LeprechaunFriday I’m sure you all enjoyed your beer, kissed a blarney stone or dyed a river green. Today it’s back to work, though, and that luck o’ the Irish is not actually a good hiring strategy. Despite what seems like an obvious statement, many companies and hiring managers make selection decisions using something about as effective as luck… or less so. The dreaded “traditional interview” or “unstructured interview” is the go-to for a large majority of managers, but decades of research have shown that the “tell me about yourself/where do you see yourself in five years” tired approach is no better than luck in identifying the right person for the job.

“What is this blarney?? I am a wonderful judge of candidates. I have good instincts. This research must be about all the other managers!” you say. Well, sadly, probably not. But the bright spot of this news is two-fold:

1) unrealistic views of one’s own abilities actually lead to a healthy mental outlook, so you probably aren’t depressed!

2) If you are willing to believe you could be a better interviewer, we have an easy fix for you: the behavior-based interview.

The behavior-based interview is tried, true, and time-tested. If you’re going to interview (as an aside, we recommend your hiring decision be made after using an assortment of assessments, not just an interview, but that’s a blog for a different day), it should be a behavior-based interview. Why? Because even though people believe we are wildly open to change, the reality is that we tend to approach situations the same way tomorrow as we did yesterday. In other words, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So, get your candidates telling specific stories of specific instances of them displaying certain job-related competencies in the past and it will tell you what they’re likely to do for you in the future. Let me unpack that last sentence, because it had a few elements.

First, the interview should measure job-related competencies. That means someone should analyze the job for key success factors—what are those components that would make someone do well? Problem Solving? Ability to Navigate Ambiguity? Initiative? Whatever they are, we can then create interview questions that measure them.

Next, the interview should ask questions specifically designed to measure those competencies. Those questions will ask the candidate to “tell us about a time when…” and then follow-up asking for specific details and the result. In this way, the candidate gets a chance to share stories about actions s/he has taken that are directly related to actions that would be necessary on the job.

Lastly, your hiring managers should be trained on how to conduct—and evaluate—behavior-based interviews. There is a science and an art to it, not to mention it’s good business practice to document that the people conducting the interviews are certified as capable in interviewing.

And that’s the quick version of how and why to do behavior-based interviewing. Let us know if you want some help in the science side of it…conducting the job analysis, writing interview guides, and training your staff. I promise you will be happier with the results than you are with letting luck or chance drive your staffing decisions.

Magnet Consulting is a strategic people consulting firm and a certified Women-Owned Business. We work with client organizations across industries and size to assist in Organizational Culture, Employee Assessment and Selection, and Team and Leader Development.