Traditional Versus Behavioral Interviews

Traditional Versus Behavioral Interviews

by Justine Carroll, on August 19, 2022
We’ve all heard about or experienced the battle for talent as the Great Resignation trend continues. And like seemingly every other aspect of HR, the interviewing and hiring process is also experiencing a degree of change and elevated importance.

Defining a good candidate goes beyond simply matching skillsets with job descriptions. Though experience levels can vary, for the most part, we know applicants to a particular opening already possess the right technical skills to do the job. Where most recruiters and employers trip up is identifying if the candidate is a match for your team's or organization's personality and culture.

We can often teach someone the skills they need, particularly in entry-level positions. But it's more challenging to teach the soft skills required for compatibility. This is why a properly prepared interview process is so important. We need to get beyond the job description and resume to learn more about who the candidate is and how they will integrate and perform on the job.

There are two general styles of interviews, traditional and behavioral. Each has its advantages and drawbacks, which you can learn more about in the recent Interviewing & Hiring Training webinar. But for now, here is a brief overview of both:

Traditional Interviews

  • Loose framework
  • Discretionary content
  • Conversational flow
  • Candidates may be asked different questions
  • No standardized rating scales
  • Interviewers do not need to agree on acceptable answers
  • Susceptible to legal challenges

Traditional interviews follow more of a go-with-the-flow format. They feel more conversational and less rigid. Traditional interviews can be great, but they may create gaps. You may not get enough information to find the candidate that is best for you. Even though you may have a list of standard questions you intend to ask each candidate, conversations can take different directions, and you may end up with different experiences with each interviewee.

Behavioral Interviews

  • All candidates are asked the same questions in the same order
  • All candidates are evaluated on the same rating scale
  • Interviewers agree on acceptable answers
  • Consistency reduces legal challenges

Behavioral-based interviews are successful in getting a sense of how an individual will interact within your organization based on past performance. Ask them about a specific time, situation, behavior, or what the outcome was. This won't tell you exactly what they're going to do in the future, but it will give you an understanding of how they may manage themselves, how their decision-making process works, and how they work with others.

From a legal standpoint, traditional interviews pose a bit more risk. If a conversation ventures off into territory that is not consistent with the experience every other candidate had, you could find yourself on shaky ground because an interviewee who wasn't ultimately hired could allege the process wasn't equal. But you must also be mindful with behavioral interviews to only ask questions that are allowed by law.

Not to be lost in the interview process is the candidate's experience. This is a challenging recruiting market. We want to be sure that the candidate has an authentic experience that paints an accurate picture of what it will be like working with your organization.

You can take steps to enhance talent acquisition simply through the methods you utilize in the interview process. To learn much more about interviews and the many legal considerations of the process, please check out our on-demand webinar recording.
Justine Carroll

Justine is a Managing Consultant at LandrumHR. She holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources certification and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder. With 23 years of HR experience, Justine has served as an internal HR Director, ran her own consulting business, and worked in PEO for 10 years.

View more blogs by Justine Carroll