Human beings, they say, are creatures of habit. Actions, it is likely, will be repeated; this is the theory behind Behavioral Event Interviewing (BEI). The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, whether it be on the job, in one’s family and social lives, or in general. The trend in interviewing is this focus on asking open-ended questions that allow for the individual to indicate how they behaved in previous work and life experiences. With this information, the interviewer is able to best see how well the candidate’s behaviors will fit within their organization.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Career Services’ Frequently Asked Questions about Behavioral Interviews, found at: UWEC.EDU, says that employers are looking for indications of three specific types of skills in a behavioral interview:
- Content skills: What type of knowledge the candidate has; if the candidate is skilled at specific computer programs or in certain technical fields, for examples.
- Functional skills: Can the candidate’s skills be transferred to other employees via management, organizational or communication skills?
- Self-management skills: What type of person is the candidate? Is he or she punctual, courteous, trustworthy?
Simple questions that would potentially illicit no more than a yes or a no answer are to be avoided in a behavioral interview. As well, asking questions that seem to require no great elaboration in response are to be avoided, such as: “You probably had to wear a lot of different hats in your previous position, didn’t you?” With this question the candidate has very little to say other than yes, no, or “I did have a lot of responsibility”, basically. A better way to ask a question like this is to ask it in a way that would generate a more specific, detailed answer. “You no doubt wore a lot of hats in your previous position; tell me what types of things you were responsible for overseeing in addition to your main job duties”. With this revised question the candidate is able to expand upon skills they have and tasks they oversaw in the past, henceforth making them capable of similar tasks requiring similar skills in the future.
Another aspect of behavioral interviewing is to tailor the questions to the specific job for which one is interviewing. What types of skills are needed for this position? In what specific format will the candidate potentially be working? Ask questions that allow the candidate to tell you if he or she ever worked on a team, and how those experiences went, if this position requires extensive teamwork, for example.
Behavioral interviewing acknowledges that what was done before will most likely be done again, in terms of actions and the handling of experiences in one’s personal and professional life. Asking questions that allow the candidate to draw upon these experiences will greater illuminate the type of employee they might be for your organization.
Author: Pete Marino
Tags: Behavioral Event Interviewing (BEI), Behavioral interviewing, Eau Claire’s Career Services, employer interview guide, functional skills, interviewing tips, self-management skills, UWEC