Get More Out of Your Interview With Behavioral Questions

You’ve managed to whittle down that imposing pile 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.

You’ll learn much more about your top candidates during the interview process, but make sure you dig down beneath the surface and ask behavioral questions. This is an opportunity to discover how they approach problems, work with others, and handle the unexpected.

Skills and experience are just the tips of the iceberg. In a job interview, questions geared toward revealing an applicant’s behavior and attitude help you 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.

Hiring for Emotional Intelligence and the Right Attitude

Emotional intelligence (or “EQ”) is much more important than traditional intelligence (or “IQ”), according to behavioral scientists and other experts, since a growth mindset and the ability to work with others is paramount to success. Even someone who appears to have exactly the experience and “hard skills” you’re seeking may not be as adaptable or collaborative as you’d like if they’re lacking in emotional intelligence.

Someone with a high EQ will exhibit the following traits and likely will thrive in your workplace:

  1. Self-awareness. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and are able to take constructive criticism and make adjustments.
  2. Motivation. They’re driven to succeed and constantly improve, not simply for a paycheck, but to become better in their profession and to help the company succeed.
  3. Self-regulation. They are able to use restraint and temper their emotions when necessary, avoiding “blow ups” that could derail a team effort or cause new problems.
  4. People skills. They are skilled at building trust and rapport with co-workers, are quick to lend a hand, and never one to engage in sabotage. They’re typically well-liked throughout the organization.
  5. Empathy. They can connect with others through compassion, are able to “read the room,” and regularly (and promptly) 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, or by simply asking them to explain what they’ve done in past jobs. This is where behavioral questions come in.

The Importance of Behavioral Questions in the Interview

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?” Even if they didn’t adapt to a particularly difficult situation, you can ask a follow-up question about what they learned from the experience and how they might respond to a similar situation in the future.

Examples of Effective Behavioral Interview Questions

It’s important to tailor your interview, behavioral questions included, to your company and the specific role. After all, you’re trying to get a sense of how they might behave on the job. The following examples will help you get started:

  • What is your first step when you’re assigned to a new project?
  • How do you prioritize working on multiple projects?
  • How do you handle stress?
  • 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?
  • Can you give an example of a deadline you missed and how you handled it?
  • Have you had to work with someone whose personality was particularly different than yours? How did you make it work?

Post the Right Ad, Ask the Right Questions, and Hire the Best

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. Sign up today for valuable information on the latest hiring trends, managerial strategies, recruiting tips, and more.