Hating On Behavioural Interviews.


Past experience is evidence of future behaviour. Heard that phrase before? It’s the basis of behavioural interviewing, which has been become the default technique for many companies in recent years.

Behavioural interviewing when the interviewer focuses on getting the candidate to describe how he behaved, like “Explain how you took the lead on a project” or “Tell me when you had to deal with a tough stakeholder”. This structured method is to see if the answers align with how he wants the candidate to handle similar situations if you get the job. But there are three issues with them.

  • Candidates lie. All the time.
    For every behavioural situation on the list, you can be sure that most candidates have prepared extensive case studies, whether real or fake, to give you that perfect response. Unless the interviewer is a trained expert at interpreting body language, getting duped by a smooth-talker is inevitable.
  • Interviewers treat it like a script.
    I’ve sat in interviews where candidates were unable to give an answer, simply because they had not encountered the specific scenario sought. Rather than moving on, the interviewer insisted on getting a response – “Are you sure you’ve never encountered this before?” – and dismissed the candidate as being unprepared when he fumbled.
  • Behavioural interviews tend to be too focused on history.
    Instead of sharing the challenges of the job and assessing the candidate on his ideas and approaches on resolving them, behavioural interviews place a heavy emphasis on discussing past experiences they hope will be relevant to the problems at hand. This is hardly useful as no two companies or two situations are ever exactly alike.

Behavioural interviews tend to favour talkers who can spin a good tale, and most interviewers are easily bought in by perfect answers that follow their script. They certainly have their place in recruitment, but I treat them like cookies while on a diet – taken in moderation, and supplemented by other foods (in this case, other interview techniques).

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