How ‘behaviour event’ interviews could change the way IT staff are hired

A management consultant’s new book suggests businesses need to rethink the way they recruit talent for technology projects

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Recently I was catching up with a friend who’s looking for a new job, and we had a good laugh over the ridiculous questions we’ve been asked in job interviews — and the ridiculous answers we provided.

One hiring manager asked whom she’d invite to dinner (living or dead), and she blurted out: “Gandi.” Why? She had no idea. She had never considered dinner with Gandi before. But it sounded like the type of answer she should be providing. The reality is she’d rather have dinner with Michael Fassbender, but she wasn’t about to admit that to the interviewer.

If the last book you read happened to be a young adult sci-fi fantasy, would you admit that in an interview? No — you’d probably say something like “Next Generation Leader” or “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” And if asked what breed of dog would best describe you, you’d likely opt for a golden retriever over a toy poodle.

We’re going to say what we think interviewers want to hear — because we want them to like us, regardless of how qualified we are for the job.

But why does it matter if my personality is like a whippet or a French bulldog? The reason we’re asked these types of questions is to reveal our soft skills, according to Jill Dyché, a blogger, speaker and software executive who has consulted with business and IT execs throughout her career.

But, “to hire well in the new IT, leaders need to get comfortable with the irony that getting and keeping top talent has relatively little to do with the candidate’s goals and likeability,” says Dyché. “Hiring success comes from matching what the company needs with work that will challenge and fulfill the candidate.”

She says Q&A sessions are insufficient to truly evaluate a candidate. And that’s why we’re seeing the rise of the behaviour event interview (BEI), where the candidate is asked to explain in detail how he or she would tackle a particular work challenge.

“By working through real-life scenarios, often in front of a team of evaluators or under a time constraint, the candidate is forced to think on her feet and display a level of mastery and poise that might not come across in a more traditional setting,” says Dyché.

This approach is particularly relevant for network administrators where, in addition to technical skills and expertise, many job roles require the ability to quickly respond to the needs of the business — whether that’s thwarting a security breach, dealing with the politics of shadow IT or convincing management to roll out a new technology.

The advantage of BEI is that you’re able to demonstrate how you would react in a real-world scenario. On the other hand, even a simple task can seem much more intimidating when someone is watching over your shoulder.

Remember, though, it’s not just about demonstrating your technical know-how. A prospective employer is looking to see how well you respond under pressure.

A Spiceworks member who has set up practical tests for interviews says on a community forum: “If I do throw in something complicated then it’s more about me wanting to see how you approach the problem than it is about whether you solve the issue. If I see that someone is panicking and randomly clicking around and they manage to fix the problem by pure chance, I’ll not consider that a win for them.”

You still might want to consider whom you’d like to have for dinner, considering you’ll still encounter traditional Q&A-style job interviews. But as BEI becomes more entrenched, be prepared to show off your problem-solving prowess and leadership skills — regardless of whether you’re a whippet or a French bulldog.

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1 Comment

  1. Great post! I will be considering it if I ever have to interview for another job… or interview someone else again!

    Shayne / 7 years ago