5 Tips for Behavioral Interviewing

Best Practices for Behavioral Interviewing

behavioral interviewing for retailers
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Finding the right talent is much harder today than it ever has been. With millennials now making up the majority of the workforce, not only does your approach to recruiting have to change, but also your interviewing techniques.

First, you will want to expand your interviewers in the process — meaning have more than yourself conduct an interview. In fact, I recommend having the peers be involved in the interview process.

There are a few reasons for this technique. First, it displays to your employees that you value their opinion and that they are part of the store team and not just an employee; they are vested. Second, it models for the potential candidate how you do business. When they see that you include the employees in the process, they know that they will get the same treatment when they work for you. And third, often times an employee can "translate" for you with a candidate. For example, you talk about your store's customer experience and give an example story. But your story or example may not resonate. When a peer tells a story, it's related on their level. Consider that I am 50 years old and when I talk to a 21-year-old candidate, it doesn't sound the same as when another 21-year-old talks to them. Something I get frustrated with, but just have to get over. 

Here are 5 Tips to help improve your interviewing practices:

  • Focus on behavior. Too many interviews focus on what people "think" and not what they do. As a man, I know it is proper (and gentlemanly) to open the door for a lady. But do I actually go around the car and open her door? So I would tell you it is the right thing to do and you might infer from that answer that I would do it. Just as with your coaching of an employee, you have to focus on behavior and not attitude or opinions. Try to understand how they would respond to a customer in your store. Focus on what they will do, by understanding what they have done and that means ignoring the job title from the previous employer and focusing on the character and "wiring" of the candidate. 
  • Use Situational Questions. When interviewing, offer a scenario for the candidate and ask how they would handle it or respond. For example, "tell me about a time you had really bad service?" How did that make you feel? Did you ever go back? Did you tell others? These questions not only help you understand the candidate, but it models for them that this (great service) is important to you. Conversely, ask them about their best service experience. How did it make them feel? Consider that you can tell a candidate that you value service and customer experience in your store. But when you can relate it to a personal experience the candidate had, it makes a huge difference in his or her understanding. The candidate hears you say great service and they have a personal experience of what that means and what it feels like and the likelihood of them delivering that experience in your store goes way up. 
  • Ask their Opinion. Often times during an interview, we tell the candidate about our core values as a retailer. But rather than "tell" the employee, turn the tables and ask them what they think it means. For example, rather than explain what integrity means as one of your values, ask the candidate what they think it means. It is very easy for someone to "parrot" back thoughts you are sharing and agree with them. But when you ask me my thoughts without sharing your own first, you are getting raw and pure responses. In fact, use this technique a lot during the interview. Listen for themes and consistencies among their responses. You will start to get a true glimpse into the candidate's character if you do.  
  • Ask the Frustration Question. This is one of my favorites. Ask the candidate what frustrates them about a retail store when they shop. Or ask them what frustrates them about a job they had in the past. Knowing what "pushes their buttons" gives a peek into their wiring. For example, if they share a frustration story about messy stores, then you know they value good merchandising. But if they share a story about an employee they didn't like, then you are hearing about their personal pet peeves or frustrations and not what frustrates them about shopping If the key to success in retail today is customer experience (which it is) then you want an employee whose frustrations deal with these issues. 
  • Study the Non-verbal. Probably the one area interviewers ignore the most is the non-verbal communication of a candidate. This is most often due to the fact that the interviewer is doing most of the talking versus the candidate (which is a terrible mistake in itself.) If you are practicing good interviewing techniques, then the candidate is doing the majority of the talking. And as they are talking, you get to study their nonverbal communication. Do they truly believe what they are saying? Their body language can tell you that. For example, when you ask them a question, as they respond is their posture confident and assertive or are they fidgety, struggling for an answer. You need confident retail employees. It is the only way to provide an exceptional customer experience. And the interview is where you can truly see this in action. 

    While these techniques are targeting the millennial candidate for your retail store, the truth is they apply to any candidate for your store. Remember, hire people who fit your culture. And that may not mean they have the most experience. You can always train product knowledge, but you cannot train someone to be magnanimous or genuine or compassionate. These are qualities you need to hire. And these are qualities you can see in a candidate if you use the right techniques.