Job Search Tip of the Week #17 (2019)

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The Long-Term Perks of Behavioral Interviews




Hiring today faces an unusual problem: too many applicants. The economic downturn has resulted in a glut of skilled candidates in the high-tech job market. How do employers decide among them?

More and more are turning from traditional interviews to formats that offer a more well-rounded view of the candidates. Behavioral interviews, for example, can help an employer determine whether a candidate has the right combination of skills, experience, and cultural fit to make a lasting difference in the organization.

Subtle differences, profound results

The difference between behavioral and traditional interviews can be subtle, but each type produces different responses.

Whereas traditional interviews focus on a person’s education and job experience, behavioral interviews look at past behavior to predict future performance. The idea is to predict whether a job applicant will become a successful, long-term employee. Such predictions help companies avoid spending time and money on training new people, only to have them leave because they don’t fit into the corporate culture and expectations.

Behavioral questions help an organization learn the following:

  • How the candidate deals with problems
  • The type of attitude that the candidate will have in various situations
  • How the candidate deals with change and challenges
  • How the candidate works in a team and independently
Know what you need

If you’re an employer and plan to conduct behavioral interviews, you should identify the behaviors and capabilities you want your employees to have. With these in mind, write a job description to draw in potential new hires.

Determine the characteristics and behavior traits that will help a person succeed in the position and the organization. If the position is not a new one, consider employees that are already successful in the job. What behaviors do they exhibit? Hone that list into the necessary traits.

Consider these necessary traits — skills such as adaptability, perseverance, independence, and enthusiasm — while reviewing résumés. This approach will help you shortlist those who are most likely to succeed in the position.

Next, create interview questions that will get interviewees talking about their behavioral skills:

  • Which work-related values are most important to you?
  • How would you manage specific problems on the job?
  • Discuss a past time when you dealt with a specific situation.

Ask all candidates the same questions so you can make comparisons. Remember, though, that the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act prohibit certain questions that touch on medical conditions, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and personal life.

Prepare yourself

If you’re a job seeker, how can you prepare for a behavioral interview? Mark A. LaMaster and Ruth A. Larsen, nursing placement coordinators at the Mayo Clinic, suggest the following steps:

  • Research the future employer’s mission or vision statement.
  • Collect sample questions, specific to your profession if possible.
  • Determine which performance skills (e.g., coping with conflict, teamwork, flexibility, initiative) these questions indicate.
  • Think about the ways that you demonstrate these skills.
  • Prepare to respond by describing a specific situation, identifying the challenges in that situation, explaining your actions, discussing the results, and evaluating what you learned.

Although behavioral interviewing can require more preparation for employers and job seekers both, it also yields more valuable information than traditional questions. Using this type of discussion will find the best fit for both employee and employer.


Remember: Whether you’re an employer or a job candidate, behavioral interviews can help you find the perfect match.


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