How do you as a manager,
supervisor or team leader choose a winner? One very successful interviewing
technique is behavioral interviewing---selecting the right person for the right
job using a job-related rather than a gut feel approach. A job-related approach
is asking for a behavioral example of skills and traits that are required for
A behavioral example is
a description, by the job applicant, of a specific event that shows in detail
how she did something or handled a problem or made a decision. The rationale
for asking for behavioral examples is the notion that the best predictor of
what individuals will do in the future is what they have done in the past.
Let's take a typical interview
question and turn it into one that leads to getting a good behavioral example
of a specific trait required for a position.
Q. "What is one of your
A. "I feel that one of my strong point is that I 'm very determined and hard-working."
Q. "Can you give me an example
of when you went the extra mile to get your job done?"
A. "Last October we were facing the most demanding time of the year when a flu
epidemic struck the office. Out of seven people in the office, five were sick,
leaving me and one secretary to get all of the work done. What I did was commit
myself to working 12-hour days, straight in a row for a week, in order to be
sure that we were dealing with all of our customers' needs. My boss, who was
one of the sick people, afterwards thanked me personally for going the extra
mile and put a highly recommended letter into my file."
The key to behavioral questions
is that you ask for specific examples of past performance. Behavioral questions
typically contain phrases like:
- "Tell me about a time
- "Give me an example
- "How did you.....?"
- "Describe a situation
in which you......"
Note how the following question
has been rephrased so that it will elicit a behavioral example. Original: "Have
you had experience training new supervisors?" Revised: "Tell me about a time
when you had to hire and train a new supervisor. How did you go about it? Would
you do anything differently?"
By using this technique
of interviewing you can also gain behavioral examples related to specific skills.
- Motivate Others
- Q. "Tell me about
a time when you needed to motivate your staff and had to deal with a morale
- Time Management
- Q. "Tell me about
a time you had a very busy day at your last job. How did you organize
your day and get your job done?"
- Q. "Give me an example
of a decision you had to make quickly under pressure. How did you approach
it, and how did it work out?"
- Q. "What was a problem
that you had to deal with in your last job? Tell me how you went about
After the person has answered
your initial question, you can then probe for more detail---what they did; how
they felt; what they said; etc. Probes encourage the applicant to elaborate
and to clarify. Some examples of probes are:
- "Could you tell me more
- "Explain what you mean
- "What did you do next?"
- "What was going through
your mind at the time?"
- "What was his/her response?"
Probes often turn up unexpected
nuggets of information. For example, an applicant may indicate having good rapport
with a supervisor by saying, "We got along pretty well most of the time, but
then, like most people, we occasionally had disagreements."
The probe---"Can you tell
me more about the disagreements" will clarify ambiguous meaning. A disagreement
could mean anything from a bloody nose to a mild difference of opinion.
As you hear answers to the
various questions and probes, begin rating the applicant on the basic of evidence
of the skill, knowledge, trait or experience. This could be a simple 1 to 5
scale from little or no evidence to very strong evidence that the skill/knowledge/trait/experience
is present. These ratings can give you a more accurate assessment of the person's
suitability for the position than just a gut feeling you have about the person.
- Always have your goal
in mind---getting and clarifying information to make a decision.
- Be thoroughly familiar
with the job description and skills.
- Avoid asking many yes
or no questions.
- Allow sufficient time
for the applicant to respond fully.
- Be flexible and willing
to allow some level of discussion in promising areas, but be ready to step
in when the applicant drifts off the subject.
- Be prepared to reword
questions if you are not getting a sufficient answer.
- Be prepared to wait for
an answer. Silence suggests that you expect more information.
- Finally, create a relaxed
atmosphere of respect and good will. In the end, you will get more accurate
information to make a winning selection decision.