Principles of the Behavior Description Interview

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The behavior description interview
Author: Roth, Philip L; McMillan, Jeffrey J Source: CPA Journal v63n12, (Dec 1993): p.76-79 (Length: 4 pages) ISSN: 0732-8435 Number: 00795501 Copyright: Copyright New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants 1993 [pic]

You have invested the time of several experienced employees and a good deal of expense to interview a number of promising entry-level accountants. However, you wonder if your interviewing techniques are really helping you hire the job candidates that will be superior performers and help your organization remain profitable. Your concerns may be justified if you are using a typical interviewing strategy in which there is no standard set of questions or a strategy in which interview questions do not explicitly focus on the past behavior of the applicant. Yet, there is an alternative. Studies in human-resource management suggest that behavior description interviewing may help you identify better performers from the rest of the applicants PRINCIPLES OF THE BEHAVIOR DESCRIPTION INTERVIEW

The first principle of the Behavior Description (BD) interview is interviewers standardize or structure the interview. The most important aspect of standardization is asking applicants the same or highly Similar questions. This allows all applicants to have a chance to provide information about certain job-related concerns and allows interviewers to compare similar types of information. The alternative of each interviewer asking their own questions will have your organization comparing apples and oranges when trying to make hiring decisions. Often this leads to lower quality hiring decisions. An organization may also seek to standardize the location of the interview, the individual who conducts the interview, etc. Any efforts to ensure similar treatment of applicants should be encouraged. An additional benefit of standardizing interview questions is that the interview is more defensible in court. In the past, organizations that had standardized questions won employment discrimination lawsuits more often than those without standardized questions. The second principle of BD interviewing is to explicitly focus on past behavior. BD enthusiasts believe that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. They also believe more recent behavior is a better predictor of future behavior than older behavior and that longstanding trends are better predictors of behavior than isolated incidents. The belief in the effectiveness of using past behavior to predict future behavior leads BD interviewers to ask certain questions. These questions use a superlative adjective (e.g. most, least, toughest, etc.) to focus the applicant on one particular incident of behavior. For example, accounting firms need staff members who are willing to address both internal and client problems. To gather relevant information about an applicant, a BD interviewer might ask the applicant to "tell me about the last time a new idea of yours helped an organization or group work better." The interviewer might also be ready with follow-up questions such as "how did you develop this idea," "how did you convince your supervisor or client to adopt it," and "how did it help the organization?" The follow-up questions may be answered as the applicant discusses a particular situation, but their presence alerts the interviewer that this information is important. In another instance, accounting professionals are often called upon to make presentations to groups such as audit committees or boards of directors. Accordingly, an interviewer might ask a job candidate to "tell me about the most difficult presentation you have ever had to make to a group of five or more people." Probes might include "what was the presentation about," "how did you prepare for it," and "was the presentation evaluated or graded?" In each case, the BD approach to interviewing should yield a large amount of high quality information to the interviewer and...
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