17 March 2010

Why you should use behavioural event interviewing

The interview continues to be the primary tool used by agency recruiters to assess and recommend candidates to their clients.
The type of interview used by the recruiter is critical to the effectiveness of this process. The traditional, unstructured interview is easily recognised by such questions as;

‘tell me about yourself’

‘what are your strengths?’

‘how would you deal with a difficult person at work?’

‘what would your referees say about you?’

Questions such as these are requesting theoretical or opinion-based answers and as such are useless in assessing actual competencies at work.

A behavioural event interview is based on the premise that a candidate’s past performance is the best indicator of their future success in a particular role. As can be easily seen, none of the four questions, above, about are asking specifically about evidence of past performance.

To know whether an interviewer has conducted an effective behavioural event interview I only need to listen to the answer to this one question I ask the interviewer; ’tell me about the evidence that you have uncovered that demonstrates that the candidate is suitable, or not suitable, for the job you interviewed them for?’

Answers such as ‘I think they would be great’, ‘the client will really like them’ or ’she interviewed really well’ are answers suggesting that the interviewer didn’t do their job very well.

The answer I am keen to hear is one that starts something like this; ‘the three most important criteria for this job are X,Y and Z and here’s what I found out about the candidate’s specific capability and/or motivation with respect to X,Y and Z….’

In other words the interviewer has the facts or evidence at their disposal to provide a solid foundation on which to make an assessment of a candidate’s eligibility and suitability for a specific role.

Just in case gaining specific evidence, as distinct from opinions, is not enough to convince you of the benefits of a structured behavioural event interview here are seven more reasons;

1) Candidate comparisons are fair and easy – asking all candidates that you are interviewing for the same role, the same questions, ensures a level playing field which quickly reveals the relative levels of competency across the candiates.

2) Ensures legality – behavioural event interview questions are only work-related which avoids the unintended consequences of innocent-sounding-but-ill-advised questions such as ‘do you have children?’ or ‘how do you manage child care?’ or ‘are you planning to start a family?’

3) Reveals the rehearsed candidate – there is so much information readily available that tells people how to answer the traditional style interview questions (such as the four at the beginning of the article) that the candidate answers are so rehearsed and text-book like as to be of no use (eg. ‘one of my weaknesses is that I work too hard and need to be better at time management’). An interviewer who is probing to understand a specific competency quickly breaks through the fa├žade of a rehearsed answer.

4) Relevance – discussions around who a candidate knows and what football team they support may be pleasant conversation fillers but they are not pieces of information that are relevant to the candidate’s suitability for the job. Behavioural interview questions only focus on uncovering information from the candidate that is relevant to the job they are applying for.

5) Professionalism – the best candidates enjoy the challenge of providing specific information about their past performance and this positive experience reflects on the interviewer as being thorough, well trained and representing a professional organisation with high standards.

6) Candidates better understand how suitable they are for the job – if the candidate struggles to answer one or more behavioural questions, after effective probing from the interviewer, they have a much better idea of where their shortfall in competency is and can better understand their rejection for the role.

7) Efficiency – relevant behavioural interview questions quickly reveal a candidate’s level of competency and hence their suitability for a job. This ensures that the interviewer does not waste time in ‘taking a stab’ at various parts of a candidate’s resume trying to find the relevant information they are seeking

As important as each of the points, above, might be the most important reason is making better candidate recommendations and assisting your clients hire better employees. US organisational psychologist and candidate assessment expert, Dr Charles Handler, states that using a behavioural based interview increases your chances of identifying the best person for the job by approximately 75% compared to using an unstructured, traditional interview format. Other research suggests the difference could be much greater.

What other reason do you need to use ask structured behavioural event interview questions every time you interview a candidate?

1 comment:

  1. ’she interviewed really well’ - I'm not a recruiter, but if I were, I'd scratch this from my vocabulary. Great point Ross. Unless the position being interviewed for is for a professional interviewer, this is totally irrelevant.

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