A long-haired young woman sits at a dark gray table in a large open office space. Her hands are folded on the table in front of her, next to an open notebook and a calculator. A white-haired man in a suit sits across from her and gestures with his left hand; he is facing away from the viewer and is out of focus.
According to LinkedIn, sample behavioral interviewing questions include, "Have you ever had to 'sell' an idea to your coworkers or group? How did you do it? What were the results?" — Getty Images/MangoStar_Studio

The proper interviewing techniques help you assess candidates efficiently, whereas the wrong ones increase the risks of bias and may result in hiring a person unsuitable for the position. Many hiring managers ask hypothetical questions to see how an applicant would handle various situations, whereas behavioral interviewing probes responses to real-life issues based on the candidate’s previous experience.

Behavioral interviewing isn’t a new method, but it’s a good idea to understand the ins and outs of applying the techniques during your interviews. Learn what behavioral interviewing is and why it’s effective, then explore questions and tips for using it.

What is behavioral interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a technique used to question job candidates about their past experiences. It’s based on the premise that past performance is an excellent predictor of future behavior. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests using this method to learn about an applicant’s specific skills, abilities, behaviors, and knowledge. The questions elicit verifiable evidence about previous actions in the workplace.

Behavioral interviewing looks at actual experiences, whereas situational interviewing focuses on hypothetical ones. Indeed, the Journal of Business Research found that both “question types are valid predictors of job performance.” However, theoretical questions may not reveal behavior patterns critical to job performance and success because they’re based on imaginary circumstances, not proof.

[Read more: Avoiding a Hiring Mistake: How to Make Sure Your Next Hire Is Your Best Hire]

Advantages of using the behavioral interviewing method

Recruiters and hiring managers believe behavioral interviewing techniques are beneficial, with 86% of respondents to a LinkedIn survey rating the method as “somewhat or very effective.” Past behavior questions help leaders assess soft skills, which more than 60% of hiring managers say is challenging. Moreover, structured behavioral interviews make it easier to compare job candidates fairly and legally.

Behavioral interviewing looks at actual experiences, whereas situational interviewing focuses on hypothetical ones.

SHRM points out additional benefits, including:

  • Providing applicants with a “realistic perspective of the job.”
  • Getting fewer vague answers from candidates.
  • Reducing risks of bias from interviewers.
  • Increasing the “perception of fairness among job candidates.”

Behavioral interviewing sample questions

Amtec suggested developing a list of behavioral interview and follow-up questions and a set of “expected or desired answers.” Furthermore, the primary interview questions should be “delivered to every job candidate with the same wording, in the same order, and using the same scoring system,” according to SHRM.

Before creating a list of questions, SHRM recommended identifying the “core competencies for your organization” and the preferred behaviors and qualities of job candidates. Doing so helps you narrow your job interview questions to those that align best with your mission and the job role.

LinkedIn’s guide to screening candidates offers examples of behavioral interview questions like:

  • “Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?”
  • “When was the last occasion you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?”
  • “How do you determine what amount of time is reasonable for a task?”

[Read more: 8 Personality Tests to Help You Hire the Best Candidate]

Tips for conducting a behavioral interview

Most small and medium companies continue to use “unstructured interviews rather than structured behavioral ones,” according to research. This could be because of the additional work required before the interview. Obsidian HR said behavioral interviewing “requires more preparation and training for interviewers.” SHRM agreed, noting that the “technique can take a great deal of effort and planning before an interview can ever take place.”

Improve your behavioral interviewing tactics by:

  • Use the STAR system: Developed by Development Dimensions International (DDI), STAR is a well-known technique used for behavioral interviewing. It encourages candidates to explain the situation, task, action, and result (STAR).
  • Create a scorecard: Reduce interviewer bias and easily compare candidates with a rating system. Hiring managers can score answers on a scale of one to five, with higher results meaning there is strong evidence that your candidate possesses a particular skill.
  • Standardize your process: Ensure your interviewing team is on the same page by reviewing your questions and scorecard together. This helps you determine how to approach interviews and interpret answers consistently.

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