3 Reasons Why You Should Use Behavioral Interview Questions

Marcianne Kuethen
September 8, 2015

It’s an established fact that you should use behavioral interview questions in your hiring process, but do you know why? Have you ever stopped to define the purpose of an interview? Of course, from your side of the desk, you want to describe the position, its responsibilities, and the organization’s culture in glowing enough terms to attract the best talent. But, aside from selling the opportunity to your candidates, what do you intend to glean from the talent you’re interviewing? You already have their resumes, which list their skills, education, and the dates and places they’ve worked. What more do you need from them?

You’re embarking on a relationship that will impact your entire organization. Wouldn’t you like to know how they make decisions, whether they have a sense of humor, if they are team players, how they respond to authority, whether they’re big-picture or detail-minded people, and so much more?

Experience has proven, however, that you can’t just ask, “How do you make decisions?” or, “Do you have a good sense of humor?” If you were to ask a candidate, “Are you a team player?” it’s highly unlikely that he or she would say “No!” And it’s pointless to ask people whether they’re big-picture or detail-minded people without something to measure their answer against. What you need is a way to dig deeper, to figure out, not how candidates imagine they might behave in a certain future situation, but how they have behaved in the past…because past performance is the best predictor of future behavior.

Here are 3 reasons why you should use behavioral interview questions in your next interview:

1. You won’t give the answer away. All too often, without intending to, interviewers tell the candidate the answer they hope to hear. Let’s say you’re searching for a web developer and you’re interviewing a candidate named David. If you ask, “Do you know HTML5?” guess what David is sure to say. But if you ask, “Tell me about the programming tools and languages you used in your last job,” it opens the door for you to learn so much more than whether David knows HTML5. For instance, it may lead to your asking what type of project David worked on, how long the project lasted, what role he played on the team, what challenges he faced, how he handled obstacles that arose, what he liked and didn’t like about the whole experience…In the process of hearing his story, you may discover whether he has a sense of humor, is a team player, and sees the big picture or all the tiny details.

2. You avoid making a bad hire based on a gut feeling. We’ve talked before about choosing candidates based on how you feel about them. It’s so easy but ill-advised to select a candidate with whom you feel the most in common–your love of skydiving or knitting or the Dodgers. And some candidates have a great demeanor and look intelligent, yet if you were to dig into their experience, you may discover that they had constant friction with previous co-workers and absolutely no problem-solving skills. Behavioral interview questions will help you uncover previous patterns that can keep you from making a bad hire.

3. You learn what you really need to know about the candidate. What you really want to find out about David isn’t on his resume–things like whether he is able to handle day-to-day challenges, grow, and learn from mistakes. What you really want to ask David is, “So about the detour on that project you mentioned earlier, how did you decide what to do next? What support did you need and get from your manager? How did you handle your frustration? What kept you going in spite of your discouragement? If there are two ways you grew and learned from this problem, what would they be?” You get the idea. Because you chose to use behavioral interview questions, you now know more about David’s thinking, style, motivations, tendencies, and preferences than if you’d read his resume 40 times.

Hiring expert Lou Adler advises that you use this most important question in your interview: “What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?” This one question will enable you to delve into the details of the professional face across the desk from you.

The words on a resume provide a one-dimensional experience. If you want to add dimension to your understanding of the candidates you interview, use behavioral interview questions to dig deeper. They’re your best hope of getting the answers you need to make the best possible hire.

So what are you waiting for? Get your free behavioral interview questions here!

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