BY AMY CASTRO
Whether you’re a small business owner whose business is growing or a retail manager trying to fill a vacancy, finding great employees can be a big challenge. Even if you’ve done everything right— you’ve written clear job descriptions, you’ve identified workflows within your business, your “Careers” page is well written and enticing, and maybe you’ve even outsourced the search process—in the end, you’re the one who interviews and makes the final decision. So, what’s going wrong?
It’s easy to blame applicants for being less-than-honest or for putting forward an unrealistic picture of themselves, but that’s something you can’t control. What you can control is the quality of the questions you ask and use only those that will give you a real picture of the applicant.
I recently sat down with a client who has a very successful full-service grooming, boarding and training facility. She shared with me her frustrations with trying to find and keep good employees. When I asked her to show me the questions she asked in her interviews, it was no surprise that she wasn’t finding the right employees. She was making a very common but very big mistake many business owners and managers make—using generic, old-school interview questions that told her nothing about the person being interviewed. She asked questions like:
“What are your greatest strengths?”
“What are your greatest weaknesses?”
“What would your past employers say about you as an employee?”
She’s not alone in asking these questions. For decades, these questions have been used in an attempt to identify traits and characteristics in a candidate. However, the reality is, they don’t work. Applicants can find hundreds of articles on the internet that will give them the right answers to these questions. Therefore, you learn nothing true or useful about the applicant by asking them.
It’s time to develop some new interview questions that will help you identify the real person hiding behind the “interviewee façade,” and the key is to use Behavioral Interview Questions.
Behavioral Interview Questions are designed to find out about a person’s past behavior. They operate on the assumption that if a person could do something in the past, they’re likely to be able to do again. They allow you to assess what an applicant has actually done in a specific situation, rather than hearing about what they hypothetically would do, or what they think they should do in a situation.
Behavioral Interview Questions usually start with the phrase similar to, “Tell me about a time when…” For example, a question you might ask is, “Tell me about a time when you had to address a problem with an angry customer. What did you do and say to solve the problem and what was the result?”
This question would require an applicant to provide you a specific situation he or she faced, the actions taken in the situation and how it turned out. Based on the answer, you can determine if the applicant’s actions are aligned with what you’d want done in this type of situation in your business. If an applicant is unable to answer your behavioral questions, then he or she probably hasn’t faced the situations that occur in your business and doesn’t have the experience you need. At that point, it’s up to you to decide if you need to move on to the next applicant or you’re willing and able to put in the time to train the person to handle the situations. Either way, you won’t end up hiring an applicant you think can handle the job, but really can’t.
Well-designed behavioral questions will give you a wealth of information about your applicants’ skills, experience and motivations, as well as great insight into how they think. If you properly align them with the specific skills, knowledge and abilities required to be successful in the position you’re trying to fill, you’ll be better able to identify the “right” person with the skills and experience needed to effectively work with you, your team, and your customers.