The interviewer’s primary task is to learn about the applicant, and the best way to learn is to ask questions – and then ask about the answers to those questions – and then ask about the answers to those questions until the answers feel genuine, claims are substantiated and a reliable picture starts to come together.

But what questions? Some should be aimed at learning more about practical things like experiences, what they know, how they go about doing their work and what unique skills and perspectives they can bring. These types of questions are often derived from job descriptions and tend to create a black and white picture of how good a skill-fit someone is for a role. This is the “can-do” part, and most employers get it mostly right most of the time.

Behavioural interviewing

The more revealing questions are about behaviours – how a candidate deals with pressure, conflict, stress, responsibility, problems, ethical dilemmas, priorities (personal and professional) and other things that help you to learn not so much what they might do but how, and in what spirit, they are likely to go about doing them once they’ve won the role and got past their honeymoon or probation period.

To make good decisions and avoid cancerous personalities you need to understand motivations, behaviours, willingness to learn, willingness to lead or follow and anything else that helps you to make decisions about whether someone is a good fit for your needs, capabilities, values, preferred workplace culture and management style. This is the “will-do” bit.

A learnable skill

For our behavioural interviews we use carefully designed questions and techniques to help us understand what to expect, and to compare candidates (and their referees) on a level playing field away from our own personal preferences or the candidate’s ability to sell themselves. Coming from a professional counselling background, this process is highly skilled in design and execution, and we don’t expect other professional recruiters, let alone business owners and managers who get stuck with recruiting from time to time, to be able to do it. However, the principle of considering both the “can-do” and “will-do” aspects is crucial in making good hiring decisions, so if you want to recruit on your own then we recommend thinking as much about both parts of that question.

If you can see an advantage in having your candidates behaviourally interviewed by a trained professional who knows how to get beyond the preferred story of applicants, call us to talk about our unique flat-rate, no-placement fee, assessment-inclusive model.