The Best Predictor of Future Behavior is Past Behavior

"Before I do anything, I ask myself, would an idiot do that? And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing.” - Dwight Schrute

There are competing schools of thought about how best to approach job interviews. At Credit Karma, our broadest hiring goal is to hire great people. To do this, we need to be assessing how well people would fit at Credit Karma, and helping people decide whether they want to work here.

We feel that the practice of behavioral interviewing contributes heavily on both counts.

Actions are worth a thousand words

The idea of behavioral interviewing is based around the idea that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Essentially, it is the practice of focusing on behaviors over philosophy when assessing candidates. A lot of people can lecture on their philosophy on mentorship or people management, but it’s much harder for them to talk about how they put those into action.

A great behavioral interview gets down into the details that force someone to not just talk about what they’ve done in the past, but how they actually went about achieving it. This gets them to lay out specific behaviors they’ve exhibited in the past. Following the behavioral interviewing philosophy, these behaviors are more likely to be repeated, because it’s how this person has approached things in the past. We can get to the root of making an educated guess to how they’ll do at Credit Karma, based on how they’ve managed similar situations to what they’ll see here.

Behavior reveals the whole person

The biggest plus of behavioral interviewing is that when we’re hiring at Credit Karma we’re trying to evaluate so many more competencies than just programming and design skills. Like how people use their influence to improve how teams around them are executing, or how engineers focus in on product and process to bring values to users and not just make technology for technology’s sake. Behavioral interviewing draws someone out into describing actions, rather than just listing accomplishments. We get a more three-dimensional view of how they work.

So what is behavioral interviewing?

In practice, behavioral interviewing is the act of asking people to describe their past behaviors in order to determine how they would act in certain situations. Good questions almost always begin with:

  • Tell me about a time when...
  • Describe a situation where you had to…
  • Give me an example of…

These types of questions drive the interviewee to begin a story by reflecting on how they’ve acted in the past to solve a problem similar to what they may face in the future at Credit Karma.

A note of caution

Broadly, as you approach behavioral interviewing as an idea, there are drawbacks to it. From an organizational standpoint, if the person doing an interview isn’t familiar with asking behavioral questions, the candidate has a better chance of slipping by on charm and nonsense. Interviewers need to be careful with open questions that hint at the answer, i.e. tell me about a time you... The candidate needs to be the one talking about the how and the interviewer needs to be the one pressing on the who, what, when, and where in their questions.

There’s an art to answering behavioral questions. If candidates know too much about the sort of answer an interviewer is looking for, they’ll quickly cater their responses to that.

Put it in practice

As we continue to explore behavioral interviewing in coming blogs, you’ll see that there are a couple of quick tools to help people eliminate these errors. Following the blogs will teach you all the knowledge you need to execute the behavioral interview but it won’t teach you the skills or experience. You’ll need to hone those through practice. Be ready to put an hour or two into reading and practicing before your first interview; and then years of practice perfecting your skills in actual interviews. If you're interested in joining our team then definitely look at our open roles. We hope understanding more about how we interview helps you be your best self when we meet!

About the Author

Matt is an experienced engineer and technology leader who loves his job. "The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before." - Neil Gaiman