At some time or another we have all endured an interview. We’ve all been asked the tough questions or drawn a blank to the ones that caught us off guard. Perhaps, the most difficult interview questions are the ones we can’t predict—the behavioral interview questions.
In addition to being the most difficult questions to predict as an interviewee, behavioral questions are also the most difficult questions to use when assessing which candidate will be the right fit for an organization.
Behavioral Interview Questions
What are behavioral interview questions? They sound a little something like:
- Tell me about a time when you had to assert yourself?
- Tell me of a time when you set a goal and were able to achieve it?
- Give me an example of when you had to go above and beyond in order to get a job done?
- Give me an example of a time when you made a mistake and how you fixed it?
Although we can prepare for these types of questions, we can’t usually predict which ones will be asked.
These questions require job candidates to discuss past experiences as a reference point from which future behavior and performance can likely be predicted. This tactic should be effective at predicting future behavior since past behavior is usually a good indicator of future behavior.
However, in recent years, there has been debate about just how effective behavioral interview questions actually are. Mike Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude believes, “These questions give away the right answers; cuing candidates to share success stories and avoid examples of failure. But how are interviewers supposed to tell good from bad candidates if everyone shares only success stories?”
Murphy believes that behavioral questions should be tweaked. He uses the question below as an example:
“Tell me about a time when you were bored on the job and what you did to make the job more interesting.”
Murphy believes that such questions are leading and will automatically elicit a positive response for each candidate. In order to get a wide variety of responses, Murphy suggests changing the question to:
“Could you tell me about a time when you were bored on the job?”
Altering the question a bit leaves more room for an honest answer and makes it easier to weed out candidates that aren’t a good fit. Instead of answers all sounding similar, responses could range from someone explaining just how boring their job was to what they did to overcome that boredom or how they made their job more exciting. Those that complain about their positions, rather than making good out of a boring situation are not the right candidates for the position. Murphy believes that creating more general and open ended behavioral questions will make it easier to assess a candidate’s fit during the interview process.
Tips To Tweak Your Behavioral Interview Questions
- Don’t ask leading questions
- Keep the questions general and let the candidate elaborate
- Don’t focus on the solution – let the candidate explain the problem and whatever solution they came up with
- Don’t use behavioral questions as your sole interviewing technique, combine these types of questions with straightforward (“tell me about yourself”) and situational questions.
Tweaks In Action – Revised Behavioral Interview Questions (Compare to the Original Behavioral Questions from the Beginning)
- Could you tell me about a time when you made a mistake?
- Have you ever gone above and beyond at your job?
- Have you ever had to set a goal at your job?
In short, behavioral interview questions are not dead, but they need some serious tweaking in order to effectively assess the candidate at hand. There is nothing more time consuming and disappointing than hiring the wrong candidate for your firm. According to the Department of Labor, “the average cost of making a bad hiring decision can cost up to 30% of the employee’s first year potential earnings.” Asking the right behavioral interview questions will mean the difference between a candidate that can ace the interview and the candidate that can actually perform well in the role.