Megan Driscoll is the founder of PharmaLogics Recruiting and also serves as the president of the company.
Sarra Gustafson is the lead staffing consultant, Commercial and G&A, Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Behavioral interviewing (BI), or behavioral event interviewing (BEI), uses questions to identify specific job-related examples of how a candidate has handled a particular situation or challenge previously by asserting that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation. By conducting BI’s, the interviewers complete the interview with a better understanding of what a candidate has accomplished, achieved, and contributed. It differentiates a candidate’s actions from their perception of their actions. In traditional interviews, candidates are asked a series of straightforward questions—“What are your strengths? What are your areas for improvement? What would your manager say about you?” In behavioral interviewing, the interviewer has already discerned what necessary competencies fit the person in the role and asks questions to see how the candidate fits those skills. The interview is focused on job-related behaviors rather than hunches.
Remember that a person’s behaviors are the visible manifestation of their underlying values and belief system. Traditional interviewing only discovers what those behaviors are, whereas behavioral interviewing gives insight into their values and beliefs.
Behavioral event interviews aren’t simply a series of “tell me about a time” questions. To be truly effective, BEI can revolve around one original question or job related competency with many follow up questions—“Tell me more. How did they react? What happened then?” Follow up with asking the interviewee what is important. Behavioral interviewing fleshes out when candidates are exaggerating their experience, giving a “canned” answer, or not being entirely truthful about an answer. When being brought back to specific situations, the candidate’s true character emerges.
This process allows the interviewer to better understand the situation the candidate is speaking of, including—everyone’s reactions, decision-making and thought processes, conflict resolution, exact steps that were taken and who it was that took those steps, etc. The process the candidate used to find a resolution is what is most important. The probing and followup questions are most valuable. Remember, these are difficult and typically unexpected questions and allow the candidate time to think through their answers. Redirecting the candidate or rephrasing the questions is sometimes necessary. Be sure you are getting the answers to the questions you are asking—not what the candidate thinks you are going to be asking.
It’s important not to fall into the trap of asking leading questions, where the candidates can ascertain the answer you’d like to hear based off the question. One general rule of thumb: The longer the question is, the more likely it is a leading question.
When the interviewer completes the interview, they should be able to answer the following:
- What was situation the candidate described?
- What was it that needed to be done and why?
- What was it that the candidate did?
- What was the final result?
Take notes, listen carefully, avoid bias, and redirect as needed, and the interview will leave you feeling confident that you know how the candidate matches up against the competencies you are looking for.