Get to the good stuff

Angela TaloccoBrock McRea

It’s hard enough to create a job description, post it and then review applications. And yet, you haven’t even gotten to the most important part – the dreaded interview.

To me, interviews are dreaded by most because they are hard to do and most hiring managers and supervisors are afraid of making the wrong hiring decision due to lack of information they are getting from their interviews.

You may be asking how it’s possible to go through an interview and still not know anything about a candidate. Well, the next question to ask yourself is what kind of questions am I asking? Are they traditional yes or no questions that lead to a yes or no response, or are they open-ended questions that help you get a real life example from the candidate?

To take the dread and guess-work away from interviewing, we should be asking open ended questions and using a proven technique called behavioral interviewing (BI). So what does this mean to you as a hiring manger or supervisor?

Behavioral interviewing is also known as competency-based interviewing or targeted selection. It focuses on questions that delve into candidates’ past behaviors. These questions are designed to get the candidate to develop stories to illustrate that they have the necessary skills for the position and or employer.

The behavioral interview technique is used for many reasons, but the main reason is because past behavior predicts future success. It’s also used as in indicator of personal traits and characteristics. When asking the right questions and listening to a candidate’s answers it will help you look at their thought process and problem solving skills.

Looking at behavioral interviewing more closely, there are three basic steps to follow.

The first thing you need to do as a hiring manager or supervisor is nail down the skills and qualifications that you are looking for in an applicant that will have them do well in the positon they are interviewing for. You can find these in your job descriptions or, more importantly, your current employees. Next, write open-ended questions based on the requirements and skills you’ve identified. These questions will get the applicant to talk about their experiences where they were successful or not successful in the past. Lastly, if you feel the applicant didn’t answer the question fully, you can use probing follow-up questions to get more information.

When creating your behavioral interview questions there are some basic recommendations to consider. First, these are almost always written as open-ended questions. This is to ensure that the applicant provides a description of past behavior and experiences, not a simple yes or no answer or canned answer.

Because the questions aren’t asked in a yes or no format, there is no one right answer. The applicant is simply describing a past experience. In addition, the questions are geared towards past performance, allowing the applicant to relate what they actually did in a situation rather than a made-up answer.

There is a common tool called the S.T.A.R. method that is used to create effective behavioral interview questions. S.T.A.R. is an acronym that represents what you are asking the applicant:

  • Situation – Tell me about a time…
  • Task – Where you had to problem-solve with a group…
  • Action – What role did you play?
  • Results – And what was the outcome?

Now let’s say the applicant did not specify what role they played in the group. An example of a follow-up question might be, “What was your specific role in the group?”

As you can see, a well-written behavioral interview question based on the role you are interviewing for can provide great information on a person’s past successes. Spending extra time to create these types of questions for each job will improve your chances of hiring the right person for the job and the company culture. Mastering the technique of behavioral interviewing will be sure to get you more excited about interviewing once you see the positive results.

The author is a recruiter at Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape company in Denver.

Hire Power is a monthly column designed to help you recruit, hire and retain the best talent for your company. We’ve got a rotating panel of columnists ready to give you practical, tactical advice on solving your labor problems. Email Chuck Bowen at with topic ideas.


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