Hiring 101

A glossary for simplifying complex hiring concepts

Mastering the Art of Interview Questions for Hiring Success

The interview process is a critical juncture in the path toward making a successful hire. It is the moment where you, as an HR professional, engage in the art of assessing not just a candidate’s qualifications but their character and cultural fit with your organization. It’s about finding the right person for the job, not just professionally but personally. 

Read on to discover an essential part of interviews that reaches beyond the standard queries – behavioral interview questions. We’ll explore what they are, why you need them, and offer a treasure trove of examples to ensure you’re well-equipped to conduct effective and enlightening interviews.

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Demystifying behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions are a fundamental component of modern, effective interviews. Unlike traditional, hypothetical, or ‘what would you do’ questions, behavioral interview questions prompt candidates to reflect on past experiences and describe how they handled real situations in the workplace. 

This narrative approach helps predict future behavior more accurately, leading to a more informed hiring decision. And, as you know, when you make better hiring decisions you increase the likelihood of both employee engagement and retention.

Why behavioral questions are the gold standard

Behavioral interview questions are framed to elicit specific examples and responses that shed light on a candidate’s:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Leadership style
  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills
  • Adaptability
  • Ethical judgment

This method is based on the belief that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance, and it’s widely used for its demonstrable accuracy in sizing up candidates.

The STAR approach to asking behavioral questions

To consistently draw out detailed and relevant examples from candidates, interviewers often use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique. It structures the discussion into a coherent and comprehensive case study that clarifies the candidate’s role in complex job situations.

  • Situation: Describe the context within which the candidate performed a task or faced a challenge at work.
  • Task: What was the candidate’s responsibility in that situation?
  • Action: What action did the candidate take to address the situation or accomplish the task?
  • Result: What was the outcome of the candidate’s actions? What did they achieve and what did they learn?

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The core of the conversation

In an effort to get a comprehensive view of a candidate’s profile, there’s a multitude of questions you can ask. However, there are a few that consistently provide robust answers and insights.

Delving into decision-making

Decision-making skills are crucial for any role. From entry-level to executive positions, the ability to weigh options logically and efficiently can signal a candidate’s suitability for a role.

Example 1: Describe a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed. How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?

Example 2: Can you share a decision-making process you used that worked particularly well in a previous role?

Assessing adaptability and innovation

With the rapidly changing work landscape, adaptability and innovation are key skills. A question that probes this can illuminate how a candidate would handle a flexible environment or is accustomed to finding new solutions.

Example 1: Tell me about a new idea or process you introduced in your previous role.

Example 2: When was the last time you had to change your priorities in response to sudden changes? How did you manage it?

Uncovering leadership qualities

For managerial and supervisory roles, leadership questions are imperative. They help to identify a candidate’s style, approach to their team, and how they handle challenges.

Example 1: Can you talk about a time when you had to take the lead on a project? What were the key challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Example 2: Describe a situation where you had to address a performance issue with a team member. What was your approach, and what was the resolution?

Evaluating team interaction

Team dynamics are at the heart of most organizations. An effective team player is a valuable asset in any role, and questions in this realm can illustrate just that.

Example 1: Give an example of when you had to work with a difficult team member. How did you handle the situation, and what was the outcome?

Example 2: Can you discuss a challenging team project you were part of? What was your role, and how did it benefit the overall team?

Charting character through conflict resolution

How a candidate navigates conflict can provide a lens into their character and integrity. It also speaks to their emotional intelligence and problem-solving abilities. By taking these aspects of candidates into account, you can gauge how they might respond in tense situations and assess their compatibility with your company’s culture, ultimately reducing employee turnover rates by selecting individuals who align well.

Example 1: Talk about a time you had to deal with a conflict between team members. How did you mediate the situation, and what was the result?

Example 2: Share a situation where you faced strong opposition to a proposal. How did you handle the conflict, and what did you learn from the experience?

The power of consistency

While these questions provide a strong foundation for behavioral interviews, it’s important to maintain a consistent approach across all candidates. Not only does this help you in comparing candidates more effectively, but it also ensures a fair process that allows each interviewee’s true abilities to shine through.

Tailoring questions to roles and industries

The beauty of behavioral questions is their adaptability. While there are universal inquiries that can be applied across industries, customizing them to the specific demands of a role can yield even more precise and relevant insights to generally conduct better interviews.

Example 1: For a sales position, you might want to ask about a time a candidate exceeded their sales targets.

Example 2: In the medical field, a question about managing high-pressure healthcare environments could be very instructive.

With these tailored questions, you’re more likely to uncover how a candidate will perform in the unique scenarios they will face in your organization.

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The post-interview assessment

Once you’ve concluded the behavioral interview, the assessment phase begins. It’s vital to document the candidate’s responses, but beyond that, consider the broader themes and patterns that emerge across all your interviewees. Vetting your candidates is an essential part of the hiring process, as it adds another layer of confidence when you do make the decision on who to hire.

Analyzing for skill and culture alignment

By analyzing responses collectively, you can identify not just the skills and qualifications that align with the role but also cultural fit and potential for growth within the team and the organization at large.

Validating through reference checks

Behavioral interview questions often cover situations that can be validated through reference checks. Inquiring further through these channels can provide a 360-degree view of the candidate’s background and performance.

Conducting behavioral interviews is a skill that improves with practice. Engage in mock interviews, gather feedback, and refine your approach. Tailor questions based on the feedback you receive and continually seek new, thought-provoking queries to add to your repertoire.

Investing in well-crafted behavioral interview questions is an investment in the future of your company. By consistently and effectively implementing these questions, you’re not only bringing quality candidates into your organization but also building a team that can drive your business forward.

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