The basic premise of the behavior-based interview is that past behaviors predict future behaviors (Bowers & Kleiner, 2005). The interviewer must determine what key behaviors are important for the vacant position. Then the interviewer will ask the job applicants open-ended questions about how they have handled past events that are similar to those they will face in the job they are applying for.
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Their answers are rated as to whether they convey the desired behav- ior for the job. In the business world, a poor hire can lead to addi- tional costs (i.e., poor performance, retention problems, etc.) that can have major effects on the firm’s bottom line. The firm that finds the right tool in the selection process will have major advantages among its competitors. The behavior-based interview appears to be a tool that is improving the quality of hires in the marketplace.
Evaluation of a Behavior-Based Interview
We had the opportunity to evaluate a behavior-based interview tool that was conducted by telephone by a large Midwestern consulting company for a client hiring salespeople in the financial industry. The results of the study found that the tool succeeded in predicting the sales candidates who would be more likely to perform well and less likely to leave the company. Whereas most telephone interviews are primarily used as a screening tool to decide if the candidate will be invited for an on-site visit, phone interviews were actually used as the selection tool in the technique we reviewed.
The following is an overview of the technique we reviewed. The firm used a four-step process to develop the behavioral interview.
Step 1: The firm conducted focus groups with key executives and top- performing personnel within the organization to determine which behaviors were necessary for success in the positions for which they were hiring.
Step 2: The firm conducted in-depth interviews with a sample consisting of the top-performing salespeople, as well as salespeople who had average or below-average performance. Many businesses have con- cluded that the best way to hire individuals who will succeed within a given organization is to first understand why some of their people are top performers while others are mediocre.
Step 3: The final interview consisted of the most predictive questions measuring the dominant behaviors identified with successful sales- people. Examples of behaviors included being a problem solver, competitive, persistent, and optimistic.
Step 4: To evaluate the predictive validity of the behavioral interview, job applicants were interviewed by telephone. The interviewers read the questions to the job applicants in the same order and provided no interpretation or clarification. This structured interviewing process ensured equal treatment for each respondent.