September 6, 2022

What Is a Behavioral Interview?

What Is a Behavioral Interview? featured image

For most organizations, interviewing is a vital step in the employee selection and succession planning process. To find a replacement for a current employee or someone to fill an additional position at your company, it’s best to speak directly with each candidate to gauge experience, personality and overall ability. 

In order for a business to succeed, the company has to hire the right person. After all, suitable candidates don’t appear out of thin air — they must be discovered through good recruitment and interview phases. It can be hard to fill empty positions or find the right people to join an organization, but proper interviewing practices can help make the process easier. 

You can begin the search for a new hire by establishing an interview style to adhere to. One helpful choice: the behavioral interview design. 

What Is a Behavioral Interview?

With the goal of selecting the most qualified and skilled person for the job, hiring managers must pay attention to each candidate’s previous work experience. The behavioral interview style is a great type of interview technique digging into past involvement and capabilities. A behavioral interview focuses on a candidate’s past experiences by asking the person to provide specific examples of how they demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities. 

During a behavioral interview, the interviewer should look for solid and verifiable evidence of how the candidate has solved problems and responded to any number of situations in their previous job. By understanding the applicant’s work history and problem-solving skills, a hiring manager can better judge their actual level of experience and potential to conduct themselves similarly in a new organization. 

Although, there are multiple styles of interview to choose from. Focusing on past behavior is considered one of the most effective plans. According to the American Society of Employers, it’s important to determine what type of interview specifically benefits your company. Here are some other interview techniques to consider:

Case Interviews

During a case interview, a candidate is given a situation they could face while working for the company and are asked to explain how they would manage that problem. 

Stress Interviews

A stress interview assesses how a candidate responds during a tense situation or a pressured deadline. Most interview styles encourage the interviewer to make the candidate feel at peace, but that isn’t the case for a stress interview. 

Group Interviews

When a company is considering multiple candidates or hiring for more than one position, they generally conduct a group interview. As the name suggests, a group interview involves multiple people being questioned at the same time. 

Competency-Based Interviews 

Competency-based interviews focus on a candidate’s interpersonal skills like communication, leadership, teamwork and decision-making. 

Panel Interviews

During a panel interview, a candidate is asked various types of questions from multiple people in an organization with the goal of having several sets of eyes on each applicant. 

Behavioral interviews are unique compared to other interview styles due to the type of questions involved. Instead of focusing on what the candidate hopes to do in the job they are being considered for, the hiring manager specifically targets the person’s future behavior based on their experience. 

This style of interview is considered structured, which means candidates can be compared side-by-side easily because interviewers use the same questions and rating scale for every person. To successfully compare candidates, your HR team should use behavioral interview best practices. 

What Are Some Behavioral Interview Best Practices?

In order to conduct proper behavioral interviews, a hiring manager should follow the right procedures. But, what are behavioral interview best practices? Follow these tips to get started:

Use the STAR Approach

The questions in a behavioral interview should target specific experiences about a candidate’s past that reflect the job roles they could be tasked with in this new position. The best questions are clear and concise and allow the interviewee to share details about relevant experiences. 

To help create this style of question, follow the STAR approach: situation, task, action and results. 

  • Situation: What situation was the candidate in?
  • Task: What tasks did the candidate need to accomplish?
  • Action: What actions did the candidate take to accomplish these tasks?
  • Results: What results did the candidate see from the actions they chose? 

By targeting these specific attributes in a question, the interviewer should be able to more accurately learn about the candidate. Some great behavioral interview questions to ask include:

  • Tell me a bit about your work background, and then give me a description of how you think it relates to our current opening.
  • Why did you choose your last position? What made you decide to consider other jobs?
  • Explain a situation where you had to problem-solve to fix an issue. What tasks did you go through to address the situation?
  • What actions have you taken when handling project delays? Tell me about the results of those actions. 
  • Can you give an example of how you would appease a customer who is disappointed with a service or product?

Create questions that target situations, tasks, actions and results to better gauge the skill level and ability of the person being interviewed. 

Create a Rating Scale

If a hiring manager has no way of rating each candidate, it will be difficult to strategically choose the right person for the job. To combat this, clearly outline a scale to rate each individual using the same system consistently and equally. According to the Society For Human Resource Management, every interviewer should understand the standardized rating system in order to judge each person fairly. 

