You have the interviews scheduled to the minute; you have the perfect candidates — at least on paper — and you have a panel of expert interviewers, all with a wealth of experience in professional staffing. You’ve even held panel meetings to identify the knowledge, skills, abilities and character traits that you are looking for, and as a dynamic professional staffing team you have prepared original and challenging questions. There’s no way this new fandangled behavior based interview technique can fail to find the candidate for the job and the perfect culture fit for your organization. You’ll be lauded as the recruiter of the year.
Not so fast. You might want to consider those interviewers again. The art and science of the behavior based interview is not so straightforward, or at least and effective behavior based interview isn’t, and the magic lies in strategic phrasing and word choice. Dr. Wendell Williams, in an article from ERE.net dated November 27, 2012, explains that identifying effective behavior based interview answers can be even harder than determining the right questions, which is hard enough, and it takes an interviewer with considerable expertise to evaluate applicants, especially in technical fields.
Before you place your recruiting career in the hands of your expert interviewing panel, it might be worth a careful perusal of the behavior based interview questions that they intend to pose and the phrasing of them. An effective interviewing method requires a level of knowledge and understanding that many interviewers, even those with extensive interviewing experience, may not have. Effective phrasing of the behavior based interview questions will determine the level of quality of the interview and the information obtained.
You may see a candidate’s eyes light up with a “gift” of a behavior based interview question that totally reveals the best response — such as “”Tell us about a time when you experienced conflicting demands in the workplace and how you resolved it?” It would take all but the most unimpressive candidate to answer this question without delighting the listeners with their conflict and stress management capabilities. And what did this tell you about the candidate? Nothing, at least nothing except that they are not completely stupid.
A better way to phrase this behavior based interview question, and one that will discern a good candidate from a mediocre one is “Can you tell us about a time when you were overwhelmed by a task, or tasks, and the events that led up to it?” Watch your candidate sit up for this unexpected line of questioning along with the appearance of a bead of sweat or two on the brow. This behavior based interview question is open-ended and does not lead to a rote reply.
Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, uses the terms “problem bringers” and “problem solvers” to describe different types of personalities and their responses with respect to professional staffing. Problem solvers will, most likely, consider the question and how to answer it in a way that reveals something positive related to their skills. A “problem bringer” may very well ramble on and use it as an opportunity to describe a phone call, a quick trip to the cafeteria for coffee, a chat at the water cooler, as a myriad of lead up events to a huge pile of work …. that they incidentally did end up completing, despite such competing demands.
See what I mean? The right phrasing of a behavior based interview question can reveal a lot more with respect to a person’s character.
So, before initiating a behavior based interview, ensure that your interviewers are up to speed on the science behind it. Screen each behavior based interview question carefully to ascertain its purpose and make sure it is phrased properly. Impress upon your interviewers the need for consistent wording that should not be delivered differently during the interview, and that all candidates should receive the same question, phrased the same way. Your reputation as a professional recruiter might just depend on your interviewers, not your interviewees.
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.