A Closer Look at Behavior-Based Interviewing
Nina Wasserman, Inc Magazine
Behavior-based interviewing has been around for 25 years, but the practice has recently been gaining momentum with the increasing demand for skilled and competent employees.
We look at two companies that decreased turnover rates after they changed their interviewing process. Two experts in behavior-based interviewing also share some tips on how to get the most out of the behavior-based interview.
Behavior-based interviewing was developed about 25 years ago. "Behavioral interviewing" is defined as an analysis of a candidate’s potential abilities by examining skills that have been used in past job performance. The main difference between this type of interviewing and a regular interview is that candidates are asked to give specific examples of how they acted in the past, instead of being asked to share their opinions or ideas.
Data Merchant Services Corp., based in Coral Springs, Fla., was unhappy with its attrition rates for customer service representatives who worked at its authorization center in Omaha, Neb. The attrition rate was between 120% and 180%, at a cost of $5,500 for each employee who left.
The company felt compelled to develop a strategic plan to turn the attrition rates around. The changes included using behavior-based interviewing with the help of a consultant. The strategy included implementing new-hire training, supervised coaching, drug testing for applicants, higher wages and enhanced benefits, and interviewing candidates in a private room instead of out in the open.
Data Merchant’s attrition rate has now stabilized at about 18%. Its supervisors believe that employee coaching and increasing salaries were the main reasons the rate was reduced. They also estimate that the new interviewing technique is directly responsible for 11% of the decrease, according to Hans Froehling, director of measurement and evaluations.
The company had originally been looking for knowledge, skills, and abilities in its applicants. However, since the job the employees were performing required few skills, Froehling said that he decided to change the focus of the interviews to look for more behavior-based abilities that included versatility, following policies, decision making, and problem solving.
Froehling says he continues to use the interviewing technique and is expanding it to use for interviewing higher-level positions, such as supervisors, managers, and analysts. The new behaviors he seeks in these candidates include how the candidates motivate and energize others to perform at their best. "We’re pretty happy with the results we see," Froehling says.
"People repeat behaviors," says Julie Montgomery of Sprint Paranet. "If you can see what a person did in the past, they’ll pretty much act the same way in the future." She estimates that their 90-day turnover has decreased by 20% since they have started using behavior-based interviewing.
Montgomery says that in one interview she asked an applicant to talk about an experience he had with a difficult customer. The applicant, who had previously worked as a cashier at Home Depot, told a story about a customer with a bad credit card who had rudely snatched his card back when it did not get approved. The applicant told Montgomery that he grabbed the customer by the collar and told him off -– obviously unacceptable behavior from an otherwise qualified candidate. Montgomery explains that the questions help weed out candidates who appear to have the experience, but not the right attitude, for the job. One of the most important behaviors that Montgomery looks for in the behavior-based interview is flexibility in dealing with change.
"We have not hired people that we would have hired in the past. The overall community of employees has become much more customer-oriented," she says.
Some Tips for Success
Angela Dennis, consultant for the Texas region for an interview training company, says behavior-based interviewing is increasing in popularity because it lowers turnover rates, and good candidates are harder to come by. The key to success in using behavior-based interviewing is preparing beforehand a list of what skills and behaviors are relevant to the position, she says. If a position does not require teamwork, for example, there’s no point in asking a question about the applicant’s experiences with teamwork. Another important piece to the technique’s success: the qualities identified as necessary for the job must be included in the advertising for the position to attract the right candidates.
Cara Rennie, a staffing specialist at Mentor Graphics in Portland, Ore., has been training hiring managers in behavior-based interviewing for five years. Rennie says the behavior segment of the interview can be combined with the technical part of the interview. For example, you can ask a prospective software engineer candidate to describe a time when he or she had to write software code under a tight deadline.
The important part of the interview is to get as many details as possible, Rennie says. The more details, the better picture the interviewer has. If the first account of the candidate’s experience is too broad, the interviewer needs to probe further. This may mean some period of silence to allow the candidate time to think about his or her answer.
Behavior-based interviews tend to be longer than regular interviews. Answers to questions usually take five to 10 minutes. It’s important to schedule enough time for the interview, Rennie says.
- 10 Reasons to Hire Vets
- Hire Older Workers
- Improving Candidate Quality
- Sourcing 101
- Sourcing Candidates Well
- Tips for Building Employment-Related Websites
- U.S. Employ of People with Disabilities: Free Workshops
- Virtual College Recruiting
- 10 Commandments of Recruiting
- 5 Keys to Successful Hiring
- 7 Tips for Successful Phone Interviews
- Behavioral Interviewing Basics
- Contrary Evidence Questions
- Interview Questions: Do's and Don'ts
- Interviewing Opening and Closing Remarks
- Interviews: Common Weaknesses
- Mistakes Amateur Interviewers Make
- Phone Screen Interview Mistakes
- Probing Techniques Explained
- Screening Interviewing: Top 10 Red Flags
- Strengthen the Validity of Your Interviews
- Telephone Interviews: Basics
- Ten Bad Listening Habits of Interviewers
- Types of Interviews
- Typical Probes and Follow up Questions
- What Do Interviewers Need to Know to be Effective?
