will tell you the depth of the candidate's experience in this area. You'll know what size and composition of team they have worked with and how successful they were.
On the other hand, a traditional question like "how would you build a cross-functional team" won't give you the same perspective.
You get a deeper understanding of the candidate. A behavioral interview lets you get into the "whys" and "hows" in ways that traditional questions don't. It gives you a more complete picture of the candidate's behaviors and thought processes.
You can quickly identify a star. High-performing employees usually have a history of taking action. You name a situation, and they have been there and done that, and they'll tell you the story in three acts.
There's no room to hide. Through skilful questions, an astute interviewer can spot an interviewee who is making up stories on the fly.
However, there are some pitfalls of behavioral interviews:
Conversations can veer off topic. If you don't keep your questions — and the interviewee's answers — relevant to the skills you're evaluating, your interview won't bring you any closer to selecting your ideal candidate.
Past behavior doesn't always predict future performance. People grow in their jobs. They may not always do what they did in the past. Over-reliance on behavioral interviews may cause you to miss other clues on how the candidate will perform in your company's environment. The best interviews combine behavioral and traditional questions.
Ultimately, the success of any interview depends on the skill of the interviewer. A behavioral interview can be an excellent tool if the interviewer is on the ball, knows how to probe for details and doesn't ask leading questions.
Do you use behavioral interviews? How have they worked for you?
Thanks, Jenni. Do you know of useful and effective alternatives to BI?
Keith, alternatives to BI would depend on your goal and the seniority level of the position. For some positions, a knowledge or skills test might be more appropriate. Or one could use strictly traditional questions, such as "tell me about yourself" and "why should we hire you?" However, I believe that every good interview should have some behavioral questions.
Happy New Year,
That makes a lot of sense, Jenni. Please give examples of this that you've participated in....