Behavioral Interviews Part 1: What Not to Ask

femaleinterveiwerIf done right, behaviorial interviewing can help your board members discover the 1% difference between several great candidates. This 3 part series is designed to provide you with everything you need to know for conducting quality behavioral interviews. First, we’re going to focus on…

Behavioral Questioning: What not to ask

The JobFitMatters executive-search process is methodical and rigorous, the objective being to sort though the many qualified candidates in order to narrow the search down to only a few of the best. By the latter stages we have screened, interviewed, qualified, and vetted to the extent that any one of the candidates on the short list would be a good fit. Though everyone likes to have that kind of dilemma, this can be a very difficult part of the process, especially when choosing a chief executive. The stakes are very high. Psychologists call it an approach-approach conflict — that is, the choice of one highly beneficial option with the exclusion all others.

At this final stage board members and/or senior executives get more involved. It is very important to stay on track at this critical stage of the search. JobFitMatters provides an outline of four interview objectives for final decision makers, one of those objectives relates to what we are trying to find out about the candidate. In many cases this is where the process wanders off track, primarily because people tend to ask the wrong type of questions.

Bill Tell is one of best interviewers with whom I have the privilege to work. Bill was the longtime chief-of-staff for The Navigators, an international campus ministry headquartered in Colorado Springs. In our search for a Chief Development Officer, he served as the liaison between the Navigators’ U S President, Doug Nuenke, and SIMA. Bill is a great conversationalist, completely at ease in any situation. However, what made him a superb interviewer was that underneath his casual demeanor, Bill was intently focused on the interview objectives. He asked the right questions. His interviewing is an excellent example of behavioral interviewing.

Behavioral Interviews

One of most common interviewer mistakes is basing the interview on hypothetical questions. For example:

“What would you do if…?”

“How would you handle…?”

“What is your vision for…?”

All the above are hypothetically based questions that don’t actually tell you much about the candidate. Typically, those types of questions elicit rehearsed answers oriented around what the candidate thinks the interviewer wants to hear. Consequently, you get a lot of standard answers.

Even asking a candidate, “What are the first changes you would make?” is based on a lot of hypothetical assumptions. The correct answer would usually be, “I don’t know.” How could they know what they would do before they ever met the staff, examined the books, and/or evaluated the organization’s strengths and weaknesses?!

Coming Soon:

Behavioral Questioning: How to Ask the Right Questions

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Dr. Tommy Thomas Tommy Thomas is Lead Partner of JobFitMatters® as well as Board Member and Managing Director of parent entity SIMA® International. He specializes in cabinet-level retained executive search for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.