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Make profitable hiring decisions with behavioral interviewing


Have you ever had the experience where the person that you interviewed and hired is not the person who showed up for work? We all have!  After all, some folks are expert interviewers right? The answer is yes and no. The odds are your interview questions are flawed and are not designed to measure success on the job of a potential candidate. Building your powersports team takes time and effort and is one of the most important aspects of your job and can be very costly. This month’s blog will focus on traditional and behavioral interviewing techniques that will increase your chances of hiring success and possibly your next dealership rock star.

In traditional interviews with potential job candidates, we often use straight forward questions that almost any candidate can manipulate or “game the interview”. Examples of traditional interview questions are questions like the following

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the details of the last job on your resume?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
  • What is your driving record?
  • What would you do to increase sales in the parts department?

Traditional interview questions are often based on hypothetical situations, are not situationally based, and are highly subjective in nature. I am not saying that traditional interview questions do not have merit. But when traditional interview questions are used alone the results do not provide deep insight into whether the applicant will actually be successful on the job.

Behavioral interviewing techniques are relatively new and have been used with success for about 30 years. In behavioral interviewing, questions are based on past experiences of the candidate and will help you understand whether he or she has the skillset to do the job. In behavioral interviewing the questions are developed to see how the candidate will react in various dealership related scenarios. For example, if you are interviewing for a service advisor position, a behavioral interview question would go something like this: Tell me about a situation from your past where you had interacted with an extremely upset and belligerent customer and how did you handle the situation? From the candidate’s reaction/response you will be in a better position to determine how the candidate handles pressure in often extreme situations. Further questions can then be asked based on the candidate’s response to drill down further to determine the fit of the applicant for the job.

When contrasting traditional interview questions with behavioral interview questions the differences are night and day. Traditional interview questions are based on made up situations. Behavioral interview questions are based on the applicant’s past life experiences. Traditional interview questions are often straight forward and one dimensional whereas behavioral interviewing techniques are skill based and tied to the requirements of the job. Traditional interview questions help you understand the candidate in a vacuum per se. Behavioral interviews help you understand if the candidate has the skills necessary to be successful on the job in the dealership.

Below are other examples of behaviorally anchored interview questions:

  1. In the past have you had to deal with fraud and embezzlement in your position and how did you handle the situation?
  2. In your previous roles when you have missed a deadline or sales goal how did you handle that situation to improve in the future?
  3. In your last job tell me about how you took on additional responsibility that wasn’t directly related to your job description?
  4. Have you ever worked for a difficult boss or coworker and how did you handle that situation?
  5. Tell me about a mistake that you had made on a previous job and how you handled it?

As you can see, behavioral interview questions focus on the applicant’s behavior. I strongly suggest that you develop your own interview questions specifically for each job you are recruiting for. Behavioral question makes a candidate draw upon their own experiences and it gives the interviewer a deeper or more robust understanding of the overall candidate.

Can you use a combination of traditional and behaviorally anchored interview questions? Of course! Traditional questions help you understand the person behind the resume, and again, behaviorally anchored questions help you better determine if the applicant has the skillset necessary to do well on the job. Also combining other questions on such topics as career goals, personal aspirations, and personal interests help you get to know the applicant more fully and helps you determine dealership fit.

The hiring decisions in all dealerships is the most expensive decision you will ever make. Take it seriously and put thought into the questions you want to ask during the interview. I see so many dealers just “wing it” and not address the knowledge, skills, and abilities that the candidate brings to the table versus what they are going to be required to do satisfactorily on the job.

Invest in your interviewing process. Employee recruitment, selection, and training should be at the top of your mind right now since the season is upon us. Make the process worthwhile and not a dreaded affair. A dealership’s human capital is by far the most valuable asset that you have and your team can be your competitive advantage over other dealers in your market.

Remember that previous behaviors are the best indicator of future performance!

And after all, it’s just good business.


Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.


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  1. Good article. Recruiting and hiring processes are certainly not strengths for most dealers. Few dealers practice ongoing recruiting to accumulate a stack of resumes’ of possible candidates to interview when the time comes. Once we do get prospects in for the interview, we seldom ask the right questions to uncover their attitude and aptitude for the job.

  2. Steve,

    You are absolutely right. However—the industry needs to change or we will continue hiring the right person for the wrong job. Our processes determine our success in almost every decision we make in a dealership or any business for that matter. Thank you for your input.

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