Put simply, the interview process, when performed well, can help determine if a candidate has the necessary qualifications to help you build your business. In the competitive Education and Technology market, a weak interview process can ultimately cost you revenue. When we help our clients hire, we evaluate our candidates with a strategic vetting process to reduce the risks of making an unsuccessful hire — and a fundamental part of our process is Behavioral-Based Interviews.
To illustrate the approach, the following article uses the relevant example of hiring a sales-based role selling into the education market.
Why Interview in the First Place?
Interviews help qualify candidates for a particular role through phone, virtual, and in-person meetings. There are four primary purposes of the interview process:
- To confirm facts listed in a candidate’s resume
- To uncover additional information on a candidate’s past performance as it applies to your organization and the new role
- To determine if a candidate’s experience could translate well into the role at your company
- To uncover information on a candidate’s personality and cultural compatibility for your organization.
With these purposes in mind, one can begin to understand the strengths and weaknesses of particular interview techniques in determining if a candidate has the right competencies to be effective in a new role, and, additionally, one can develop an interview strategy to reduce the risk of making the wrong hire.
A Watch-Out with Traditional Interview Techniques
Many hiring managers’ interview questions fall into two categories: chronological questions and hypothetical questions.
A chronological question could be “walk me through your sales experiences at Companies X, Y, and Z”. These kinds of questions can help you verify facts listed on a candidate’s resume and can serve as the starting point of an interview process to match qualifying experiences to the job requirements at your organization.
After asking about resume milestones through chronological questions, many hiring managers will ask hypothetical interview questions, such as “How would you handle a difficult client?” While hypothetical questions are designed to show how they may approach a situation, a candidate may also tell potential employers what the candidate thinks the employer wants to hear, focusing on strengths and limiting discussion of weaknesses. Salespeople are used to pitching to clients, and they will have their own sales pitch prepared to sell themselves as the solution to the hiring problem.
Relying solely on chronological and hypothetical interview questions leads to the risk of hiring someone based on unsubstantiated experiences and simply a “gut” feeling.
Behavioral-Based Interview Questions
Behavioral-based interviews (BBI) elicit historical facts from candidates to determine if a candidate has been able to achieve successes equivalent to what the new role requires.
In a BBI, a candidate is asked to describe how they handled documentable employment or other life-related situations in their past. Though proper technique and depth of investigation, the BBI also reveals behavioral competencies including, but not limited to, personality, presentation skills, and overall demeanor.
Substantiated and repeated past outcomes are a reliable predictor for future performance. When behavioral-based questions not only ask about historical data but also how those outcomes were achieved, both a candidate’s specific response and their approach to explaining can reveal if they have the competencies necessary for success. Strong answers to behavioral-based questions will be succinct and well communicated, often in the STAR methodology; the candidate will include the Situation, the Task(s) necessary to solve the problem at hand, the Actions taken, and the Result. Next the interviewer should ask follow-up questions compelling the candidate to elaborate more and reveal additional competency strengths and weaknesses.
Comparing Standard Interview Questions vs. Behavioral-Based Interview Questions
The standard interview question allows the candidate to give their best possible answer—the one he or she thinks the interviewer wants to hear (45 annual new customers). By asking a behavioral-based question the truth can be uncovered about historical data (only 18 new deals were closed by the candidate last year) as well as the depth and quality of actions taken (cold-call, develop leads, conduct in-person meetings, and close new business).
Some examples of other behavioral-based questions for a sales role include:
- Provide a specific example of when you obtained a new customer without any introduction or referral. What were the steps you took to obtain the customer and what was the outcome?
- Give me a specific time when you lost a big deal that you thought you were going to close. What did you learn from that situation?
- Pick a day last week and give me a step-by-step overview of your day. How did you plan for that day? Did you execute your plan? And, what were the results of your activities?
- Tell me an example of a time when you had to change the organization of the sales department that you managed. What were the steps that you took, and what was the outcome?
A Wrap Up on Behavioral-Based Interviewing
After a quality candidate profile has been developed for a critical position, the hiring company should build behavioral-based interview questions around those parameters for the interview process. Of course, these questions can help document data like “how many,” “how much,” and “when.” As importantly, these questions can help truly verify if candidates are critical-thinkers, self-starters, self-confident or if they have a willingness to learn. Behavioral-based questions can also reveal a candidate’s attitude towards teamwork and their definition of and ability surrounding professionalism.
Through ensuring behavioral-based interviews are part of your interview process, the hiring manager will have a stronger understanding of his or her candidates, make hiring decisions grounded in fact, reduce the risks of hiring for the wrong reasons and even avoid hiring the wrong candidate. As the education talent expert, The Renaissance Network welcomes the opportunity to discuss further how the BBI is a critical component of our proven five-step process…and how working with a strategic search partner can help to uncover your next great executive or team member in the education industry.