Top 3 Reasons Behavioral Interviews Reduce EPL Risk

Everyone loves a checklist—especially that feeling you get when you check an item off your list! Perhaps you use a checklist for short-term goals such as daily tasks or long-term goals such as creating a new product or service.


In the world of HR, a checklist and training on how to conduct behavioral interviews reduces your risk of employment practice liability (EPL) by vetting individuals who apply for job openings.


Your hiring managers should not conduct another interview until they understand the importance of behavioral interviews, the questions to ask during an interview to evaluate candidates, and the power of a checklist.


Why Are Behavioral Interviews Important to Reduce EPL Risk?


At its core, a behavioral interview focuses on measurable information. Prospective candidates take an assessment that objectively measures their clarity of thinking and biases. You gather the assessment results, create behavioral interview questions to confirm the hard evidence found in the results, and conduct the interview.


A behavioral interview is structured to identify real events in a candidate’s work history that tie to specific behaviors that you can measure. This is not your typical, subjective job interview where the candidate is given latitude to create a hypothetical world to impress your hiring managers.


Why is this important? A mixture of unverifiable information collected during an informal interview exposes companies to employment practice liability in two main ways:

  • Your company brings in a new employee who could be an EPL risk.

  • Your company is exposed to liability by not following a documentable hiring process.

Think of the behavioral interview process as a security guard preventing high-risk individuals from entering your company. That means training the gatekeepers -- your hiring managers -- on why following a process is imperative to prevent EPL.


Install a Culture of Discipline in Your Hiring Process


In his influential management book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don’t,” author Jim Collins writes about five discoveries that separate good from great companies. One of those findings is a Culture of Discipline.


In your HR department, you are charged with creating a culture of discipline for your hiring managers. First, you must start with yourself. You need to buy into behavioral interviews, train yourself on behavioral interview techniques to be able to speak the language, and hold yourself accountable before you hold anyone else accountable.


By becoming an educated leader in your company, you will be able to spearhead the utilization of behavioral interviews for all hiring. You will also know how to define, communicate, and hold individuals accountable to the process.


To ensure that your team is ready for battle conducting proper interviews, make sure they have the following tools in their arsenal.

Tool #1: Understand How to Ask Behavioral Interview Questions


Your hiring managers need training on legally-verified behavioral interview questions. Consider these two important questions to ask during a behavioral interview:

  • What felt unfair in previous jobs or roles?

  • What were you most excited about in your previous job?

Remember, your team is looking to confirm the measurable information from an assessment. This is not the time to “go off script” and ask the candidate a subjective question such as whether they believe they are a good fit for your company. Asking this type of question will expose you to EPL in a heartbeat.


Instead, hiring managers need to be trained on techniques such as the S.T.A.R. method of identifying actual situations, tasks, actions, and results from a candidate’s previous work history. They also need to be trained on secondary probing techniques to scratch below the surface and squeeze candidates to gain more understanding of their behavior.


Too many interviewers dance in the middle asking safe questions that do not get below the surface. Make sure your interviewers walk into every interview with their checklist of primary and secondary probing questions.


Tool #2: Understand What Questions You Cannot Ask


As part of the culture of discipline built into your hiring process, hiring managers need to understand what questions they cannot ask during an interview.


If hiring managers follow their training by asking proper behavioral interview questions, they will not have to worry about exposing your company to EPL risk. However, there is still the temptation to ask questions that are either personal or are perceived by the candidate as personal, which could be considered discriminatory.


To avoid legal issues, your hiring manager’s checklist should include “out of bounds” topics that you cannot ask about during an interview:


❏ Criminal background

❏ Financial status

❏ Disability or health

❏ Marital status or family status, such as pregnancy

❏ Instances of filing a lawsuit against a previous employer

❏ Age, Gender, Race, Religion, or Country of Origin


Tool #3: Understand How to Prevent Bias in the Interview Process


One of the reasons why hiring managers mistakenly ask inappropriate personal questions is because of our human conscious or inherent biases.


Sometimes our inherent biases take over without even realizing it. In the book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” author Malcolm Gladwell writes about people making instant judgments about other people without even realizing it, then acting upon those biases.


The same principle of making an instant judgment applies to the job interview. Your hiring managers need to be trained on how to prevent inherent biases from influencing the interview and hiring process. Otherwise, your company could be exposed to EPL for discrimination.


The risk of EPL highlights why hiring managers and anyone else involved in the interview process need to be trained on behavioral interviews. That way, they can walk into each interview focused on their mission to confirm measurable information and record the answers on the interview checklist.


Otherwise, your team will make mistakes by allowing conscious or subconscious biases to influence a hiring decision:

  • Mistake #1: Your team will hire an individual who is “great at interviews,” but is actually a poor fit for the role.

  • Mistake #2: Your team will overlook an individual who does not fit a perception or image, but is actually a great fit for the role.

Either mistake will expose you to EPL risk by allowing biases to supersede the objective, measurable information available to your team to determine the best fit for each role.


Next Step: Quickly Get Your Hiring Managers Trained


There are many courses and workshops that can quickly train your hiring managers on behavioral interviewing. Look for a behavioral interviewing course that focuses on interview techniques, probing questions, and how to develop the critical checklist for actual interviews.


Once your hiring managers receive training, and you achieve universal buy-in, your team will be prepared to conduct proper behavioral interviews with the next round of job candidates. Following this process will decrease your exposure to employment practice liability and improve your overall hiring process to hire the best fit for your company.