Understanding Job Behaviors

What are job behaviors?  When discussing job requirements, in addition to a list of the technical skills and knowledge that are required, a direct supervisor might say, “I need somebody who’s motivated, ambitious and energetic.”  The incumbent might be more likely to say something like, “in this job you need confidence.”  A peer might say, “I need somebody I can count on to get things done on time so I can get my work done.”  These qualities are not as cut and dried as the skills and abilities needed.  When conducting an interview, it’s a lot easier to determine whether a candidate can draw scale diagrams than whether she has an interest to learn new things, or whether she would be able to withstand the pressures put on her by tight deadlines.  Behavior-based interviewing skills can be learned and can be integrated as part of your employee selection procedures to help translate “qualities” into job-specific behaviors.

Translating Qualities into Job-Specific Behaviors

Motivation, Ambition, Initiative, Confidence, Decisiveness – qualities are not meaningless.  We know instinctively that they refer to realities that actually do count in the workplace.  The problem is that different interviewers mean different things by them, and these tend to be universal qualities that are desirable for any job.  We always want people who are motivated—for all jobs at every level.   If you ask three interviewers, “what does motivation mean?” you’ll get totally different shades of meaning and if these three people interview a candidate for a job, each will come to a different conclusion as to whether a candidate is motivated, or the degree of motivation, even though he presented the same information to each.   It very well might turn out that none of their individual personalized definitions have all that much to do with what was really called for by “motivation” on that particular job anyway.

If you ask “what qualities does this job require?” and a quality like “motivated” comes up, here is the critical question: if you already had somebody on the job who was motivated, how did he or she behave to demonstrate that?  Remember, we’re not talking about how to interview a candidate now, but attempting to visualize an ideal, highly “motivated” employee—so we can understand what that job requires.  Behavior-based interviewing skills can be learned and can show you how to translate ambiguous attributes into concrete and specific job-relevant behaviors.   In our next post we’ll talk more about behavior-based interviewing, and why it this type of interviewing techniques training is essential for selecting employees who are right for the position.

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