Keys to Successful Interviews: Behavioral Questions Matter

By | April 6, 2017

Asking “behavioral” questions during an interview can make you a better hiring manager. And if you’re on the receiving end, having good answers ready will help you ace the interview and land that coveted position. But what are behavioral questions, anyway?

Screening candidates for soft skills is often the toughest part of an interviewing for hiring managers. They have less than an hour to figure out if the person has the qualities desired. The good news is that behavioral interview questions – which ask candidates to relate specific details about their past performance – are a proven way to reveal a person’s ability to collaborate, adapt and more. By looking at their past behavior, a manager can more easily determine what someone will be like to work with.

To find out the best behavioral interview questions, nearly 1,300 hiring managers were surveyed.  According to LinkedIn, there are six essential soft skills to screen for. These are listed below with some typical questions to ask – or answer – during an interview.

Adaptability  69 percent of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important soft skill they screen for. And it makes sense – to stay competitive today, companies need to be able to adapt to a changing economy and business needs. And that means employees must adapt as well.

  • 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?
  • Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
  • Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?

Culture Fit  89 percent of hiring failures are due to poor culture fit, so screening for this quality is key.  Research shows that employees who are a good culture fit had greater job satisfaction, superior job performance, and were more likely to stay with the company.

  • What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
  • Tell me about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energized, and productive at work. What were you doing?
  • What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?

Collaboration  97 percent of employees and executives believe that a lack of team alignment directly impacts the outcome of a task or project.  Clearly, hiring people who are able to work well with others is essential to having a productive, happy team.

  • 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?
  • Tell me about a time when you were communicating with someone and they did not understand you. What did you do?
  • Tell me about one of your favorite experiences working with a team and your contribution.

Leadership  Research shows that organizations with high quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition. So, finding people who will be able to inspire, motivate, and influence others will be essential to a company’s success.

  • Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
  • Give me an example of a time when you felt you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?

Growth Potential  If an employee leaves, it costs a company 1.5 times that employee’s salary to replace him/her.  That means that hiring people who have the potential to grow with a company not only saves the pain of replacing them, but also saves money.

  • Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?
  • Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so.
  • What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?

Prioritization  When juggling multiple tasks, we have to be able to decide which ones need to be tackled immediately, and which ones can wait. Hiring someone who can’t get this right means that key due dates and project timelines can fall through the cracks, ultimately hurting the business.

  • 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?
  • Tell me about a project that you planned. How did you organize and schedule the tasks?
  • Describe a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?

Asking these key behavioral questions during interviews can make you a better hiring manager. And if you’re on the receiving end of these questions, having good answers prepared in advance will help you ace the interview and land that coveted position.

Ric Feldt is an Executive/Technical Recruiter with Jeff Smith & Associates, Inc.