By Gene Kim, Director of Permanent Placement Services, Robert Half You may have an eagle eye for talent and years of experience, but hiring today is always a high-stakes endeavor. I can attest that it’s notoriously difficult to accurately predict someone’s ability to prosper at a company from an interview. And a poor hiring decision drains resources and increases stress and workload for the rest of your team. So what can you do to improve your odds for a great hire? One solution is to learn the techniques and benefits of behavioral interviewing. 
Behavioral interviewing draws its principles from behavioral psychology — the study of the complex interplay between thoughts, emotions and actions. Much more than a standard Q&A session, behavioral interviewing aims to uncover the candidate’s real-world behaviors, values and decision-making skills. In a behavioral interview, you’re not just asking hypothetical questions like, “What would you do if...?” Instead, you’re asking candidates to recount specific instances from their past work experience. The answers should give you insights into the candidate’s problem-solving abilities, teamwork, adaptability and unique spark they can bring to the team. Here are a few examples of behavioral interview questions: Can you recall a project you were involved in where you had zero prior experience? How did you approach the learning curve, and what was the result? Tell me about a situation where you had to collaborate closely with someone whose personality clashed with yours. What strategies did you employ to promote successful teamwork? Describe an instance where a critical project you were part of hit a major roadblock. How did you pivot, and how did it impact the final deliverable? Have you ever sought constructive criticism from a superior? What motivated you to do so, and how did you act on the feedback? Describe a situation where you had to adapt your communication style to speak to a group coming from a different communication background than yours. What adjustments did you make, and how did it affect the outcome? Asking these multi-layered questions can shift your conversation from a simple recap of skills and work history to a forensic exploration. Candidates become three-dimensional individuals, revealing not just their skill sets but also their personality, work style and principles. This deeper level of engagement can help you determine if the candidate truly meets the demands of the position you’re looking to staff. 
Determining the right questions is just the beginning. Here are a few tips for hiring managers who want to implement this interviewing strategy. 1. Listen for well-organized, thoughtful responses. Strong candidates will be succinct and direct, even if they must take a moment to organize their thoughts before answering. A useful benchmark is their use of the “STAR” method — responses that outline the Situation, Task at Hand, Action Taken and Result. It’s a strong signal that they’re both detail-oriented and an effective communicator. 2. Be an active listener. Maintain eye contact with your candidate. Don’t interrupt them mid-flow, but ask follow-up questions to dig deeper. For instance, if a candidate briefly mentions a time they had to adapt their communication style for a diverse team, you could ask them to elaborate on the specific changes and the outcome. Encouraging candidates to tell a complete story can give you a more detailed picture and tests the candidate’s ability to think on their feet. Active listening takes on extra weight in a remote interview. Without in-person, non-verbal cues, and with the potential for internet glitches interrupting the conversation, it’s critical to listen with heightened focus. 3. Pick the right people for the panel. You’ll want to include colleagues in the evaluation process who know the open position well and have experience in behavioral interviewing. Their knowledge will help you formulate the right questions and interpret the answers in the context of the job’s unique demands. 4. Take steps to curb unconscious bias. Deep, open-ended behavioral questions can reveal a lot about a candidate’s personality — which can sometimes lead interviewers to form judgments based on preconceptions rather than hard facts. It’s best to standardize interview questions and structure your follow-up questions the same way to prevent preconceptions and bias creeping in. Allowing apples-to-apples comparisons among all candidates also makes it easier to compare notes if several people are doing the interviewing. Hiring the right people isn't getting any easier in today’s talent market. If mastering the art of behavioral interviewing sounds daunting, or you’re in a hurry and having trouble finding skilled candidates, you may benefit from working with a professional to do this level of evaluation and aim to head off the cost of a bad hire. Find top talent today!