Behavioral interviewing pros and cons

July 25, 2023 Matt Tarpey

The pros and cons of behavioral interviewing

As many people who own and manage businesses can tell you, hiring the right personnel can be a challenging task. Companies spend considerable time and resources trying to find and attract top talent while constantly seeking new ways to improve their recruitment process and secure the appropriate people for each role. One way to do this is to assess how a candidate is likely to perform in the workplace by asking questions that relate to their past experiences and behavior in specific professional situations. This article describes some behavioral interview pros and cons.

What is behavioral interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a recruitment technique that involves analyzing candidates based on their behavior in previous work situations. The goal of this type of interview is to encourage candidates to reveal how they reacted in certain situations to predict how they are likely to respond to similar situations if they were to get the job. In a behavioral-based interview, the hiring manager typically asks open questions to prompt detailed responses so they can assess the candidate's character and personality. 

This type of interview is based on the premise that a candidate can have the required experience, hard skills, and educational qualifications but still not be right for the role because they're unlikely to fit with the company culture. While hard skills can be taught, soft skills usually improve over time and require a commitment to self-development. 

Behavioral interviewing pros

Some significant advantages of this interview technique include:

It can be an accurate predictor of future behavior

The main advantage of conducting behavioral-based interviews is that they can accurately indicate a candidate's future behavior. Finding out what their thoughts and actions were in previous situations helps you to understand their reasoning, learn what motivates them, and explore their perspective on life. Asking about their behavior in specific workplace scenarios also enables you to determine how well they're likely to perform relevant tasks.

It encourages candidates to be highly specific

Unlike traditional interviews where candidates provide general descriptions of their skills and experience, behavioral-based interview questions require them to reveal specific details of previous situations. This allows you to determine how proficient they're likely to be in certain scenarios, as explaining how they did things is more helpful than simply stating that they can do them. For instance, if a candidate mentions that they have advanced customer service skills, an effective way of confirming that is by asking them to describe a past situation in which they displayed their abilities.

An effective way of prompting candidates to provide detailed descriptions of specific experiences is by using the situation, task, action, and result (STAR) interview method. This involves asking the candidate to:

  • describe a specific situation they faced in their career
  • explain what their task was in that situation
  • outline the actions they took
  • showcase the results of their actions

It can reduce bias in the interview process

Focusing on specific candidate behaviors instead of skills and experience helps to eliminate interviewer subjectivity and bias. By addressing a candidate's responses and results in certain workplace situations, interviewers are less likely to be influenced by personal characteristics, such as ethnicity, gender, and age, and consider how they're likely to perform in similar scenarios instead. It also helps to reduce incorrect judgments resulting from inaccurate perceptions regarding the candidate's experiences and skills.

Behavioral interviewing cons

Despite the multiple benefits of the behavioral-interview technique, there are also some potential downsides you need to consider, including:

It may emphasize negative situations

Some common behavioral interview questions focus on negative circumstances. They may ask candidates how they behaved when faced with a challenging task, how they overcame a workplace mistake, or how they dealt with a difficult customer. While these types of questions can reveal useful insights into a candidate's demeanor and professionalism, concentrating on negative aspects can affect their mood and perception of your company. When conducting behavioral interviews, make sure you give candidates the opportunity to talk about positive events.

It can be challenging for interviewers to prepare and easy for candidates

Perhaps the biggest challenge when conducting behavioral interviews is the time it takes to prepare. Besides learning how to ask these types of questions and get into the details of specific situations, you also need sufficient time to prepare for each interview. The unique skills and experiences of candidates vary, which means you need to analyze their resumes and cover letters to develop relevant behavioral-based questions for each.

The situation for candidates is usually the opposite, as they can prepare answers in advance. Many online resources provide effective guides on how to prepare for a behavioral interview. These help candidates predict the types of questions they're likely to get based on the nature of the open role and their individual experiences. They also teach candidates how to respond in ways that create a positive impression, which may affect the interview's relevance.

It is not always an accurate predictor of future behavior

Although assessing past behavior tends to be an accurate way to predict future behavior, this may not always be the case. Some candidates may have faced particular circumstances that had a positive or negative effect on their performance, while others continued to progress.

Behavioral interviewing is a great tool for determining how a candidate is likely to perform in the workplace. However, it's important to remember that it isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, and different jobs may require different approaches. 

Learn more about effective interviewing:

Get more quality employees by learning how to hire in a competitive market.

Discover the most common mistakes to avoid when hiring new employees.

Grow your talent pool by learning how to build your candidate pipeline with a resume database.

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