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Behavioral Interviewing

You’ve sorted through piles of resumes to compile a pool of qualified candidates for the role you’re hiring. You’ve narrowed down your list of top candidates that meet the minimum requirements, and invited them for a second-round interview. How can you maximize the interview to ensure you select the right fit?

We recommend Behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing techniques provide insight into the way a candidate handled certain situations in the past and how they may act in the future. Continue reading to learn what behavioral interviewing is, why it’s effective, how to conduct a behavioral interview, and examples of behavioral interview questions.

What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a technique that assesses a candidate’s ability to meet the job requirements based on their previous experience. The technique is based on the idea that past performance is the best indicator of future performance. Therefore, the way candidates have used their skills in the past can predict how they will perform if you hire them.

Using behavioral interviewing techniques, you want the candidate to tell a story that highlights their ability to perform essential job functions and be successful in the position.

Why You Should Ask Behavior-Based Interview Questions

Behavioral interviewing is a simple yet highly effective method of determining a candidate’s qualifications. By using behavior-based interview questions, you will:

  • Hear real-world examples of skills and abilities. Instead of using hypothetical questions to assess the candidate, they provide examples from previous job experiences that showcase their ability to meet the demands of the position.
  • Gather more than prepared information. Questions based on past behavior provide a genuine assessment of the candidate and eliminate the possibility of disingenuous, canned responses.
  • Decide whether the candidate moves forward in the process. In learning how the candidate previously used their skills and abilities, you’ll compile enough information to have a strong idea as to whether they are qualified for the position.

Now that you understand the importance of asking behavioral-based interview questions, we’ll explain how to conduct an effective behavioral interview.

How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview

There are a few important steps to conduct an effective behavioral interview. The following items will help you get the most out of the interview and sort out the top candidates from less-qualified applicants.

1. Craft Questions to Assess Essential Skills and Qualities

When preparing questions for a behavioral interview, you want to craft your questions to assess the specific skills and qualities you’ve identified as essential for the role. You should first meet with everyone involved in the interview process to agree on the most important skills and qualities.

Once those are prioritized, work on structuring questions to illustrate the candidate’s ability to reach goals and excel in the position based on their previous experience.

2. Use the STAR Approach

One popular tactic for developing behavioral interview questions is the STAR approach. In the STAR approach, the candidate tells you about a specific situation, the tasks involved, the actions taken, and the results of the action.

Using the STAR approach, you strategically structure questions so the candidate:

  • S: Describes a situation where they demonstrated a specific behavior
  • T: Explains specific tasks involved in addressing the situation
  • A: Explains specific actions taken to complete the required tasks
  • R: Describes the results of the actions taken

3. Create a Rating Scale

Information gathered through strategic behavioral interview questions is useless without a system to measure how the candidate’s responses relate to the job requirements. Create a standardized rating scale so each candidate can be evaluated equally, using the same criteria.

The rating scale should be clearly outlined so all interviewers understand how to rate each candidate appropriately. You can assign a point value for each response to quantify your ratings. A sample rating scale might look like:

  • Far Exceeds Requirements: A perfect answer that demonstrates competency accurately, consistently, and independently.
  • Exceeds Requirements: Demonstrates competency accurately and consistently in most situations with minimal guidance.
  • Meets Requirements: Demonstrates competency accurately and consistently on familiar procedures, and needs supervisor guidance for new skills.
  • Below Requirements: Demonstrates competency inconsistently, even with repeated instruction or guidance.
  • Significant Gap: Fails to demonstrate competency regardless of guidance provided.

Behavioral Anchored Rating Scales (BARS) incorporate criteria that tie answers to the scale based on key behaviors that each question targets. Instead of focusing on general characteristics, BARS evaluates specific behaviors that are essential to success in the role. For example:

  • An answer that far exceeds requirements should look like X behavior, an answer that meets requirements should look like Y behavior, and an answer that falls below requirements should look like Z behavior.

4. Ask Follow-Up Questions

Even with strategically crafted behavioral interview questions, you’ll often need to dig deeper to gain enough information to rate the candidate’s abilities. Asking follow-up questions cues the candidate to elaborate on information they’ve already shared.

