According to a report published in Harvard Business Review, out of 20,000 hires during a three-year research period, 46 percent had failed in the first 18 months and only 19 percent achieved success.
The primary reason given for failure was “poor interpersonal skills”, which 82 per cent of managers admitted to having overlooked in the recruitment process.
If people are hired and subsequently fail down the track, the first thing to review is the recruitment process. How you interview candidates and their referees is crucial to ensuring you get the “right people on the bus” as Jim Collins put it in his book Good to Great.
Global research continually confirms that the most effective approach when employing someone is to conduct a behavioural interview with all candidates. Yet more than half of the managers we surveyed were not able to describe what a behavioural interview was, let alone conduct one.
So what is a behavioural interview? Put simply, it is a style of interview which focuses on fact rather than hypothesis or ‘what if’ situations. It is designed to find out how a candidate has behaved in a work-related situation in the past, rather than relying on their estimation of how they would behave in future situations.
The behavioural interview does much more than this, however. Its core objectives can be summarised as follows:
- Carry out a structured and goal-orientated process
- Assist a manager in making a decision not based solely on gut feeling
- Identify past behaviours to gain insight as to what future behaviour can be expected
- Gain as much objective data as possible using a subjective assessment method
- Carry out a systematic process rather than pose a set of questions
- Collect examples of situations that can be further validated during the reference-checking phase
So where to you start?
There are five stages to a behavioural interview:
1. Analyse the Job
All too often, managers arrive at an interview ill-prepared. Very little, if any, time has been spent going through the necessary paperwork to identify what skills, behaviours and experience they are going to be looking for to ensure they place the correct candidate in the job. Most managers wing it and then miss vital clues which would tell them where any weaknesses or gaps in the applicant’s skills may be. The job description, key performance indicators, list of behavioural competencies must all be reviewed – together with the job advertisement, just in case you missed something. This is your last chance to be absolutely clear on what you want and need in the successful candidate.
2. Develop structured questions
Remember, behavioural questions seek demonstrated examples of behaviours from a candidate’s past experience and concentrate on job-related competencies and behaviours. These questions ask for examples from real life. (For example: “Tell me about a recent experience where you were required to handle a difficult customer complaint?”) Do not ask hypothetical questions or leading questions as these will not ultimately help you.
3. Conduct the interview
A great technique to use is commonly referred to as the STAR technique, or ‘Situation, Time, Action and Result’. This technique helps you to identify what actually happened in a given situation, the timing, the action they took and the result. The candidates will not know to answer in this format, so your role is to draw out the information to help make the correct evaluation.
4. Rank responses
To maintain objectivity, you should use a uniform approach in evaluating all candidates, especially when there will be more than one person involved in interviewing. Your first step is to 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 later 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. Then 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, so make the most of this opportunity.