Archive for January, 2014

Behavioral Interviewing for Recruiters

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

In many ways, a job interview is like a college exam. The candidate comes in knowing to expect a number of different types of questions, but not knowing the exact questions or the way they will be presented. The candidate is under stress, because they know they must “pass” in order to move forward. The interviewer has the same task as the professor, writing and asking the questions in the most concise manner and finding the best way to present the questions to obtain the information they desire. Ideally, interviews should have the same structure as a test, with short answer or multiple choice questions up front when dealing with the job specifics, and an essay section where the candidate can expound on their knowledge using real-life situations from their past employment. The job interview equivalent to the essay question is the behavioral question.

Behavioral questions take the form of “tell me about a time when such-and-such happened and how you responded”. The answers can reveal how the candidate acts in specific situations. When creating behavioral questions, it’s important to ask about situations that can happen in any work environment, but are common with the available position. Candidates can come from a variety of workplace situations and an inappropriately phrased question may confuse the candidate and lead you in the wrong direction regarding their appropriateness for the job. It is always wise to have alternative (albeit similar) questions so that you can tailor the question to fit the candidate’s individual experiences. Also, be sure that you make the questions behavioral and not hypothetical. “Tell me about a time when you had an irate customer and how you resolved the issue” is much better than “We have our share of irate callers. How would you handle them?” The first version lets the candidate be specific about a particular situation; the second is so open-ended that is nearly useless (Why are they irate? Do we have a specific protocol to follow for these situations? How am I expected to answer this question?)

There is a well-known formula for the expected answers to behavioral questions, and it is alternately known as STAR or SAR. The acronym refers to “Situation—Task—Action—Response”. The formula is very useful for ensuring that all the important details are covered. Obviously, it would be ideal if the candidate were to answer following the exact steps of the model above, but there’s no need to insist on that formality. Listen carefully and take notes as the candidate tells their story and be prepared to ask for details if any aspects of the story are confusing. You can also tell about the candidate’s personality and communication skills in the way that they relate the story. A good communicator can be an excellent ambassador for your company.  Happy Hunting!