With each response that fails to provide enough insight, use these types of follow-up questions:

  • How did you do that? 
  • What did you do with the information? 
  • What did you learn from…? 
  • How did you handle…? 
  • How so? 
  • Tell me more about…

Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask

Your behavioral interview questions should focus on specific behaviors that have been deemed key to success in the position. While each position is unique, here are some example interview questions to assess common skills, abilities, and qualities required to meet a job’s requirements.

Ability to Work Under Pressure

  • Give me an example of a situation where you were required to work under pressure. How did you respond?
  • Describe a time when you were given a job or assignment that you had no prior training for. How did you learn to do it?

Attention to Detail

  • What do you do to verify that your work is accurate?
  • Describe a time you made an error. Why did you miss the mistake and how did you handle the situation?
  • Can you describe a time when a co-worker made a mistake and you discovered it? How did you approach the situation?

Communication

  • Talk about a time when you had to communicate verbally to get an important point across. How did you accomplish this?
  • Did you ever have an experience at work where you had to tell other people what you thought or felt? What was the outcome?

Conflict Management

  • How do you typically deal with conflict? Can you give an example?
  • Talk about a time when you had to manage a conflict or dispute among staff.

Creativity

  • Tell me about a time when a manager asked you to come up with a creative way to complete a project. What steps did you take?
  • Talk about a time when you presented a creative idea to your co-workers.

Decision-making

  • Have you ever had to refrain from making a decision because you did not have enough information? What happened and what did you learn?
  • Can you talk about a time you had to make a decision with limited information? How did you approach this?
  • Tell me about a decision you made that impacted your co-workers. How did you approach this?
  • Describe a decision you made within the past year that you’re proud of.

Flexibility

  • Can you describe a time when you experienced rapid change? How did you handle it?
  • What has it been like for you to transition between different roles or positions?
  • Give me an example of a time when something happened that was out of your control. How did you handle it?

Goals

  • How do you approach personal goal-setting?
  • Talk about a career goal you made. Did you accomplish it? What obstacles did you encounter?
  • Describe a time you set a goal that you didn’t achieve. Why didn’t you reach it and how did you feel?

Initiative

  • Talk about a time when you had to go above and beyond to get a job done. How did you handle this?
  • Have you ever worked on a difficult assignment with few or no resources? What did you do and what was the result?
  • Describe a time when you saw a problem at work and created a solution for it.
  • Has there ever been a project that was implemented because of the work you did?

Integrity

  • Talk about a time when it was difficult to be honest. How did you handle it?
  • Was there ever a time where you weren’t honest at work? What happened?
  • Tell me about a time when you found out that a co-worker was doing something wrong. What did you do?

Interpersonal Skills

  • Describe a time when you worked with others who did not work well together. How did you handle this?
  • How did you handle working with a difficult team member?
  • Tell me about the worst customer or coworker you have encountered. How did you deal with them?

Leadership

  • Talk about a time when you were in charge of a project. How did it go and what would you do differently?
  • Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach and were you successful?
  • Describe a time when you had to change your leadership style to achieve the impact you desired.

Management

  • How many people have you supervised? If we talked to them, what three things would they say about your managerial style?
  • Describe a situation where a member of your team was not performing up to expectations. How did you handle it?

Problem-solving

  • Give an example of how you gathered information to solve a problem. How did you analyze the information and reach a decision?
  • Tell me about a time when you solved a problem in a unique way. What happened?

Teamwork

  • How do you turn people who work for you into a team? What has worked and what hasn’t?
  • Describe a time when you worked with someone who did things very differently from you. How did you complete the job?

Time Management

  • When you schedule out your workload, how do you prioritize tasks?
  • Talk about a time when you had multiple projects simultaneously. How did you handle the workload?
  • Was there ever a time where you fell behind on a project? What did you do?

Conclusion

Now that you know the importance of behavioral interviewing and how to conduct one, you don’t have to fret over the interview process. If you get stuck on what questions to ask, return to the behaviors essential for success in the position. When in doubt, use the sample questions provided to start the conversation. Create a rating scale to assess candidates and find the right fit for your organization!

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Behavioral Interviewing

How are behavioral interviews scored?
Behavioral interviews can be scored using a rating system that you determine. Some rating systems consist of a simple “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating, while others are more thorough and rate candidates using multiple grades or measurements.
How effective are behavioral interviews?
Behavioral interviews are extremely effective at identifying candidates with experience and skills that meet the job requirements. These interviews also identify applicants who exaggerate information in their responses or resumes and are unqualified for the role.
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