Examples of behaviours from a candidate’s past experience are great to bring out job-related competencies.

“According to a report published in the Harvard Business Review, out of 20,000 hires over a three-year research period, 46% of them had failed in the first 18 months and only 19% achieved success,” says Anna-Lucia Mackay, management and education speaker and author of The Four Mindsets: How to Influence, Motivate and Lead High Performance Teams.

The primary reason given for failure was ‘poor interpersonal skills’, with 82% of managers admitting to having overlooked that criterion during the recruitment process. Evidently, the way you interview candidates and their referees is crucial, says Mackay.

“If people are hired and subsequently fail down the track, then the first thing to review is the recruitment process.”

Mackay says a behavioural interview will help you focus on how a candidate has behaved in a work-related situation in the past so that you can reach a clear understanding of their work style. Its core objectives are:

  • To carry out a systematic process rather than pose a set of questions
  • To assist a manager in making a decision not based solely on gut feeling
  • To identify past behaviours and gain an insight into what future behaviour can be expected
  • To collect examples of situations that can be further validated during the reference-checking phase

So where do you start? There are five stages to a behavioural interview, according to Mackay:

1. Analyse the job

All too often, managers arrive at an interview ill prepared. Very little time has been spent going through the necessary paperwork to identify what skills and experience they are going to be looking for.

The job description, key performance indicators and list of behavioural competencies must all be reviewed together with the job advertisement so as not to overlook anything.

2. Develop structured questions

Behavioural questions seek demonstrated examples of behaviours from a candidate’s past experience and concentrate on job-related competencies. This type of interview question asks for examples from real life.

For example: ‘Tell me about a recent experience where you were required to handle a difficult customer complaint?’ This is preferred over asking a hypothetical question or leading question, as these will not ultimately help you.

3. Draw out the information you need

Assessing if a candidate is a good cultural fit means thinking outside the box when it comes to uncovering details. Evaluate a candidate’s approach to tasks by exploring surrounding different situations, their actions and the results.

The candidates will not necessarily have a prepared answer in this format, so your role is to draw out the information to help make the correct evaluation.

4. Rank responses

Maintain objectivity by using a uniform approach to evaluate all candidates, especially when there will be more than one person involved in interviewing. Break down the role into the various skills required to perform it. Next, rank the candidate’s competency in each of these skills.

A good way to evaluate competency is for each interviewer to use the responses ‘demonstrated’, ‘partially demonstrated’ or ‘not demonstrated’ for each of the role’s skill areas with each candidate – the results can then be compared by all interviewers to decide on a shortlist.

5. Evaluate and validate responses

Using objective measures an interviewer is able to more easily evaluate the results across all candidates and then compare these to the job requirements. From here, the final step is to identify any specific areas that you wish to seek out more information on or test.

Design a set of questions with which to approach any referees. Remember, this is your last opportunity to test and validate your evaluations and any information that was given during the interview process, so make the most of this opportunity.

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