Fit for the job

Fit for the job

Behavioural interviewing program can help managers more accurately predict a candidate's potential for success in the workplace, instead of relying on 'gut' feel, says absoluteIT.

By the time a candidate reaches the interview stage, they have probably passed a number of first level 'check-points' (e.g. telephone screening, mandatory recruitments, etc) that means that, on paper at least, they have the ability to do the job. As such, the challenge at interview is to measurably discern the difference between a good candidate and a great one. To do this, you must employ a method of interviewing that digs below the waterline to reveal the actual "fit". One interview technique increasing in use is called structured behavioural (or competency-based) interviewing.

Behavioural interviewing is based on the premise that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. The candidate's past performance in the workplace is assessed through a process of structured questions that focus on the core competencies and key result areas required in the role.

As a recruitment technique, behavioural interviewing is deemed to be 55 per cent predictive, while traditional interviewing is said to be only 10 predictive.

In industries such as IT, it is ironic that while most hiring is done around technical skills, most staff retention issues arise based on softer skills such as attitude or personality conflicts.

A technical question would rarely reveal such a potential behavioural flaw. When competency-based behavioural interviewing forms the framework for the recruitment process, interviewers are able to make much more effective hiring decisions.

Behavioural interviewing

Implemented properly, behavioural interviewing offers many advantages:

A systematic process to increase the reliability and consistency of outcomes.

Acquiring relevant and objective information helping to prevent interviewers from assessing irrelevant knowledge or skills.

Minimises interviewer prejudices relating to ethnicity, gender, religion or any other non-work related issue.

Providing "best match" between candidate and job as quantative ratings are used to measure candidates against an objective job-related competency profile.

Reduces training time and turnover if a candidate can be proven to already have the majority of necessary skills required.

An effective structured behavioural interviewing program requires an employer to develop job-related competencies, write behavioural questions regarding those competencies, and train interviewers to use the system.

Step 1: Analyse the job: Review the job description, performance standards and business plans which impact the position. Develop a list of essential competencies that will become the foundation for the interview and selection process.

Step 2: Plan the interview: This step involves planning the interview process and developing interview questions for all mandatory competencies. Interview questions should be directive and probing.

Step 3: The interview: The candidate is asked a series of standardised questions designed to elicit examples of behaviours that are used to assess the candidate's proficiencies in one or more job-related competencies. For each question, the interviewer is hoping to hear a "S.T.A.R." answer, that includes all of the following:

The Situation in which the behaviour or action occurred.

The Task that the situation required or their ideas for resolving the situation.

The Action - what the candidate did or obstacles that had to be addressed.

The Result - the outcome of their behaviour.

For example, to assess leadership ability, an interviewer might ask a candidate to, "Describe a time when you had to persuade someone to do something that he/she did not want to do. What did you do and what was the result?"

Step 4: Evaluate candidates: The interviewer then evaluates the answers to each question and submits a quantitative rating for each of the targeted competencies.

Traditional interviewing - based on "gut" feeling or other subjective criteria - is a poor predictor of future job performance.

A well-designed behavioural interviewing program can help managers more accurately predict a candidate's potential for success on the job. While not a 'magic bullet', having managers trained to a high level (i.e. able to formally prepare questions as well as develop them 'off the cuff' in an interview situation) is a valuable skill to possess in any hiring situation.

As such, the many benefits of competency-based interviewing more than outweigh the investment required to upskill staff in its proper use.

Editor's note: Grant Burley, director of absoluteIT , welcomes comments and suggestions to this column. He can be contacted at

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