The Case Against Behavioral Interviews
There are lot of lousy management practices out there. It is astonishing how many of them have taken hold, and how deeply!
Even in the awesome companies that are walking the Human Workplace path, we run into crusty and talent-repelling HR and leadership practices that have no place in the modern working world.
How did these asinine processes become so popular?
For a long time many if not most business leaders were in love with junk science. If the latest HR fad sounded like it had a scientific basis, people were all over it.
Behavioral interviewing is a perfect example. When you interview a candidate, what are you trying to do?
You’re trying to learn whether or she can do the job you’re trying to fill. How can you determine that? You can tell them about the job and get their thoughts.
You can hear about relevant work experience they’ve had.
You can share with them some of your current challenges and hear what they have to say. You can brainstorm together. You can share stories and determine whether the job and the candidate are well-suited to one another.
Behavioral interviewing is a goofy interviewing protocol that doesn’t do any of these sensible things.
Instead, in behavioral interviewing you ask the job-seeker an insulting series of “Tell me about a time when…” questions like these:
- Tell me about a time when you had to to work with a difficult person.
- Tell me about a time when you had to solve a tough problem.
- Tell me about a time when you learned from a mistake.
Imagine that your kid stuffed his sock down the tub drain to see what happened and the sock went too far down. Now the sock is stuck in the tub drain and you have to call the plumber.
When you call the plumber, the plumber is going to ask you “What’s the problem?”
You’ll tell the story of the kid with the sock in the tub. You won’t insult the plumber by asking him or her to tell you about a time when they had to get something out of a tub drain.
Here’s why not: you know that the plumber needs the specifics of your situation to give you a fair assessment of his approach and his fee. You won’t try to hide your problem from the plumber because he can’t respond to your need unless he knows what’s wrong.
It’s no different in the hiring arena. Recruiters and hiring managers who won’t lay out the company’s current obstacles but think they can evaluate a candidate’s ability to surmount those very obstacles are deluding themselves.
If you want to know how a job-seeker will solve a particular problem, you have to explain the problem. A lot of people are too fearful to be that honest. They don’t want to admit to themselves that their company has problems, much less tell a stranger about their difficulties.
There is a tremendous amount of fear in corporate and institutional America and every other country. People don’t want to be honest. Recruiters and hiring managers desperately want to keep the upper hand in the hiring process.
They don’t want to talk about the things that aren’t working perfectly!
What are they so afraid of? The minute they hire someone, that person is going to see all the blemishes and dirty laundry, anyway.
Behavioral interviewing is a crock and a scam but consultants have charged employers millions of dollars to teach their managers and HR folks how to ask talent-repelling behavioral interviewing questions.
Even we who gag at the mention of behavioral interviewing get calls from clients asking us to teach them how to do it!
Meanwhile, every job-seeker over the age of 18 has memorized perfectly manicured answers to the whole list of behavioral interviewing questions. Can you blame them? If you won’t be honest with them, why should they be honest with you?
Are You Ready For
The two choices you have are: To step forward into growth or
remain in your death spiral.