The challenge with behavioral interview questions

If we want to understand how fit we are, the best way is to test is to play a game or go for a run. It definitely doesn’t involving asking ourselves to describe our fitness. And, yet, if we walked into interview rooms around the world today, we’d hear behavioral questions that do exactly that.

In the ideal world, we’d have interview processes that focus on delivering real work. But, few organizations can do that at meaningful scale. So, cases/live problem solving tends to be a good substitute.

And, I find that behavioral questions can be woven into cases with a bit of extra preparation work. For example, if we wanted to understand how someone deals with a conflict or a challenge, add a dash of conflict to the case and see how the interviewee responds.

Perhaps the first step is accepting that interviews aren’t the perfect window into how a candidate will function in a job. Most of us don’t have the sort of spidey sense that translates a behavioral answer into reliable signal.

So, the best we can do as interviewers is design systems that reduce bias by focusing on how they would actually approach the job and how much they enjoy the process of doing whatever the job is about. Folks who enjoy problem solving, for example, will have their eyes lit up even when problems are thrown at them.

When in doubt, design interview systems that enable us to ignore what people say and watch what they do.