Behavioral interview questions: Friend or Foe?

Let me just get this out of the way now: FOE.


And I mean foe for both candidate and hiring manager. I get it, they’ve been around for so long and are still used as an “effective” interviewing technique by many organizations. The problem is: they don’t really work. Don’t believe me? Take a look at what other, more accomplished folks have to say on the matter herehere, and here.


The idea behind behavioral interview questions is the best predictor of future success is past behavior. Huh? What about learning from our mistakes and challenges? What about professional growth? Not to mention, coaches like me are out here every day teaching candidates techniques for preparing and delivering the best responses to those questions.


Yes! We teach candidates how to “play the game” and craft answers that will win over the hearts and minds of recruiters and hiring managers alike.


Ideally behavioral interview questions are used to evaluate one’s decision making, problem solving, and communication skills. Really at this point the only thing they’re measuring is how well a candidate studied for an interview and memorized answers to the most commonly used questions. What is a better way then, you ask? A better way is having authentic two-way conversations about the alignment between a candidate's experience and skills, and the requirements of the job.


I know it sounds way outside of the box, but perhaps we need to stop treating the interview like a test and “gotcha” game and start treating it like a business conversation between two professionals.


I can hear HR and hiring managers now: structured interviews help maintain a consistent approach to candidate evaluation. Sure they do. Structured doesn’t need to mean scripted though. I am all for having a structured process for candidate fit evaluation based on role requirements, but that can still come out of a robust, authentic conversation between the hiring manager and candidate. We are not robots. Let's stop treating the interview process as such. 


As for candidates: yes, I would like to think my here post will rid the world of this particular interview technique for good. I'm afraid it won't though. But before you google “best answers to commonly asked behavioral interview questions” do this instead:


Define your professional brand: You have a unique set of talents, skills, and experiences that combine to create your professional competitive edge. Take some time to fully define yourself as a professional. Once you raise your own awareness of your abilities it becomes much easier to communicate that message in interviews.


Know your impact: Identify the impact you have made throughout your professional career. Craft a story you can tell that highlights the problems you solved, how you solved them, and the overall impact of those accomplishments on your role, team, and organization. Defining 5-7 of your major professional achievements will provide all the data necessary to answer any behavioral interview question successfully.


Talk to strangers: Lots of them. The only way to get comfortable participating in interviews is to practice. You must practice speaking with and in front of as many people you do and don’t know as possible. Not comfortable or good at talking in front of, or to people you don’t know? Well, get comfortable and quick! The easiest way to do so is to start with your core group of supporters like family and friends. As you practice you will grow more confident in telling your professional story to an even larger audience. The more you communicate your professional value with others, the easier it will be for you to share your story come interview time.


Need help? Reach out to learn more about how I partner with professionals like you to craft and tell your professional story in an authentic and compelling way, to define your full value in the job market, and identify ways to gain access to opportunities that do more than just align with your career goals, they will inspire and motivate you.

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