Article Date: 12/1/2004

staffing solutions
Honing Your Hiring Skills
Behavior-based questions reveal what you really want to know.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

Hiring a good employee is more than just finding a person who has work experience that matches your opening. And it's more than finding a person you intuitively like. If you make hiring decisions based solely on work experience and personality, then you set yourself up for turnover problems.

There's a better way. Widely used in industry, behavior-based interviewing aims at projecting job applicants' future performance based on how they handled past work situations.

Getting to know you

Conducting a behavior-based interview reveals skills, competencies and character. "This is the most important part of the interview," says Carol Quinn, president of Hire Authority, a management consultancy in Orlando, Fla. ( "Your ideal candidate will have an 'I can' attitude, will not allow obstacles to stop him or her and will be motivated. The so-so applicant makes excuses and blames others."

Ms. Quinn suggests following the Obstacle Situation, Action and Example (OSAE) series of questions. Here's how OSAE works:

 First, pose an Obstacle Situation that relates to the job you need to fill. For example, "Describe a situation that required great patience on your part."

 Then ask an action question: "How did you deal with it?"

 Next, find out the end result: "What eventually happened?"

The following OSAE questions can prove useful in getting applicants to speak candidly about themselves and will help you determine if what they've done in the past will be a good fit for your practice:

"Tell me about a time when you set specific work goals for yourself. How did it turn out?"

 "Tell me about a work emergency or crisis of some kind in which you were involved? What was your role? What did you do?"

 "Tell me about work-related situations that cause stress for you. How do you handle such stress?"

 "In the past, what kind of co-workers rubbed you the wrong way? How did you respond?"

"Tell me about a challenge you faced in a previous job. How did you respond?"

 "In your most recent position, what did you learn? How did you apply this learning?"

 "What experience have you had with people of different ethnicities, age or physical ability levels?"

 "In the past, have you had a preference for working mainly with men or women? Please explain."

 "Tell me about a time when you felt you went beyond the call of duty in helping a client."

If you need more information, ask these probing questions:

 "Please clarify . . ."

 "Looking back at your experience, how do you see things now?"

 "Did you consider other options at the time?"

Reality check: As revealing as the replies to such questions might be in evaluating a job applicant, not all candidates are going to be comfortable in answering them. Use such questions with discretion and move on to other matters as the situation warrants.

Connect the dots

Once you ask these questions, sit back and listen for predominant responses. Then ask yourself, "Does this person make excuses and is it a recurring response? Or does she often find ways to overcome obstacles?"

The latter is a high performer and the person you want on your team. It's no mystery -- the candidate who gets the job done is sure to increase the productivity and profitability of your practice.

It's difficult for job applicants to fake answers to behavior-based questions or to prepare for them in advance. Thus, you're more likely to get an accurate picture of applicants and how they'll perform on the job.



Optometric Management, Issue: December 2004