My Beef with BI (Behavioral Interviewing)

[This entry is from guest blogger Darci Riesenhuber, a former Tom Peters Company colleague who has reinvented herself as a Reputation Agent.]

Remember the days when, during a job interview, you were asked questions like "If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?" or "Tell me how you would handle an upset customer?" Companies started to question whether the answers to such hypothetical questions were helpful in predicting successful job performance.

To reduce subjectivity and increase predictability of job success, companies have adopted a behavioral-based interviewing approach. In essence, behavioral-based interviews assume that past behavior predicts future behavior. The predictability comes from posing statements or questions to the candidate phrased something like: "Tell me about a time when you led a virtual project team—what were the outcomes?"

I question the validity of this approach. Why? Because if you are basing your hiring decision on someone's past experiences, aren't you disregarding their capacity to learn and be good at things they have yet to try?

Had the manager, who ultimately hired me for my first training position, asked me the question, "Tell me about a time when you had a difficult participant in one of your classes. How did you handle it?" I could not have given an answer, having, at that point, no experience at all. Had he used the behavioral interviewing approach, would I have gotten the job? I doubt it. However, my inability to respond effectively to that question was certainly no indication of my ability to do the job.

So I ask: Is basing the hiring decision on someone's past experiences the best way to predict future success? Isn't it possible that someone who has no experience leading a virtual team can be great at it? Perhaps even better than someone who has?

Darci Riesenhuber posted this on September 10, 2009, in Talent.
Bookmark and Share