What the scale looks like depends on the company, but could include grades for answers like: exceeds requirements, meets requirements, below requirements and so on. 

Ask Follow-Up Questions

If a candidate does not provide enough information in their original answer to a question, the interviewer should ask them a follow-up question. Even the best hiring manager has to dig deeper to get an understanding of a given candidate at times. Give the person ample time to speak about each subject and let them elaborate on items that may need extra detail. 

Some common follow-up questions include:

  • Tell me more about…
  • How did you handle…?
  • What did you do with that information?
  • What did you learn from…?
  • How so?

By using best practices like the STAR approach, a rating scale and asking good follow-up questions, a company can find success with hiring and have better retention rates due to each person being a correct match for the job.

How Are Companies Using Behavioral Interviews?

When it comes to hiring, an organization should want to avoid making costly mistakes. According to Training Magazine’s 2021 Training Industry Report, the cost of hiring a new employee goes far beyond their paycheck — there are also recruiting, training and benefit costs to consider. That being said, companies can use behavioral interviews to find great matches for the positions they are filling in order to receive a return on their investment. 

The best way to conduct a job interview using behavioral questions is to have a set process. The whole point of this style of interview is to be consistent and unwavering. So, where should a company start?

1. Select the Interviewers 

Whether a company chooses its hiring managers to follow through with all interviews or it has a hiring committee of select people, the choice of the person or people conducting the interview is important. Opt for people who have a deep understanding of the company as well as the role being filled. This knowledge helps HR personnel critically assess the abilities of each job candidate and decide who will best fit in the company. The chosen interviewers should also be able to hold a normal conversation while greeting the candidate and making them comfortable.

2. Begin the Interview

As mentioned above, the interviewer should make the applicant feel welcome by easing any nerves they may have. Start the discussion by asking the candidate about any hobbies or background details mentioned in their resume or cover letter. Don’t dive into behavioral questions at the very start — work up to it. 

3. Initiate Behavioral Questions

Once the candidate feels more relaxed, the hiring manager should begin asking behavioral questions to gauge experience and ability. 

4. Wrap Up the Interview

As the interview comes to a close, the hiring manager should allow the applicant ample time to ask any questions they may have. After answering these questions, finalize the interview by informing the candidate of any next steps and when they can expect to hear back from the company. 

Conducting an interview focused on past behavior may seem complicated or time-consuming. If that’s the case, maybe training can help. 

How Does Training Content Help You Conduct Behavioral Interviews?

Like any skill, interviewing needs to be practiced. Proper training on behavioral interviewing can benefit hiring teams by informing them of best practices, interview questioning skills and how to make a candidate feel comfortable. 

Overall, a good rule of thumb for improving behavioral interview skills is to:

Be Well Prepared

The applicant is not the only person who needs to prepare for an interview — the hiring manager should print out all necessary materials, study them and compare the job description with the skills portrayed in these documents. Read the company’s mission statement and structure in order to explain the organization well. Lastly, prepare a list of behavioral questions to work off of as the interview takes place. 

Focus on Experience 

Candidate experience is key when it comes to the hiring process. It’s important for the hiring manager to show they care about what the interviewee is saying and are evaluating them in a non-biased way. 

Ease the applicant into the interview process by opening with a more lighthearted discussion before moving on to more difficult questions. Focus on what they are saying and avoid looking around the room, answering the phone or any other distractions that can leave a negative impression of the company. Lastly, take the right amount of time for the interview and do not rush the applicant. Practice paying attention and giving them plenty of time to speak and ask questions. 

Learn From Past Mistakes

Mistakes will happen during the interview process, but learning from those mistakes can help a hiring manager prepare and be better able to conduct the next interview. Keep records and notes on what needs improvement and seek training for those specific areas. 

Companies that train their personnel well for interviews will be more likely to hire candidates who benefit the organization and flourish in the work environment. Let’s take a look at modern HR training. 

What Goes into Modern HR Training?

Human resource training has changed over the years to provide companies with every tool necessary to improve management, conduct professional interviews and find the right people to fill available positions. Online, video-based content has the potential to reach all relevant company employees, no matter where they are. This modern take on training makes it easier to thoroughly teach every member of an organization to be a better interviewer. 

Understanding and utilizing behavioral interviewing is accessible with a full collection of digital training courses available. With MasteryTCN, companies can find online classes and resources to build their skill sets and fill empty positions with the right people for the job.

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