Interview questions and structured interviewing
Username: Password:

Making the Case for Behavioral Interviewing

Catherine Neiner

The interview is the tool most often used to make hiring decisions. But all too often, supervisors and managers make hiring mistakes because they wrongly trust their intuition, or ask questions that don't help them objectively assess job-related skills and abilities. Because behavioral interviewing eliminates such ineffective practices, it is quickly becoming the interviewing method of choice for public and private companies of all sizes.

Though it requires an investment of time, effort, and money, a well-designed structured behavioral-interviewing program can help managers more accurately predict a candidate's potential for success on the job. Such a program can also reduce potential legal challenges to the interviewing process.

What Exactly Is 'Structured Behavioral Interviewing?'
Structured behavioral interviewing is a standardized method of eliciting information from a job candidate about his or her relevant past behavior and performance. Structured behavioral interviews are based on the premise that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. An effective structured behavioral interviewing program requires an employer to develop job-related competencies, write behavioral questions regarding those competencies, and train interviewers to use the system.

During the interview, a candidate is asked a series of standardized questions. Each one is designed to elicit examples of behaviors that are used to assess the candidate's proficiency in one or more job-related competencies (for example, judgment, leadership, adaptability). For each question, a candidate is asked to describe the following:

Situation/Circumstances - the context in which the behavior or action took place
Behavior/Action - what the candidate actually did in the situation
Results/Outcomes - the results or outcomes of the behavior/action
For example, to assess leadership ability, ask: Describe a time when you had to persuade someone to do something that he or she did not want to do. What did you do and what was the result?

The interviewer evaluates the answers to the behavioral questions and then submits a quantitative rating for each of the targeted competencies.

Three Reasons to Adopt a Structured Behavioral Interviewing Program

1. It's more valid than traditional interviews
Research has shown that behavioral interviews more accurately predict a candidate's potential for success than do traditional or situational interviews.

The questions are designed to evaluate only competencies that have been shown through a job analysis to be required for successful job performance. This prevents interviewers from assessing irrelevant knowledge or skills.

Interviewers follow a structured format, including standardized questions and objective rating scales. This increases reliability and consistency.

The quantitative ratings are used to measure candidates against an objective job-related competency profile. This prevents interviewers from comparing candidates to each other, and from using other irrelevant criteria.

2. When properly used, behavioral interviews reduce legal risks
Properly designed and administered programs comply with federal statutes, government regulations, and professional guidelines regarding fair employment and labor practices.

Candidates perceive that behavioral interview questions are fair and are less likely to challenge their use. They more readily see the relevancy of behavioral questions (for example, Tell me about a time when you had to make an important decision.) than some of the foolish questions still being asked by less competent interviewers (for example, If you were a tree, what kind would you be?).

Illegal interviewer biases based on prejudices relating to ethnicity, gender, religion and so forth are less likely to influence hiring decisions. The standardized interview questions and the objective rating procedures keep the interview focused on important job-related competencies.

All candidates are treated the same. Regardless of who conducts the interview, all candidates are asked the same questions, assessed against the same set of job-related competencies, and rated using the same method.

3. Behavioral interviews can help a company increase the size and depth of its applicant pool
A behavioral interview can help managers evaluate candidates who have little or no traditional work experience. This can be especially useful in a tight job market when employers must become creative to fill open positions. Candidates are not limited by vocational life experiences when answering behavioral interview questions. For example, most people have had opportunities in their lives, regardless of their work history, to demonstrate important competencies such as initiative, teamwork, communication, and flexibility.


Finding Candidates

Interviewing Basics

Interviewing Best Practices

Laws & Documentation

Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership


Pre-Planning & Retention

Reading the Candidate

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting Best Practices

Useful Links