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Structured Behavioural Interview

The purpose of an interview is to clarify applicants’ claims for a position and to enable applicants to put forward further evidence in support of their claims.

A structured interview is an interview with a clearly defined structure, containing set interview questions. The structured interview has been found to be one of the most accurate tools at assessing whether an applicant will perform well in a particular role.  The structured interview contains a mix of quantitative, hypothetical and behavioural questions.

Quantitative questions are looking for a response that is easily measured, such as “how many staff did you supervise”, “have you used program X in your current position”, “how long have you done X.”  The answers to these questions will generally be in numerical form, or yes / no answers.

A hypothetical (sometimes referred to as “situational”) question is one where the applicant is presented with a hypothetical situation and asked to come up with a solution.  For example, “you arrive at work one morning and your manager is sick, and their manager is interstate on a business trip.  You have a heavy workload, and minimal resources to complete your tasks. What do you do?”  The selection panel should be looking for a response that shows them the process the applicant would use to work through various situations, and the tools and strategies that have been developed to deal with different situations.  The process that an applicant uses is more important than the actual answer they give, and these questions are excellent for measuring an applicant’s potential.

Behavioural questions are gaining popularity, as research has suggested that interviews containing behavioural questions are the most successful element in determining the superior applicant.  Behavioural questions work on the premise that past behaviours will predict future behaviour.  When asking behavioural questions, responses will give indications on how an applicant has behaved in the past and therefore generally only measure an applicant’s current capacity, and not their potential.  It is important that an applicant describe a specific situation, or provide a specific example rather than just generalise.  The interviewer should probe and ask clarifying questions until a sufficient response is generated (without labouring if the applicant can obviously not answer the question in any more detail).

A behavioural question may sound like, “can you tell me about a time that you had to communicate with a difficult person?”  Or, “describe a major obstacle that you have had to overcome in your work, and how did you do that?”  Follow up questions can include, “what did you do”, “what did you say”, “how did you feel”, “what was your role”, “what was the result”, “what would you do differently next time”, “what did you learn.”

A database of interview questions is available from your consultant.


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