I think everyone has a few interview questions that they really like to ask every candidate. I know I do. My favorite interview question is, “Tell me about a time that you had to work with someone you did not personally like.” Another one is “Tell me about a time when you had to support a company decision that you personally didn’t agree with.”
The reason I like these questions is because they use behavioral interviewing techniques. Candidates have to reach back into their work experience and share a story from their past. The answer will provide some insight into how they would react if placed in that situation again.
I also believe these are the types of questions that are hard to fake answers. For example, with the first question about working with people you don’t like, I’m sorry folks, but if anyone tells you “Oh I’m a people person and I get along with everyone.” They’re lying. Pure and simple. We all have to interact with people that might not be on our BFF list. It’s a part of business and there’s nothing wrong with it. The important part is how people handle the situation.
In addition, the candidate’s answer can tell you volumes about the type of people they enjoy (and don’t enjoy) working with, as well as how they handle uncomfortable situations. Great things to know when evaluating how someone will acclimate into your company culture.
Here’s another example of why behavioral interviewing questions are valuable. Let’s say your organization places a tremendous importance on customer service. Logically, you will want to ask customer service-related questions during the interview. There are three different ways you can ask the question:
Do you have good customer service skills? This is a closed-ended question. And seriously, who’s gonna say, “My customer service skills stink.”
How would you handle an angry customer? On the surface, a better question than the first one. But a candidate can easily give a textbook answer. The reply doesn’t tell you what the candidate has done.
Tell me about a time when you’ve solved a customer problem. This is a behavioral question. The candidate’s reply will tell you about a specific situation they’ve handled in the past.
Behavioral interview questions can be created for just about any skill or competency. It’s easy to find sample questions on the internet or you can buy books that are filled with questions. Here are a few samples:
- Tell me the steps you take to monitor the quality of your work. (Quality)
- Tell me about a time when you pitched in to help someone else finish a project even though it “wasn’t your job.” What was the result? (Teamwork)
- Describe the most creative thing you did in your last job. (Creativity)
- Tell me about a time when you had to persuade a person to accept an idea that you knew they wouldn’t like. (Persuasiveness)
At this point, you probably noticed most behavioral interview questions start with “Tell me about a time…”. It’s a great tip for making sure you’re asking the candidate to share something they’ve done in the past.
Speaking of tips, the other thing I’ve learned over the years is not to shy away from getting other people involved in the interviewing process. Many times only the hiring manager or HR handle the process, but I’ve found having candidates talk with their future peers is a good thing. It does take a little explaining on the front end – let candidates know what you’re doing. The benefits are many:
- It gives the candidate a chance to meet some of the people they will work with every day, which might provide additional insight about the company. Chances are once they get hired, if they have a question, these are the people they will go to (before their manager or HR.)
- The company gets additional support for the candidate. If the others buy into the hire, they will show the new employee the ropes.
Asking the right questions and getting the right people involved in the hiring process can give the company more insight about the candidate and vice versa. It’s a win for everyone.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Austin, TX13