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Hiring Process Improvement: Be Great at Interviewing Candidates

4rtfc4 Steps to Build a Behavioral Interview Methodology

Just about every manager has made a hiring mistake and when 166 managers were asked what caused hiring errors, 81% said their hiring process was not structured enough!  Only 19% said they could blame the hiring mistake on the applicant.

In previous blogs I have given tips on how to improve your hiring process by creating better job descriptions and job ads, as well as testing and assessing candidates so that you focus your time interviewing the ones that have the highest likelihood of success for the job you are hiring for. This blog will help you improve this part of your hiring process, interviewing, by outlining 4 easy steps you can use to implement a behavioral interview methodology.

Managers always want to hire the most qualified person for every job vacancy. Yet, the way most managers interview job applicants make them miss some of the best candidates.  Interviews often end up as friendly chats rather than a data collection opportunity.  Yet managers themselves say they make better hiring decisions when they use a structured interview in the hiring process – and research supports that conclusion.  So, after you have narrowed your candidate pool using a pre-hire assessment, use these four steps help you make a better hiring decision by getting good information during the interview step. 

1. Use The Resume to Build Behavioral Interview Questions

A behavioral interview helps a manager learn how a candidate has handled work situations in the past.  The idea is that a person’s past behavior is a pretty good gauge of how he or she will perform in the future.

Behavioral questions are written about the most important aspects of the job being filled. They are based on real work situations and ask for information related to what it takes to be successful.  Here is the difference between the usual sort of interview question and a behavioral question.

Think about hiring a business analyst.  The analyst will work directly with key clients and will manage client business requirements and expectations. One important success factor is the analyst’s ability to manage several projects at one time.  A candidate’s resume indicates he worked for three years in a similar position at Qxy Tech, so the hiring manager knows the candidate has worked with clients.  The usual question would be something like:

Tell me about how you would handle several projects at one time.

Here is the behavioral version of this question:

In this job our analysts manage several client projects at the same time. Tell us about a time at Qxy Tech when you were required to complete multiple assignments in the same time period.  How did you handle the work?  Please be specific about the number of assignments, the actions you took, and the results.

Another example of a typical question:

How do you handle conflict?

Here is the behavioral version of this question:

As in most organizations, sometimes there will be a conflict with clients. Please tell me about a time in your last position when you ran into a conflict with a client.  What was the conflict, how did you address it, and what was the outcome? Be as specific as possible.

Use the resume as a source of information that can be explored in the interview.  Write behavioral interview questions that address the most important aspects of the job to learn how candidates have dealt with similar situations in other jobs – probably six or seven good questions about the critical job requirements will be enough.  With questions developed, rating scales can be quickly built.

2. Create Interview Rating Scales

First impressions, both positive and negative, are hard to ignore, but relying on them can result in poor hiring decisions.  Managers who make the best hiring decisions use scales to keep their focus on important job-related factors rather than on what a candidate is wearing or how much he looks like an ex-brother-in-law.

The sample rating scale below illustrates rating for a question about conflict management.  The scale includes notes and cues about what managers would find in the best answer (rated 5 in this example), a good answer (rated 3), and the weakest answer (rated 1).  The scale makes it easier to compare evaluations from multiple interviewers.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 11.10.15 AM

3. Collect Data and Take Notes

With behavioral questions and rating scales, the manager has the information needed to begin the interview.  After greeting the candidate and briefly reviewing job requirements, the manager should describe the structure of the interview.  This helps applicants prepare to provide relevant information.  For example:

To learn more about how you work, I’ll ask you to describe how you have approached various work situations in the past. You can give examples from previous jobs, experiences in school, or in other settings like volunteer work.  I may also ask follow up questions to make sure I understand your answers.  During our discussion, I will mostly listen and take notes. 

After I have asked my questions, we will talk about questions you may have about this job or the company.

During the interview, really listen (really, don’t check texts or email) and always take notes.  Note taking isn’t rude – it’s a job interview, not a social call!  Good notes help managers remember which candidates said what.  No need to write down everything the candidate says, but do take note of important points, good examples, and key accomplishments.

And remember, it’s okay to ask follow-up questions based on candidate answers before asking the next behavioral question.

4. Review Notes and Rate Candidate Responses Using the Scale

After the interview is over, the manager uses her notes to rate the candidate against the scale for each question.  If more than one manager has interviewed a candidate, the next step is to compare individual ratings from all interviewers.  During the comparison, managers talk about any differences in candidate ratings and come to agreement about what the final candidate rating should be.

Even though the cost of a hiring mistake is huge, structured interviewing seems to be infrequently used.  Structured interviewing results in better hiring decisions which lead to better employee performance and higher profitability.  Using these four steps in your hiring process you can reduce the possibility of making a hiring mistake by making a decision based on data rather than conversational skills or a good resume