Structured behavioral interview, STAR methodology and examples of questions
What is a structured interview? Structured interview is used by recruiters when recruiting personnel for various vacancies. It has both leverage to help clarify many facts from a candidate’s professional background, and certain frameworks. Let’s try to understand them.
Behavioral interview definition
Behavioral interview will help to project the employee’s behavior in the future – when performing professional tasks, interacting in a team, etc. People do not change very quickly, do they? So their behavior, reactions, core competencies and skills today can be a pretty fair projection for tomorrow, even if circumstances change.
What is interesting: according to experienced recruiters, data from a proper behavioral interview is relevant for 1 to 3 years. Example: if in the previous company our candidate strictly controlled his/her subordinates at all stages of the task, he/she will gravitate to the same model of behavior in the new company.
Important: At the behavioral interview, the recruiter asks the candidate questions not about imaginary cases and problems, but about those that they have encountered and solved at work. And, here, of course, it is important to get sensible, truthful answers. Figuratively, the information about the candidate from the resume or primary interview is like a black and white photo, and the data from the behavioral interview is a three-dimensional digital image.
Structured interview advantages and disadvantages
The structured interview demonstrates the real, not fictional, skills and experience of the applicant because it includes many questions that require real-life examples.
Let’s imagine that we are looking for a corporate clients manager. At the competency interview, we might ask him/her:
- Tell us about the most successful negotiation/presentation experience.
- Tell about the least successful negotiation/presentation experience.
- Give an example of an unexpected or unpredictable customer response to your offer.
- How much time do you need to prepare a quality offer to the client?
- Which departments did you interact with when processing complaints?
- What was the most difficult negotiation/presentation in your practice, its outcome, etc.?
If the candidate used to work within the country, you can narrow down the questions even more and be more specific – to the regional specifics; if we are talking about foreign clients, the focus is on applied experience of interaction with such clients.
Yes, a candidate may exaggerate his/her achievements or attribute some of them to himself/herself. But the essence of a behavioral interview is to find out the most truthful information through carefully calibrated questions. And making up or retouching “socially desirable” examples and linking them to reality during an interview is very difficult. The nature of truthful and fictional answers are different. Real stories are always clear, emotionally colored, and contain details. Lies or fiction against this background have a very pale, blurred appearance, without much detail or personification.
Behavioral interview tips for hiring
In order to conduct behavioral interview correctly, it is important to have a model of competencies with their description and criteria that are important for the company and that the candidate should possess. Without them at hand, the recruiter runs the risk of a subjective assessment.
In turn, the behavioral interview greatly increases the reliability of information, because it is based on a comparison of these very criteria and facts that are provided by the candidate.
To be objective, it is important to collect at least 2-3 examples (negative examples also count) of key competencies. You should keep in mind that one example may include information relating to several competencies. Attention should be paid if the candidate has difficulty giving more than one example.
Behavioral interviewing techniques and STAR model
In order to get the most complete and truthful information about the candidate’s competencies, the interviewer is asked questions based on the STAR technique. It is based on 4 conceptual blocks for a structured interview:
S – situation,
T – task,
A – action,
R – result.
Each block of the STAR method is characterized by its own questions. let’s analyze structured interview examples.
Situation. It is recommended to include in this block the questions concerning situations where the “investigated” competence could manifest itself in one way or another. Examples of projects, developments related to them, the candidate’s role in them, etc.
Examples of S-questions:
- Please tell us about your most difficult negotiation/transaction/presentation.
- Which client case would you say was the most significant in your practice over the past year or two?
- Which project was the most successful over the last couple of years, and which was the opposite?
- Give an example of an urgent need to solve an ambiguous problem in a very short time.
- Tell us about the most creative solution to the problem this year.
- Recall a time when you made a wrong or losing decision.
- Tell about a time when you needed to involve in a project more colleagues/departments than usual; etc.
Task. It is recommended to find out the essence of the task(s) in which the candidate worked, as well as who formulated and set it (the candidate, his/her immediate supervisor, client, etc.).
Examples of T-questions:
- Tell us about your task(s).
- How would the task be phrased if you addressed it to yourself?
- What factors would be decisive for you in accomplishing this task? What would you prioritize?
Action. And this is where it should be about what exactly the candidate did to accomplish the task. What was successful? What was not successful? What was done to achieve the most optimal solution?
Examples of A-questions:
- How exactly did you act, what did you undertake? What work was done?
- What resources, tools did you use?
- What arguments did you use in the negotiations?
- What did you do (personally, not collectively) to save/improve the situation/project/relationship with the client?
Result. Ask the candidate about the results – the final project, conclusions, achievement of goals. What feedback did he/she get from the employer/client, what is his/her personal evaluation of his/her own work, what should he/she do next time?
Examples of R-questions:
- When did you realize you had done everything possible and necessary for the crucial stage of the project/task?
- Tell us more about the first feedback (from colleagues, management, clients)?
- What indicators (intermediate, final) did you reach as a result of the project?
- Did the project gain momentum in the future?
Behavioral competence indicators
Any position suggests various behavioral competence indicators. This is a vast, separate topic, and deserves a separate material. But generally speaking, depending on the profile and requirements of the vacancy, the recruiter can evaluate the client orientation level, the candidate’s ability to influence the team and cooperate, management and planning skills, the ability to competently organize the process and achieve the goals.
It is also important to understand how confident the candidate is, whether he/she has analytical thinking, whether he/she has self-control and leadership skills, how loyal he/she can be to the company, etc.
At the interview, the competence of the candidate is often confirmed not only by the quantity and quality of examples, but also by the degree of their initiative. For example, if projects have started to develop or have overcome a difficult period due to the specialist’s proactive position.
- Assessing a candidate’s competencies by interviewing is a rather time-consuming process. It takes at least an hour or more to collect 7-9 examples of several competencies.
- If you use only this method, there is a risk of missing important biographical information, change of a position (reasons, interval), etc.
The best example of a structured (behavioral) interview is when the recruiter can answer whether the candidate has the necessary real-world experience to work on projects for the new employer. After the interview, the data on each candidate can be systematized in the recruiting system to compare their abilities in the competencies.
Let’s be honest – no interview format is 100% reliable. But it can definitely provide 60% of the structured interviews.
Furthermore, if the company has approved the criteria of competencies and has a technique and structure for such interviews, the recruiters will be more objective in handling the information. And, of course, one of the main advantages of the behavioral interview is the ability to research and project a candidate’s success in a particular position due to his/her real case examples from the previous experience.