“Past behavioral interviews” (PBI) to select the best lawyer to hire

“The most common interviewing methodology is the ‘past behavioral interview’ (PBI),” according to an article in the Harvard Bus. Rev., Nov. 2005 at 100, 106. A PBI avoids personal questions but asks about the candidate’s experience performing activities that are relevant for the job. The PBI “can explain about 25% of the variances in performance among employees.” The problem is that PBI’s don’t work well with executives – and I suspect with senior lawyers – for two reasons.

One reason is that a person’s performance on any behavioral interview question is dominated by the same three qualities: experience, job knowledge, and social skills. Whoever has those three will answer most behavior questions skillfully.

Second, behavioral interviews basically establish a candidate’s minimum qualifications; they don’t spot star talent. Such interviews assess knowledge more than intelligence. The way to assess intelligence is to ask questions that require candidates to exercise their intelligence in situations that are novel for the person being interviewed. (See my post of today on executive intelligence.)

Law departments need better interviewing techniques for identifying the strongest candidates

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