Debora Bloom Associates Debora Bloom Associates

Reducing Bias Through Behavioral Interviewing

Debora S. Bloom, Debora Bloom Associates


Your organization may be missing out on some highly talented potential employees. Without intending it, our preconceived ideas of who is a suitable candidate can creep into our hiring decisions. Behavioral interviewing is one way to remedy the negative impact of interviewer bias.


Behavioral interviewing is a structured process that helps interviewers identify targeted technical and interpersonal competencies in the candidates they interview. It draws out relevant facts from actual past experience of job applicants that can serve as predictors of their future performance. Because it focuses on demonstrated capabilities rather than documentation or descriptions of hypothetical situations it is considered an objective method. As a result, it is valuable for reducing bias in hiring decisions. Behavioral interviewing allows interviewers to effectively delve into resume items while providing a comfortable situation for the candidate to speak about himself or herself.


The behavioral interviewing method allows you to:

  1. Get as clear a picture as possible of an applicant's capabilities and fit for a job opening.

  2. Verify that the applicant has the competencies needed for the job.

  3. Identify discrepancies in the person's story before doing a reference check.

  4. Reduce interviewer bias.

  5. Help your company stay in compliance with the federal government's Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection.


The first step in this form of interviewing is the careful planning, formatting and sequencing of the interview questions. To ensure consistency of interviewing practices in your company, it is important to provide training for managers and other interviewers that includes skill building in the application of behavioral interview techniques. Once staff members have been trained, they can use the four steps below to prepare to conduct each interview.

Interviewer Preparation

  1. Review the job description to identify the key skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the job. The job description should be the result of a job analysis for that position.

  2. Ask people who know the job well to identify the unique skills and knowledge that contribute to successful execution of the job by people who perform the job well.

  3. Develop questions that will produce behavioral answers about technical, interpersonal and thinking skills of the candidates.

  4. Develop open-ended interview questions to give candidates the opportunity to describe actual experience they have with particular kinds of situations.

Conducting The Interview
After a brief warm-up period, ask candidates to describe, in detail, incidents of specific successful or difficult work situations they have faced. Your task is to listen for the behaviors they used at the time that are relevant to key competencies needed in the job under consideration. To meet the government's fairness standard, you need to ask the same questions of all applicants you interview for a position.

Examples of behavioral interview questions.

  1. Tell me about a difficult customer service situation and how you handled it.

  2. Describe your most successful experience as a team leader. What thoughts and actions did you have at the time that contributed to your success?

  3. Describe a time you had to produce accurate results. What exactly did you do and what was the outcome?

  4. Give me a specific example of how you influenced people in the organization to change the way they did things.

  5. Tell me about a time someone made disparaging remarks about a group to which you belong and what you did to deal with that incident.

As candidates describe actual situations from their prior experience, ask probing questions to get them to speak in greater depth about those specific experiences. Probes draw out thought processes as well as actions. Probes are essential for gathering the kind of information you need to make well-informed decisions about an individual's capabilities for a specific job opening in your company.

Some examples of "probes" include:

  • What did you do then?

  • How did you do that?

  • Why did you do that?

  • Say more about that.

  • How did you involve other people in getting the project done?

  • Why was that important to you?


Asking questions that can elicit critical, unbiased information is challenging. Central to successful prevention of interviewer bias are behavioral questions that can draw out actual capabilities the hiring company is seeking.

Making behavioral interviewing a corporate practice will provide your interviewers with a valuable tool to make better hiring decisions. By providing your staff with training in behavioral interviewing techniques you can increase your company's likelihood of truly identifying the talent it needs to thrive in today's business world.


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