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Hiring the Golden Unicorn Part 3: Behavioral Interviewing

Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


In part one of this four part series we discussed how to find your key talent by first having a greater understanding of your vision, mission, values, company structure, and your strengths and weaknesses. Last week we discussed the questions you need to think about when creating or filling the position, including the competencies, qualifications, and brain style needed. This week we’ll talk about the interview itself and how to ask the questions that require them to show you their thinking process rather than pat answers.

Finding that right person who will fit into your culture and do the job you need them to do is vital to helping you get to the next level. One of the key components of finding the right person, the key talent, the golden unicorn, is the interview. Asking questions that reveal how the candidates have done things in the past, understanding their thought patterns, and being able to translate that into how they may work in your company or team is very important. To do that, you can conduct behaviorally based interviewing. Behavioral interviewing is based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Many think that asking people how they would solve a hypothetical problem is useful in interviewing.  It is actually more effective to ask people what they DID (that is, how they behaved) in past situations that are similar to your context.  They should relate specifically to the position and the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies needed to be successful in that specific position.

Start with a set up question such as, “This job requires you to … Have you done that in your previous work?” Then move into behavioral based questions such as:

  • Describe how you’ve done that in your career.
  • Describe a success you’ve had in doing that.
  • Describe a situation where a problem came up in doing that.
  • How did you solve the problem?

Or behavioral questions such as these:

  • Accomplishment: Talk about a time when you worked your hardest, went above and beyond the call of duty. What was the project or task? What was your role? What was the outcome? What was the reward?
  • Adaptability/Resiliency: Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • Analysis/Problem Solving: Describe when you or a group you were a part of was in danger of missing a deadline. What did you do?
  • Conflict Management/Dealing with Difficult People: Describe a time when you worked with others who did not work well together. How did you deal with it?
  • Customer Service/Client Focused: What is your philosophy of good customer service? Describe a time when you used this customer philosophy to deal with a perplexing problem.

What are the major areas in which you need someone to be successful in this position – customer service (internal or external customers), decision making, planning, time management, teamwork, leadership? Write a question that is a realistic representation of how they would handle a problem or solution in that area. Make sure your questions are relevant to your position and not something you found off the Internet. Absolutely use those as a basis, but ensure that you create your own so the answers you get will help you better translate how the candidate will work in your team or organization.

The whole interview isn’t behaviorally based. You need a mix of good old fashioned questions that get you pertinent information as well. However, have enough behaviorally based questions that you really feel as if you know their thinking process (does it fit with the brain style required for this position), their values (does it fit with your company values and culture), and their confidence (how do they handle stressful situations where they need to problem solve).

Also, make sure you check with Human Resources for the questions you are not allowed to ask. There are definitely interview questions that fall into the illegal realm. You can’t ask about family, age, religion, etc. Enjoy the interview, however, ensure you don’t get so comfortable that you move into some of the illegal questions merely out of curiosity for another human being.

What are the benefits of behavioral interviewing?

For the employer you’ll more likely hire the best person for the position, they’ll be more productive faster because they’ll need less initial training and development, they will see how their work ties into the organizational performance and thus you have a greater chance of retention.

Your candidates will benefit because it is an opportunity to ensure their skills are a good match to the position which leads to greater satisfaction, engagement, and self-confidence. They will immediately see how their contribution is directly related to the organizational goals and can see the organization as a place to build their career.

To listen to me talk about this in the Insider’s Guide to 5-Star Customer Service Telesummit click here. To get a free copy of almost 100 behavioral interview questions by category, click here.

What are your best behavioral interview questions? Share with us!

For information on leadership, Hiring the Golden Unicorns, Emotional Intelligence & Negotiations, Strengthening your Inner Genius, or any of our programs, call us at 682.200.1412 or go to http://www.apexmastery.com/