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A Step by Step Guide to Running Behavioral Interviews [Free Hiring Guides Included]

By Sarah Beckett on May, 6 2019
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Sarah Beckett

In recent years, hiring has undergone a fundamental shift as companies are finding it more difficult to fill key positions with the right people.
The best way to explore a candidate’s skill-set and fit with a particular job is by using behavioral interviewing techniques.
This post will give you a step-by-step process to follow for running behavioral interviews (aka competency-based interviews), and you can get access to hiring guides for eight of the most in-demand jobs today.

In this post, we'll look at the following points:

  • What to evaluate in a behavioral interview
  • How to structure a behavioral interview
  • Evaluating a behavioral interview


(About to interview a candidate or create an interview yourself? Click here to check out our free Hiring Guides.)


Step 1: Deciding What to Evaluate

As talent is likely to be the main driver of business success in the coming years, HR needs to drive a strategic hiring process. A process that actively seeks out candidates with the right competencies to support the achievement of business goals. 

When selecting the competencies to evaluate during an interview, it is important to consider two factors: 

  • What competencies are included on the competency profile for the target job? 
  • What other assessments methods will be used during the selection process? 

What is a competency profile?

A competency profile – the collection of competencies used together to represent the most critical aspects of a job – typically contains seven to ten competencies covering both the behavioral (soft-skills) and the technical requirements of the job.

It can be overwhelming to ask questions addressing every associated competency, so we recommend asking no more than five questions during a standard interview. This means that you will need to select the five most critical competencies to focus on for the interview.

Try to balance the questions you are asking to provide coverage across the soft skills and technical requirements for the job. 

If you will be including other aspects in your interview process, like a simulation or work samples, you may find that technical competencies are more easily assessed by those means. 



Step 2: Structuring the Interview

Start by greeting the candidate and introduce yourself, giving your name and position within the organization. It is recommended that you confirm the job for which the candidate is being considered, discuss the key duties and accountabilities of the role and reporting structure.

Next, explain the purpose of the interview.

For example, to gather specific information about the candidate's past experiences and accomplishments, particularly in the past 2 to 3 years; or to help the organization make a fair and informed decision on the most qualified candidate for the job.

Many candidates will be unfamiliar with behavioral interviews, so it’s important to describe the interview plan and the structure of behavioral interview questions. Here’s a suggestion:

  • Behavioral interview questions are designed to obtain information about your experience and accomplishments that relate to the competencies that are important for success in the job to be filled.
  • For each question, we are looking for specific examples of your experience and accomplishments. To help us properly evaluate your answer, please describe:
    • The Situation or Circumstances related to the example;
    • The Actions taken by the candidate to address the situation, along with the rationale for the action taken; and,
    • The Results or Outcome of the candidate's actions.

Once you have described the interview format, it’s time to start the questions. In advance, make sure that everyone on the interview panel knows which questions are assigned to them.

In order to obtain complete descriptions, it may be necessary to ask follow-up questions to clarify or obtain additional information on any one, or more, of the elements noted above (Situation/Circumstance, Action, Result/Outcome.)

Take notes on the candidate's answers during the interview in order to have an accurate record of the information on the candidate's experience and accomplishments to evaluate later.

Before closing the interview, make sure to provide an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions or clarify the next steps in the selection process.



Step 3: Evaluating the Interview

All of the energy and effort devoted to capturing good job-related information during the selection interview will be lost if this information is not evaluated consistently for all candidates.

A. Classify All Behavioral Examples

Each behavioral question is designed to elicit information relevant to a specific competency.

However, candidates may provide information that goes beyond the specific competency, resulting in one of the following situations:

  • A question will be asked focusing on one competency area, but the candidate provides a behavioral example that demonstrates another.
  • Examples are provided that relate to more than one competency area.
  • Examples that relate to the required competencies will be provided during the introductory phases of the interview, or during the close of the interview.

The whole interview should, therefore, be reviewed carefully for evidence of the competencies being assessed.


B. Weigh the Behavioral Examples

The next step is to weigh each example in terms of its overall contribution to the rating for each competency. This is not simply a process of averaging all the positives and negatives to arrive at an overall rating. The following factors should be considered:

  • Significance, or importance or the examples provided,
  • The recency of the example,
  • The relatedness of the example to the job in question,
  • Common themes, or trends that arise in the examples provided.


C. Assign a Rating to Each Competency

The next step is to assign a rating to each competency based on the candidate's demonstration of the relevant behavioral indicators.


By following these three steps, you will maximize your chances of hiring great candidates to fill your positions. 

For more details on running behavioral interviews, download a free Hiring Guide which includes:

  • A summary job description, including job summary, competency names and levels, responsibilities, knowledge areas, education and certifications for the job. 
  • Five behavioral interview questions, complete with the question, follow-up probes, and behavioral cues to look for
  • Interviewing tools and templates, like tips on how to evaluate, a rating scale and a summary rating sheet.

Hiring guides available for: Marketing Manager, Graphic Designer, Project Manager, Finance Manager, Account Executive, Business Development Representative, Administrator, Business Data Analyst.