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What We Can Learn About Behavioral Interviewing from a TV Series

January 16, 2018

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During a recent TV watching binge session, I stumbled across a TV show that sparked my interest (by title alone): The Job Interview. It seemed to have promise, and I thought may get some insight into HR practices being completed in the wild. So, for better or for worse, I gave it a try. After all, it would only disrupt my marathon of House Hunters. I didn’t have anything to lose. 

In the episode I watched, a wine store was hiring a Brand Ambassador. Throughout the episode, the owner and an associate interviewed four candidates, talked through the various candidates, and presented the finalist with a job offer. While watching the show, I took a critical eye to how they approached their interviews.

Were they masters of behavioral interviewing? Not exactly. Did they do everything wrong during the interview? No, they had some redeeming elements infused into the interview.

So, what were the things that they did well and the things that they should avoid doing again?

Let’s start with the positives. Here are the things that the interviewers did well:

  • They identified success factors of the role. The interviewers determined the two most important competencies needed for success in a brand ambassador role. Communication and Sales Acumen are critical to success on the job, so they made sure to target these skills throughout the interview.  While it’s unknown whether they went through a rigorous job analysis to identify the most important competencies, they at least targeted consistent competencies across candidates.

  • They made the job candidates feel comfortable. One of the most important things you can do as an interviewer is to develop rapport with the candidates. When you do this, the candidate’s nerves are put at ease and they are more likely to be open and honest with you. In the show, the interviewers greeted the candidate warmly. In addition, they repeated and rephrased questions as necessary. Doing this allows the candidate to think through the questions without feeling too much pressure to answer the question immediately on the spot.

  • They incorporated a role-play exercise into the interview. This job requires the ability to come across as a wine connoisseur and sell their products. Sometimes the best way to assess job skills is to put the interviewee in a realistic situation. The interviewers provided a situation where the candidate had to sell bottles of wine to the them. This allowed the interviewers to see whether the candidates were effective communicators, good sellers, and knowledgeable about wine, at least on the surface.

  • They had a positive and strong closing. The interviewers were very clear about next steps in the process. To ensure positive candidate reactions, it is important to keep candidates aware of the hiring process, to provide timely updates, and to not keep them in limbo.

While there were redeeming factors to the interview, there were also some problems. Here are some opportunities for improvement:

  • They let first impressions guide the interview. They were very apparent that the candidate’s physical appearance swayed their decision. First impression bias is one of the most common errors interviewers make. It’s important for interviewers to recognize that this bias exists, but not let it impact or guide the interview or the final decision. If you think this could be happening during your interview process, here are 5 Ways to Remove Hidden Biases from Your Hiring Process

  • They used situational, rather than past-behavior questions. Past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. Therefore, it’s critical to ask about past experiences. During the interview, the interviewers were asking what the candidates “would” or “should” do. This will only give you superficial information. For tips on how to do this in a behavioral interview, you can use this strategy.

  • They did not ask consistent questions. Throughout the interview, they had a range of open-ended questions. Some of which were related to skills, but others that had no linkage to competencies. To increase the effectiveness of the interview, it’s important to ask consistent questions that target specific competencies identified to be important for the job. Here are more reasons why you absolutely need a consistent hiring process.

  • They did not guide their final decision by using scoring criteria. After an interview, interviewers should provide ratings for each question/competency using behaviorally anchored rating scales. This ensures that you are using consistent criteria across candidates, rather than merely comparing candidates.

So, did I gain any insight by watching this show? Not much – except that it reinforces the notion that there are several companies who continually rely on unstructured interviews to make decisions. Doing this puts companies at risk for making poor decisions or potentially being legally challenged by the candidate. Structured, behavior-based interviews are over two times more accurate than unstructured interviews. Further, one study found that unstructured interviews were challenged nine times as frequently as structured interviews. Utilizing a structured interview process will set you up for gathering more accurate information in a legally defensible manner.

Now, back to House Hunters!

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.