As many managers have found to their cost, recruiting the wrong people can be an expensive mistake that damages performance and unsettles your team. The obvious answer is to recruit the right people. But, once you’ve shortlisted candidates with the relevant qualifications and experience, how can you tell who will be the best performer on the job?
It’s nothing to do with intuition. Nor luck. The best way to find out how someone will behave in a certain role is simply to ask how they have behaved in similar situations previously. Past behaviour is your best guide to future performance.
Behavioural interviewing looks for competency based on a candidate’s past experiences and here’s how you do it:
1. Specify the behaviours and competencies you’re looking for. Draw up a list of the technical skills and the personal qualities you want the candidate to have. Don’t look for perfection or you’ll never fill the post. Consider the key qualities, the deal breakers, the ones that would spell disaster if they were missing. Create a profile of what you think are the vital behaviours for the role. If it helps, think about your current staff, the ones who you think are essential to the business. What attributes do they have, how do they behave or what skills do they demonstrate that you really value?
2. Develop some key behavioural questions to ask. Your aim in an interview should be to determine whether the candidate has the desired behaviours you’ve identified. Ask for examples of how they have handled specific situations (what was your precise role in the project; give me an example of a particular time when you…). Uncover the evidence from these critical incidents and try to look for trends rather than one-off experiences.
If the candidate doesn’t have specific experience of a certain situation, you can ask them hypothetical questions (how would you manage this situation …?; what would you do if you were going to miss a deadline …?). Remember though that people can tell you what you want to hear. They may say they’ll react in a certain way when that might not actually be the case. Try to find examples of how they have behaved in the past in relevant situations.
3. Structure your interview. You can start off with some broad questions but aim to funnel down with more probing questions to get to the specifics of what actually happened. Look for the evidence of the required skills and behaviours. Drill down to the details: what happened in the situation they’re describing?; why did it occur?; what was the context?; what was the outcome?; what was their role in it? Ask about what the individual did, not what their team achieved. How did they react personally? You want them to answer ‘I’ not ‘we’. That’s where you’ll start to uncover their true behaviour.
4. Hide your hand. Don’t ‘lead’ a candidate by asking a question in such a way that it telegraphs the answer you want. Watch your facial expressions. Try not to frown when they give a wrong answer or smile when they give the right one. Try to remain as neutral as possible. Don’t ask multiple questions at once or candidates will simply answer the last one.
5. Take your time. Be comfortable with silences. Don’t be tempted to jump in. Silence gives people time to think and explore their experiences. Remember, your aim is to find out what the candidate actually did. Be inquisitive. Don’t get sidetracked or deflected by generalisations or clichéd responses.
By rating each candidate’s responses against your list of vital behaviours for the role, you should be able to identify who you should appoint. Follow these five steps and recruit with confidence.
These tips are taken from Behavioural Interviewing, a recruitment training resource that’s available as a video, e-learning or mobile learning course.