Behavioral-Based Interviews: Look Beyond the Resume – By Lauren Leprine

If you are entrusted with the responsibility to make a hiring decision, you are fully aware that this is nothing to take lightly. Hiring the right employees can add value to your organization (e.g., increased income or cost savings, adding positively to the company culture), while hiring the wrong employees can do serious damage. Harvard Business Review estimates that 80 percent of turnover is due to bad hiring decisions, and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) estimates the average cost of replacing an employee is $4,129*. If you want to protect both your culture and your bottom line, you want to make sure you get your hiring right the first time. This is where incorporating a behavioral-based interview will come in handy.

Hiring beyond experience

It goes without saying that when you are looking to fill a role, you want someone who can actually perform the role. You screen for the proper skills, knowledge, experience, and education to ensure that you are bringing on someone competent. But what happens when you hire someone based on those variables alone only to find out that they don’t have the right attitude, work ethic, or passion to fit your company? The mostly likely answer is that they don’t last very long (if you’re lucky!) or worse, they can affect the company’s culture, lower morale, and decrease productivity. An interview needs to go beyond the traditional questions related to the job functions and explore more on how the candidate will fit into your culture and add value to your organization.

What is a behavioral-based interview?

To really get to know a candidate, you need to go beyond yes/no questions to those that are open-ended. Behavioral-based interviews force the candidate to produce detailed answers derived from experiences that can be very accurate predictors of future job performance, but remember to ask questions that pertain to the job. For instance, it may not be important for a line-worker to be creative but it may be important for her to be able to troubleshoot. Some of the common areas measured during a behavioral-based interview are leadership, decision making, ambition, analytical thought, creativity, collaboration, and flexibility. This is just the tip of the iceberg on what you can measure through a behavioral-based interview.

Incorporating a behavioral-based interview also reduces the risk of drawing conclusions. Let’s say you want to know what motivates a candidate, because you need to know that the person in the job will be a real self-starter. You may look at the candidate’s resume and see that they had a 4.0 GPA in college and make the assumption that they are extremely motivated. What you don’t see, however, is that perhaps the candidate took easy classes which can speak the opposite of their level of motivation and work ethic. If an interview does not touch upon questions that discuss motivation, you could be hiring the wrong candidate based on incomplete information.

Don’t trust. Verify.

It’s not unheard of for people to embellish their resumes (let’s not pull our punches – it’s extremely common!!). Asking behavioral interview questions can help to target who is sincere and who is faking. For example, it’s easy for anyone to state that they are “detail oriented.” Asking a question like “Give me an example of a time when your attention to detail was particularly useful to your company,” will force a candidate to give a specific example to illustrate their level of detail orientation.

Behavioral-based interviews should be an essential part of your selection process. They will improve hiring results and can ultimately lead to saving your company money. For more information on how to implement a behavioral-based interview process, contact us at 212-481-6060 or

*We believe that the costs of turnover are much higher. Please refer to our post You’re Hired….You’re Fired on our sister site GutWiZdom for more on this topic.