The following is adapted from Recruiting Sucks… But it Doesn’t Have To: Breaking Through the Myths That Got Us Here.

As hiring methods progress, many recruiters remain stuck using outdated, traditional models. These flawed interview types focus only on a candidate’s skills and don’t comprehensively evaluate their true ability to succeed in a role—meaning you as a recruiter are less likely to find the best person for the job.

Be aware of the four traditional interview types, which aren’t results-based, and their limitations:

Situational Interview

Although it isn’t used much anymore, situational interviewing is about hypotheticals. “What would you do if X were to happen?” This approach was more common in the ’90s, but a lot of leaders still use it today. The issue is that the correlation between what someone says they would do versus what they actually do is very low. Candidates give the answers that they think you want to hear. Hypotheticals aren’t a good indicator of performance (with rare exceptions). The only time they become useful is when predicting obstacles.

Stress Interview

This type of interview is usually reserved for high-level positions. The format tries to put pressure on individuals during the interview. For example, there may be deliberate interruptions during the process to see how the executive responds. It puts them in a stressful situation and allows the interviewer to gauge their behaviors and responses. This interview style is not generally recommended for the masses, but it can appear at senior levels.

Relational Interview

These interviews ask questions such as “What do you like most about your job?” and “What charges you up?” While these answers are important to understand preferences driven by the head and the heart, they don’t predict performance. I’m not saying it’s bad to ask these questions, but you should be aware that this interview style doesn’t give any insights on results.

Behavioral-Based Interview

This one is most closely aligned with Results-Based Interviewing™. The idea is to ask if someone has acted a certain way in a similar situation. If they have, there is a high probability that the candidate will act a certain way again. It’s the “tell me about a time when…” type of question.

The issue with behavioral interviewing is we get it wrong 99 percent of the time. This is important to point out because it ties into Results-Based Interviewing™. In behavioral-based interviewing, we have what is called a “tail.” The question becomes, “Hey, X, tell me about a time when your organization really pissed off a customer. What did you do to fix it?” Compare that with, “Tell me about a time when your organization really dropped the ball with a customer. What did you do?”

How is that question different from the previous version? The first one leads the interviewee to the desired answer. It doesn’t just leave it at “what did you do?” The answer to the broader question may just be that the candidate was relatively new and went to the boss and the boss took care of the problem. It doesn’t make it a bad answer. It helps you better understand behavior. But compare that to asking directly, “What did you do to fix it?” The going-to-the-boss answer isn’t a viable answer anymore. The person needs to come up with an example of something that they themselves fixed because that is what is specifically being asked.

When a candidate is led to an answer, it becomes a lot easier for them to BS their answers. The interview becomes unreliable because you’re not getting a natural response. When you ask someone a very direct question, the answer you get when they don’t have a lot of time to think about it is the more natural response. We want to get in the head of the candidate and get past the BS. You can improve your odds by avoiding the tail at all costs!

By understanding the weaknesses of traditional interview types, you can choose an approach that produces results and best fits your recruiting needs.

For more advice on effective recruiting, you can find Recruiting Sucks on Amazon.


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