Tell me about a time when…

Behaviour-based interviewing follows the logic that the best predictor of future performance is past performance

Behaviour-based interviewing is a popular method of assessing a candidate’s personal characteristics such as attitude, self-motivation, persistence, maturity, aptitude and temperament.

The logic is simple: the best predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. This basic rule comes with some important corollaries:

The more varied the situations in which the behaviour is demonstrated, the more deeply rooted it is. We all know people who are passionate about one area of their lives but have little passion for another area. Nonetheless, the more areas of their lives in which people demonstrate a particular behaviour, the more deeply rooted and the more likely it will be repeated in future. When people are highly motivated, not only at work but also at school and during outside activities, it shows self-motivation that cuts across all sectors of their lives.

The more recent the behaviour, the more predictive of future performance. However, the more long-standing the behaviour, the more deeply rooted it is. Someone who took over a group within the last month is more likely to display the same leadership skills in future than someone who led a group 12 years ago. However, when people act the same way over a long period of time, they are displaying deeply rooted behaviours that are more likely to continue in the future. Asking questions only about the most recent job experience prevents an interviewer from establishing patterns of behaviour.

People reveal past patterns of behaviour most vividly in incidences where they experienced great successes or setbacks. You do not need to explore the full history of candidates during interviews. Instead you can get a lot of information about underlying patterns of behaviour by having them talk about a few key experiences.

When conducting a behaviour-based interview, ask for specific examples, look for critical incidents (by using triggering words like most/least, best/worst and successful/disappointment) and ask for contrary evidence. If someone says, “I work great on a team,” ask about a team situation that didn’t go smoothly.

Excerpted from Carswell’s Best Practices: Recruitment and Selection. For more information call (800) 387-5164.

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