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by Sara Pacelle

Back in the day, job interview questions were based on an assumption of future performance. “What would you do if your project budget were cut 50%?" “How would you handle a situation in which….?.  These conventional and situational questions gave the candidate broad liberties to describe themselves in whatever way they wished.  They focused on what the job candidate said they would do given a hypothetical situation.  The interviewer’s impression of the candidates was based on assumed future behaviors, along with a thumbs’ up from the candidates’ pre-selected personal and professional references.

Employers are finding that these situational interview questions leave too much ambiguity as to the reliability of the candidates’ answers.  Increasingly, we see employers using a more sophisticated type of interviewing known as the Behavioral Descriptive Interview (BDI) format because it is widely considered by employers to be a more accurate predictor of on-the-job performance.  Based in part on the conclusions found in the 1980s research, Behavior Description Interviewing: New, Accurate, Cost Effective by Tom Janz, Lowell Hellervik and David C. Gilmore (1986), the BDI is believed to produce more candid responses from the job candidates and to keep the interviewer focused on job-related issues. In addition, it is thought to be a more objective method to record interviewer’s feedback and to make candidate selection decisions more defensible.  Employers say that using BDI allows them to obtain valuable information and that it reveals many more behaviors of the job candidate than when using conventional interviewing methods.   The premise of the BDI is that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance in similar circumstances.”  This includes asking behavioral questions requiring examples of past performance along with further probing questions to seek clarification or exploration.

So, how does the job candidate prepare for this behavioral type interview?

Well, one clever way is to take a look at how the interviewer prepares for this kind of interview.  There’s an excellent short video from the Harvard Business Review called “The Right Way to Conduct a Job Interview” by Michael J. Mauboussin, Investment Strategist and author of the book, The Success Equation.  In this video, Mr. Mauboussin explains to employers four quick steps to prepare for the Behavioral Descriptive Interview and how to determine if the candidate really has the skills they profess to have.   There is much more additional information available to fully understand the concepts behind the Behavioral Descriptive Interview, but this is a good quick review.

Mr. Mauboussin suggests to the employer that the interview include questions asking how the candidate performed in a specific past job situation and then “drilling down” by repeatedly asking how? and why? to determine the candidate’s depth of knowledge and skill sets.  He then recommends that two employees conduct the interview – one to ask the questions and the other to record the answers.  Based on their expertise, each interviewer would be assigned one job skill area in which to query the candidate.  With this method, the interviewer, knowledgeable in that subject area, can delve deeper into questioning why the candidate acted in such a way and how they made those decisions.   Mr. Mauboussin’s third suggestion is meant to validate the candidate’s responses by asking for a specific example for each answer the interviewee gives.  Finally, it is advised that the interviewers rate the candidate immediately after the interview on a scale that is quantifiable and justifiable.  

Job candidates, it’s critically important to be prepared for this type of behavioral interview.  It may sound daunting, but put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes.  Employers are just trying hard to make the right hiring decision and avoid costly mistakes. Preparation is key.  In your interview preparation, ensure that you have thoroughly studied the job requirements and qualifications that are listed in the job description and have a corresponding anecdote that validates your fit. 

Once you have crafted your anecdotes, practice them over and over and over again until they are part of your natural conversational tone, showing confidence and natural ability.  Role play the behavioral interview with a friend or your career advisor, honing your interview skills. Just as an athlete's confidence is based on hours and hours of training and preparation, so an interviewee can exude confidence based on good preparation.

Be ready for your next interview by being prepared for a behavioral interview.  Prove to your interviewer with your confidence and past performance that you are the job candidate they want on their team.
 


Comments

07/21/2014 9:45pm

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