Behavioral Interviewing: A Strategic Imperative

When networking with job-seekers, I hear that behavioral interviewing is common practice; thus, I was shocked to read this article on Business Insider: “Google Admits Its Crazy Interview Questions Were ‘A Complete Waste of Time.”  I could not believe that a Fortune 100 company was still asking questions such as, “Why are manholes round?”  I am unable to determine how someone can objectively answer this type of question.  Behavioral interviewing is evidently a practice that is not as common as I had thought.  If behavioral interviewing is not something your company is practicing now, it is should be put into practice as soon as possible.

My typical one on one interviews last around forty-five minutes and I am strapped for time to extrapolate all the relevant information I need to determine whether or not this candidate is not only a fit for the role at hand but, also for our culture.  It is critical that I utilize the time with planned questioning that assesses what the candidate has done in the past and what she is likely to do in the future, rather than assessing whether or not the candidate can solve brainteasers that she will not likely be faced with in the role.  I believe that most individuals that secure interviews can tell you what someone should do in certain circumstances, but is it what she actually did when finding herself in that situation?  You are often able to discern how much experience she has handling the situations you are asking about by how quickly she is able to produce examples and how she handles herself under pressure.

If you are struggling to know where to start, I began by reading a couple of valuable books:  How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time by Lori Davila and Louise Kursmark and High-Impact Interview Questions by Victoria Hoevemeyer.  These books offer sample behavioral interview questions and rating scales to get you started.

The most challenging piece can be getting consistent practice of behavioral interviewing across all of your hiring managers’ interviews. As all of us in HR know, the hiring managers are typically swamped and the last thing on their mind is preparing in advance for an interview.   I started off by utilizing behavioral interview questions for soft skills, as many hiring managers struggled with how to measure a candidate’s soft skills, but understood the importance of making this more objective.  It was also effective to let them know that I was going to assist them with being more prepared for the interview and complete some of the up-front work for them by developing the questions.

This provided an additional benefit, in that I was able to introduce more of a focus on soft skill assessment.  So often hiring managers place greater value on finding candidates who are a “plug n’ play” due to their technical skills that I have seen many hires who don’t work out, not due to their technical abilities, but the missing soft skills that were not assessed during the interview process.  It is important to remind hiring managers that specific technical skills can be trained; however, soft skills often cannot or require a larger time investment not only from a training perspective but also in fixing interpersonal problems that occur that are not as easily solved.

Greater acceptance from hiring managers can be acquired by conducting post hire analysis of the new hire’s performance and correlating this with the interview questions asked.  This allowed the hiring managers to make better hiring decisions in the future and determine which questions were valuable in making staffing decisions.  This also resulted in saving the hiring managers a lot of time and expense through a reduction of bad hires.

After experiencing the benefit of asking the same soft skill questions to various candidates and being able to rate them on a scale that allowed objective comparisons across candidates post interview, I convinced the hiring managers to allow me to assist with the development of technical behavioral questions as well.  Often, I taught them how to include technical elements in the soft skill questions, such as, “Tell me about a time you identified a data or reporting discrepancy and how were you able to validate the data and take corrective action in a short amount of time.” This would allow the hiring manager to not only assess someone’s attention to detail and ability to work under tight deadlines, but also their ability to understand the technical reporting aspects of the job.  It is incredibly important to eventually be able to assess the technical aspects of a job and the soft skills required at the same time, due to time constraints of interviews.  Additionally, this helps avoid receiving the canned responses to basic soft skill questions such as, “Give me an example of situation that demonstrates your ability to effectively manage your time.”  I typically recommend surveying all of the candidates for 5 technical and 5 soft skills and ensuring that all skill sets that are necessary to be successful in the role are covered by one of the interviewers on the team.  As a past Recruiting Director, I embrace the opportunity to ensure that questions aren’t being repeated over various hiring mangers that are interviewing candidates for the role and that we are providing a great first impression to our candidates of an organized agency.

Not only did our implementation of behavioral interview questions across the agency help secure talent that was a better fit to role but also perpetuated a stronger presence of our agency in the marketplace.


Photo credit iStockphoto

Amanda Papini, Recruiting Director at Response Mine Interactive started her career in recruiting at Medical Staffing Network in 2005, and moved over to a corporate recruiting role at BKV and Response Mine Interactive in 2007, where she built an internal recruiting practice for both companies. Amanda has since staffed over 250 full-time employees within both companies; an average of 50 hires per year. After assisting with RMI and BKV’s growth over the last 5 years, Amanda decided to move over to focus solely on RMI’s talent acquisition and take on a role more dedicated to employee development.

About the Author

Amanda Papini

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *