Updated: Mar 17
For Hiring Teams:
Interviewing for Core Values: Behavioral Interviewing
Sabrina Deltoro, Founder & Recruiting Director
Delson Talent Consulting
March 16, 2023
Interviewing for core values, also known as values-based interviewing, is a way for companies to assess whether a candidate's personal values align with the company's values and culture. No matter the size of the company you work for, there’s likely guiding principles that inform how employees make difficult decisions and work together. One of the ways companies evaluate candidates to see if they align with those values is via a “behavioral interview.” This shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a chance to see if the interviewers would enjoy having a beer with the candidate (for so many reasons, that measuring stick isn’t the best!), rather, it’s an opportunity for the company to share more about the way decisions are made, and a chance for the candidate to share more about their personal ethos. When aligned with the company's values, candidates are more likely to be engaged and motivated, which can lead to better performance and retention.
Behavioral interviewing is a common approach to values-based interviewing, which involves asking candidates questions to learn about their past behavior and experiences in order to predict their future behavior. This approach is based on the idea that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior. To conduct a values-based behavioral interview, it is important to first identify the specific core values that are important to your organization. If they aren’t already on your company website, it’s important to consider featuring them publicly so candidates can self-select in or out depending on how they feel they align with the core values. In the hiring process, it’s a good idea to have at least one session where an interviewer asks questions that probe the candidate's past experiences and behaviors as they relate to these values.
For example, if honesty is a value that is important to your organization, the interviewer might ask the candidate to describe a time when they had to be honest in a difficult situation. This not only shows you how the candidate has reacted in the past, but the type of example they choose may also give more information about their level of experience. I also recommend asking hypothetical questions to assess how the candidate thinks in real time - without a rehearsed, well prepared answer at the ready. Using the honesty example, an interviewer could propose a scenario and ask what the candidate would do in that scenario. If the role is for an Accountant, you could ask, “let’s pretend you manage a team and find out that one of your employees has been sending private company financial documents to their personal email. Walk me through what you might do in that scenario and why you’d take those actions.” This allows the candidate to demonstrate their views on honesty and how they prioritize this value in their actions.
Conducting values-based behavioral interviews without bias can be challenging. Unconscious biases are called that for a reason - they are often hard to identify. To reduce bias, use structured interviews to evaluate candidates based on specific and predetermined criteria. This can help to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly and consistently. There is evidence to suggest that values-based behavioral interviews can be effective in predicting job performance. Studies have shown that candidates who score high on values-based behavioral interviews were more likely to be successful in their roles and stay with the company longer, compared to candidates who scored lower*. If you have an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) such as Greenhouse or Lever, your recruiting team can include structured interview questions in the system in order to ask all candidates the same types of questions, and avoid repeat questions.
Here are a few examples of values-based behavioral interview questions for the core value of honesty:
Have you ever been put in a situation where doing the right thing would make you look bad? Tell me about how you handled it.
What would you do if you were asked to do something that went against your values?
Tell me about a situation when you felt honesty was inappropriate. Why? What did you do?
Can you describe a time when you had to work with someone who had different values than you? How did you handle the situation?
In conclusion, values-based behavioral interviews can be an effective way for companies to assess whether a candidate's personal values align with the company's values and culture. To conduct these interviews effectively and without bias, it is important to use structured interviews, diverse interview panels, and provide training on unconscious bias to interviewers. There is evidence to suggest that candidates who score high on values-based behavioral interviews are more likely to be successful in their roles and stay with an organization longer.
If you find yourself stuck and unsure what your company core values should be, or if you need help creating behavioral interview questions that align to your company core values, we can help! Reach out to us today so we can discuss how we can best partner to assist you with structuring your interview process.
*“Using Theory to Evaluate Personality and Job-Performance Relations” Research Gate
"Structured Interviews." Society for Human Resource Management