Interviewing candidates provides both opportunity and a challenge for employers. Conducting job interviews gives the interviewer the opportunity to determine who will be the best fit for each open position as well as for the organization. The challenge for the interviewer is to ask the right questions that will uncover the real value each candidate is likely to bring to the job.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) (A Guide to Conducting Behavioral Interviews with Early Career Job Candidates), behavioral interviewing is considered by many to be the most effective interviewing technique to uncover what a job candidate can really offer your organization. Behavioral interview questions focus on candidates’ past experiences by asking them to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities in previous jobs. Behavioral interview questions tend to be pointed, probing and specific, eliciting answers that provide examples of how a candidate has dealt with real-world issues in the past. This information often reveals a candidate’s actual level of experience and his or her potential to handle similar situations in your organization.
As recruiters for HR management services firm Insperity point out (8 Must-Ask Behavioral Interview Questions), it’s easier for candidates to recite their job history and learned skills in an interview. But how did they react to various situations in previous jobs? What specifics can they offer regarding their achievements? How did they tailor their work styles to manage change? Questions such as these can reveal candidates’ past behavior and can be very effective in helping you determine their real value proposition.
LinkedIn Talent Solutions has produced a behavioral interviewing guide (30 behavioral interview questions to identify high-potential candidates) based on a survey of nearly 1300 hiring managers, which highlights the top six soft skills they find to be most consistent in high-potential candidates and successful hires: adaptability, culture add, collaboration, leadership, growth potential, and prioritization. The following examples highlight a question related to each soft skill and what to listen for in the answer:
Adaptability: Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
What to listen for → Excitement about tackling new challenges and willingness to leave their comfort zone, knowing they’ll learn something valuable from the experience.
Culture add (someone who not only fits your culture but could help it evolve and grow): What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
What to listen for → Signs that a candidate brings something new and unexpected to your culture, even if it’s unrelated to their specific role.
Collaboration: Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?
What to listen for → A willingness to try to see things from the other person’s perspective by identifying the cause of the tension and finding ways to improve the relationship.
Leadership: Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
What to listen for → Thoughtful reflection and a strong sense of ownership. True leaders don’t try to shift the blame to others but consider what they could have done differently.
Growth potential: When was the last time you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?
What to listen for → That they regularly request feedback. An indication that the candidate sought constant self-improvement in their current/previous role.
Prioritization: Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?
What to listen for → A clear and proactive process for organizing their time, like blocking off their calendar, creating a to-do list, and confirming deadlines.
You can tailor your interview questions by determining the specific skills and traits candidates need to be successful at your organization. The LinkedIn survey managers recommend having a go-to list of questions on hand to save time, make your interviews more consistent and reduce the potential for bias in your hiring process.
Using behavioral interview questions to uncover how candidates have behaved in past job experiences will give you a sense of how they might do in the future at your company. The best candidates will share engaging stories that feel relevant to your needs and company culture. As Glassdoor blogger Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter points out (11 Must-Ask Behavioral Interview Questions), the answers you get from candidates will help you better understand their motivators and values and will help you determine who is the best fit for your job opening and your company.