The Pros and Cons of Behavior-Based Interviewing



Behavioral-based interviewing operates on the premise that a job applicant can have the required experience and education for a position yet still be a poor fit. The reasons could range from not fitting into the corporate culture to having a personality that would feel easily overwhelmed by job demands. What many human resource representatives and department managers have learned the hard way is that getting the job and doing the job are very different things.


The STAR Method in Action

STAR is a specific method of interviewing that focuses on behavior rather than credentials alone. STAR, an acronym for situation, task, action, and result, follows the theory that the best way to predict a candidate’s future on-the-job behavior is to look at his or her past performance. The underlying goal of the STAR method of interviewing is to highlight how the applicant resolved a work-related challenge or conflict with others.

An example of such a question might include “How do you prioritize work when the people assigning it to you both express urgency with the deadline?” The interviewer uses the following criteria to phrase his or her question to uncover a response indicative of typical behavior:

  • Situation: The applicant describes a scenario in which he or she needed to accomplish a specific action. The interviewer may need to probe for more detail if the original response is vague.
  • Task: For this part of the question, the interviewee should describe the desired outcome of the problem and why it was a challenge in the first place.
  • Action: The job candidate should describe exactly how he or she responded to the problem. If a resolution involved others, interviewers should prompt job applicants to describe only their role.
  • Result: After walking the interviewer through the above, the applicant should wrap things up by describing the resolution to the problem and how his or her actions played a role in it.

Benefits and Challenges of Behavioral-Based Interviewing

When used correctly, behavioral-based interviewing demonstrates a person’s critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and ability to effectively manage relationships with peers and superiors. It forces job candidates to prove how their experience would benefit the company rather than just listing it as a matter of fact. The fast pace and challenging questions of these types of interviews forces quick responses and decision-making capabilities.

However, hiring human beings for a job can never be an exact science. Some of the specific challenges related to behavioral-based interviewing include:

  • Candidates are more prepared for this type of interview thanks to information found online and presented to them in college courses. This increases the likelihood of less than authentic responses. Interviewers can meet this challenge by avoiding highly-structured interviewers in favor of asking the applicant questions beginning with how or why rather than requesting specific examples.
  • A shortage of people with the skillset for professional positions means human resources representative may not find the perfect match. Instead of relying on a short list of behavioral-based questions, interviewers need to ask challenging questions that uncover potential advantages of hiring a specific candidate that might not have come to light otherwise.

Interviewers who remain flexible enough to make adjustments when needed can still do well with this technique.