Behavioral interviewing is a popular method where questions focus on specific past events rather than general hypotheticals. Asking the candidate how they acted in certain situations provides insight into how they think and solve problems. Hiring managers can use a candidate’s experiences to get an idea of how they’ll perform if hired.

 

A behavioral interview question usually begins with a phrase like “Tell me about a time when…” This type of question prompts the candidate to detail a specific event. Other typical question openers used in behavioral interviewing include:

 

  • “Give me an example of…”
  • “How did you handle…”
  • “Describe how you…”

Benefits of Behavioral Interviewing

Traditional interview questions usually have candidates describe themselves. Hiring managers can also use situational questions, which ask candidates how they would act in a hypothetical scenario. While these can be useful, behavioral interviewing has several advantages.

Reality-based Responses

Common traditional interview questions include where the candidate sees themselves in five years and what their strengths and weaknesses are. While these are good things to know, most candidates will prepare a response to this type of question in advance. Any candidate can answer these questions in a way that sounds impressive but may not be completely truthful.

 

Asking the candidate to describe how they acted in a specific situation makes it harder to invent a false account or regurgitate a prepared response. Rather than asking how a candidate would handle a difficult customer, you might have them describe a time they did handle a difficult customer, and how their actions resolved the issue. A question based in reality will give you more useful information about the candidate than a hypothetical one.

 

Open-Ended Questions

Unlike a simple yes/no question, behavioral interview questions encourage a candidate to tell a story. This method of interviewing often leads to a dialogue that reveals more about the candidate than other methods.

 

For example, let’s say you’re interviewing a candidate for an accounting position. You could ask, “Are you detail-oriented?” However, the candidate may just say yes regardless of whether they genuinely believe they are. It’s natural for a candidate to try to say what they think the hiring manager wants to hear, especially if they’ve researched the position and the company.

 

Instead, you could ask, “Describe a time when you caught a mistake a coworker made. How did you handle that?” From their response, you can gauge the candidate’s attention to detail without directly asking about it.

Customizable Questions

Another advantage of behavioral questions over traditional questions is that you can customize them to fit your company. This can reveal if a candidate’s values align with those of your organization. Additionally, it helps determine if they have the skills and experience specific to the position.

 

For a business that has important production quotas, the right candidate will be comfortable working to deadlines. To gauge their relevant experience, you might ask them to talk about a time they had to work under pressure. Their response will tell you about their work ethic and efficiency.

Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Asking a candidate the right questions is crucial to making a good hire. You know what you’re looking for in an employee, so ask questions that reveal if the candidate has those traits. To help you get started, here are some examples of behavioral questions specific to desirable skills.

Communication

  • Describe a time you had to explain a complex issue to a coworker.
  • Tell me about a miscommunication you had at work. How did you handle it?

Critical Thinking

  • When have you come up with a unique solution to a problem? What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision at work.
  • Describe a time you had to gather information to make a decision. How did you do it?

Leadership

  • Describe a time you led a team by setting an example.
  • How have you handled a team member that wasn’t performing well?
  • Talk about a time you motivated your team. What strategy did you use?

Teamwork

  • Describe a time you were paired with a difficult coworker. How did you handle it?
  • Talk about a time you received constructive criticism. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time you worked well as part of a team?

Work Ethic

  • Discuss a time you went above and beyond at work.
  • Describe a time you completed all your work tasks early. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a difficult task you were faced with. How did you rise to the challenge?

How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview

Asking the right questions is only one part of properly conducting a behavioral interview. You also need to know how to interpret candidates’ responses and assess them. 

 

Studies show that behavioral interviewing is a better predictor of someone’s effectiveness than traditional interviewing. Following this guide will help you make good use of your interview time and hire the right person.

Decide What Traits Are Most Important

Before you even start scheduling interviews, you should have an idea of what your ideal hire will bring to the table. Do they need strong management skills? Should they work better alone or as a team player?

 

Your assessment criteria should include experience and qualifications, but it’s also important to consider personality. Even a qualified candidate can be a poor fit if they don’t have the right values and character for your company culture.

 

Once you’ve nailed down what your ideal hire is like, choose interview questions that will help assess candidates for those traits.

Use the STAR Method

When asking behavioral questions, use the STAR method—a helpful tool for assessing responses. 

 

STAR stands for:

 

Situation: What was the scenario the candidate was involved in?

Task: What needed to be done?

Action: What did the candidate do?

Result: What happened because of the candidate’s actions?

 

If a candidate’s response doesn’t cover all these points, use leading questions to get the information you need, such as:

 

  • What specific challenge was your team tasked with?
  • And what was the result of your actions?

Be Objective

While gut instinct can often lead you in the right direction, be sure you’re making objective assessments about your candidates. There are a few ways you can do this:

 

  • Ask all your candidates the same questions.
  • Create a rating system to assign scores to each candidate.
  • Keep biases out of your decision (for example, age, gender, etc.).
  • Take notes so you don’t recall details incorrectly.

The Bottom Line on Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing has become a popular method in recent years since it provides deeper insight into a candidate’s skills, experience, and personality type than other kinds of questions.

 

Any question that has a candidate relate a specific experience is considered behavioral. Most commonly, this type of question begins with a phrase like, “Tell me about a time when…”

 

When conducting a behavioral interview, it’s important to ask questions specific to the kind of person you’re looking for. Use the STAR method to help you assess responses, and keep an objective approach to assessment to make the best hire.