Just as typewriters gave way to computers, outmoded employee selection systems need to be reinvented to take advantage of our new understanding of how to select employees in the 21st century.

Although behavioral interviewing was initially developed by industrial psychologists back in the 1970s, it is still in widespread use today. Predictably, during these past 40 years, every job applicant with a basic understanding of the interview process now knows that the most critical interview questions will concern past behaviors.

Prospective employees know to deliver the answers interviewers want to hear. Ask, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer,” and all but the dullest applicants immediately understand that customer service is paramount and will respond to the question accordingly.

The reason so many unsatisfactory new hiring decisions are made is due to the fatal flaw in this system — specific past behaviors during specific past events are all but impossible to document or verify.

The continued reliance on the validity of behavioral questions has led to too many hiring decisions based more on the applicant’s presentation skills, rather than on the person’s ability to perform the job.

Start hiring great employees, instead of great applicants, by shifting the focus from past behaviors to verifiable experiences and achievements. Begin by using an interview built upon the following five essential questions:

1. “Tell me what you learned from your first paying job.” This is the first question interviewers should ask because our earliest learning experiences set the patterns and expectations for later experiences. Follow this up by asking candidates to talk briefly about each successive job and what was learned at each.

2. “Which work achievements or accomplishments to date are you most proud of?” The achievements we value most reveal both our strongest character traits and our strongest desires. Identifying these speaks volumes about the kind of employee the applicant can become.

3. “On a scale from zero to 10, how would you rate yourself as a (job title) and why?” Because we seldom see ourselves as others do, the specific number is not as important as the fact that you will be able to verify if the applicant’s number is higher, lower, or the same as perceived by his or her former managers when you check references.

4.“When we contact your former manager to verify your employment, what will he or she tell me about your last performance review?” The answer will tell you a great deal about the applicant’s actual on-the-job performance, ability to take direction and efforts to improve.

5. “What would you like to ask me about the job or our company?” The answers to this one reveal the applicant’s concerns and motivators, or simply point out basic job information that has not yet been communicated.

Between questions three and four, ask all the other questions you’ve developed that help determine if the candidate is a good fit for the job, the department and company.

After the interview, verify what you learned through references and background checks.

Mel Kleiman is a certified speaking professional, writer, pragmatic business owner and consultant on frontline employee recruiting, selection and retention best practices. He serves as president of Humetrics and is a member of a number human resource-related boards and organizations. He is also a longstanding member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Speakers Association.

Mel is the author of five books, including the bestselling “Hire Tough, Manage Easy — How to Find and Hire the Best Hourly Employees,” as well as hundreds of articles for numerous magazines and trade journals worldwide.