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The job interview: behavioral questions

The job interview: behavioral questions

You’ve managed to whittle down that imposing pile (or email inbox) of resumes, beginning with the elimination of those who lack the requisite skills and experience for the job. The cream of the crop looks good on paper, which is why they made the cut; but what do those resumes tell you about their attitude, work ethic, and collaborative skills? Not much.

In fact, a whopping 89 percent of 20,000 new hires tracked over a three-year period failed within the first 18 months for attitude (not aptitude) issues, according to a survey by Leadership IQ. These issues included coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament.

Skills and experience are just the tips of the iceberg. In a job interview, behavioral questions help you actually determine whether your screened candidate has what it takes to actually mesh with your organization. We’ll explain what these are and how to ask them.

The importance of EQ and the right attitude

Emotional intelligence (or “EQ”) is much more important than traditional intelligence (or “IQ”), according to behavioral science journalist and researcher Daniel Goleman. Someone with a high EQ will exhibit the following traits and likely will thrive in your workplace:

  1. Self-awareness – Understands their own strengths and weaknesses; able to take constructive criticism and make adjustments.
  2. Motivation – Driven to succeed and constantly improve, not simply for a paycheck.
  3. Self-regulation – Able to use restraint and temper their emotions when necessary.
  4. People skills – Good at building trust and rapport with co-workers; quick to lend a hand and never one to engage in sabotage.
  5. Empathy – Can connect with others through compassion; able to “read the room” and respond to others’ concerns.

As you can see, you can’t assess these crucial traits simply by asking about an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. This is where behavioral questions come in.

The interview: behavioral questions explained

If you ask the same old tired questions during the interview (i.e., “Tell me about yourself”), you’re all but guaranteed to get canned answers that don’t reveal much. If you want to find out how candidates work and whether they’re the right fit for your workplace, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper with behavioral questions.

You want to ask questions that prompt self-reflection and humility, and which (to a certain extent) catch them off guard. In general, these types of questions involve unique challenges and particularly difficult obstacles. You want to catch a glimpse of the candidate at their most vulnerable and find out how they handled it, while also paying close attention to body language.

The key is to avoid leading questions that may elicit canned or less-than-genuine responses. Asking about the time they adapted to a difficult situation is more leading than the more open-ended question, “Tell me about a time you faced a difficult situation?”

Examples of behavioral interview questions

It’s important to tailor your interview, behavioral questions included, to your company and the specific role. The following examples will help you get started:

  • This is a situation you may encounter in this position. How would you handle it?
  • Tell us about a time your team had disagreements. How were these differences resolved, and what was your particular role?
  • Can you tell us about a time when you disagreed with your manager’s directions or priorities? How did you respond?
  • Tell us a time when you made a mistake or were asked to go back and make corrections. How did you handle it?
  • Have you had to work with someone whose personality was particularly different than yours? How did you make it work?

When it comes to the hiring and interview process, Monster can help you dig deeper

In a job interview, behavioral questions often reveal more about a candidate’s future performance than their resume. But once they’re hired, you’ll need to train them, make sure they’re productive, and ensure they stick around. Management is tough. Make it easier by subscribing to Monster Hiring Solutions. We’ll send you information on the latest hiring trends, managerial strategies, recruiting tips, and more.