Interviewing Best Practices
- 7 Keys to Effective Selection Interviews
- A Closer Look at Behavior-Based Interviewing
- Advantages / Disadvantages of Interviewing
- Applying Core Competencies to Selection Interviews
- Are You Really a Behavior-Based Interviewer?
- Assessing Speaking and Listening Skills
- Best Practices in Interviewing Candidates
- Deadly Interview Mistakes
- Death by Interview
- Ensure Hiring Success in Every Situation
- Executive Assessment Should Be Mandatory
- Generational Interviewing
- Hiring Interview + Strategic Applicant Management
- Hold Evening and Off-Time Interviews
- How to Interview a Top Performer
- Improve your Interviewing Techniques
- Interview Questions to Assess Soft Skills
- Interviewing for Ethics
- Interviewing Millennials
- Interviewing: Business or Psychology
- Metrics Interview
- Peeling Back the Onion
- The Positives of Panel Interviews
- Time for Candidate Advocacy?
- Tips for Conducting Successful Interviews
- Two Critical Interviewing Questions
Laws & Documentation
- Applicant Reference Release
- At Will Employment Release
- Avoid Negligent Hiring Mistakes
- Employee Referral Program Metrics
- Fair Labor Standards Act Information
- Four Interview Questions Never to Ask
- Giving Employee References
- Hiring Compliance Guidelines
- Hiring for Small Business
- Interviewing People with Disabilities
- Job Denial Letter
- Legal Issues in Interviewing
- Minimize Employment Risks: Document
- SAMPLE Employment Policy
- SAMPLE Letter: Educational Records Check
- SAMPLE Letter: Reference Check
- Ten Safe Hiring Tools
- What is Negligent Hiring
Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership
- Defending Candidates to Hiring Managers
- Interlocking Core Competency Interviews
- Internal Application Process
- Making Internships Work for You
- Making the Case for Behavioral Interviewing
- Non-Traditional Merit Pay Alternatives
- OFCCP Definition of an Internet Applicant
- Why Managers Shouldn't Do Most Hiring
- Workforce Planning: Strategic Staffing Strategy
Pre-Planning & Retention
- Bonus or Incentive?
- Brand-Building on a Budget
- Build a First-Rate Hiring Process
- Closing the Deal
- Compensation Plans: An Overview
- Conducting an Exit Interview
- Good Hiring Starts with a Good Job Profile
- Improve the Quality of the Employment Function
- Interview Process Problems
- Interview the Job Before the Candidates
- Job Description Template-Link Pay to Performance
- Linking Pay to Company Performance
- Selecting and Using Salary Surveys
- Succession Planning
- Succession Planning: Identifying Top Performers
- Using a Pre-Interviewing Questionnaire
- Winning the War for Talent
- Worker Shortage by 2010: Preparation
Reading the Candidate
- Beware of Those Who Boast
- Blind Man's Bluff
- Decision, Decisions: Choosing the Better Applicant
- Detecting Deceit in Interviews
- Little White Lies on Resumes
- Suspend Judgment Until the Interview is Over
- College Recruiting Basics
- College Recruiting Essentials
- Cut Down on Interview No Shows
- Discouraging Low Quality Applicants
- Don't Hold Too Many Interviews
- Job Descriptions: Why are they Important?
- New Strategies for Screening Job Candidates
- Preventing Resume Overload with Questionnaires
- Resume Review Basics
- Test Validation Explained
- The Value of Person-Organization Fit
- Three Companies Cut Turnover with Tests
Recruiting Best Practices
- 25 Telltale Signs of the Wrong Candidate
- 5 Overlooked Ways to Hire Winners
- Asking the Right Recruitment Questions
- Attracting Your Competitor's Employees
- BPR.......for Recruiters!
- Candidate Engagement
- Cloud Recruiting
- Evaluate Your Capture Strategy
- Hiring Best Practices
- How Do You Attract and Retain the Best People?
- How to Attract Applicants to Undesirable Jobs
- How to Attract, Develop and Retain Best People
- How to Find and Keep Valued Employees
- Ignorance and the Human Condition
- Onboarding Success Secrets
- Secrets to Non-Profit Hiring
- Selecting Top Management Talent
- Semi-Active Candidates are Best Bets
- Six Core Selling Principles
- Skills Based Recruiting: When, not How
- Smart Choices: How to Hire the Best
- Strategy for Hiring the Best This Year
- The Uses and Misuses of Personality Tests
- Top 10 Employee Selection Mistakes & Solutions
- Treat Candidates with the Carbon Rule