Predicting Future Performance with Behavioural Interview Questions
Asking the right questions
Have you ever shortlisted a candidate based on their awesome resume and cover letter, only to get to the interview and they fall way short of your expectations? This is why the interview is probably the most important part of the hiring process. Anyone can look great on paper, but can they be on-time, professional, articulate, and answer questions confidently in a face-to-face interview? The interview allows you to really get to know the candidate and you’ll be able to leave the room knowing whether they’re in the ‘yes’ pile or the ‘no’ pile.
A successful interview is all about asking the right questions. You want to get a better understanding of the candidate and how they work and get past the canned responses to closed-ended questions. Every candidate knows how to best answer the “tell me about your weaknesses” question. It’s your responsibility as an interviewer to create great interview questions that will give you an accurate understanding of the candidate and whether they’re the best person for the job.
Situational vs. Behavioural Interview Questions
Interview questions can be categorized into two different types: situational and behavioural. Situational questions ask the candidate to put themselves in a hypothetical situation and explain what they would do, whereas behavioural questions ask the candidate to recall what they’ve done in a past experience.
- Situational question: “What would you do if your manager had an unrealistic deadline for a project?”
- Behavioural question: “Tell me about a time in your past position when you had to work under a tight deadline?”
The focus of behavioural interview questions is to get the candidate to provide you with specific examples of past behaviour. The rationale of this approach is that past performance is thought to be the most accurate predictor of future performance.
When answering a behavioural based question, the expectation is that the candidate’s response should follow the S.T.A.R. format: situation, task, action, result. If a candidate isn’t able to provide specific examples of past situations and their behaviour, you should question why – are they embellishing on their resume or can they not provide an honest self-assessment of their past actions? Well-designed behavioural interview questions should give you a clear picture of how a candidate has behaved in the past and what you can expect from them in similar situations.
Creating Behavioural Interview Questions
When writing behavioural interview questions, you should consider what skills and abilities the job requires. Does the job require things such as strong negotiation skills, the ability to lead others, or the capacity to remain calm under pressure? Consider the challenges that the employee in this role will face and craft your interview questions accordingly.
This may sound counterintuitive, but behavioural interview questions are not questions – they are statements. In fact, they are statements with two parts: the introduction and the situation. Your introduction could be something like: “tell me about a situation when…” or “give me an example from your past job when…”. These sorts of phrases are followed by the situation: “you worked for a demanding manager” or “you encountered a difficult colleague or customer”. When they’re put together, the behavioural question becomes:
- “Tell me about a situation when you worked for a demanding manager.”
- “Give me an example from your past job when you encountered a difficult colleague or customer”.
Note that these questions also take care not to give away the answer. You want to leave as much of the answer up to the candidate as possible. By adding qualifying statements or words to these questions, you make the question less ambiguous and limit the candidate’s response. For example:
- “Tell me about a situation when you worked successfully with a demanding manager.”
- “Give me an example from your past job when you encountered a difficult colleague or customer and consulted your manager to resolve it”.
Changing these questions gives the candidates hints about the type of answer you’re looking for. You should try and make behavioural questions relatively ambiguous to get an accurate answer from the candidate.
Well thought out interview questions that ask the candidate for past examples of their behaviour in situations, similar to those that they’ll encounter in their job, will give you the best indication of their future performance. If you want to use the behavioural technique for your interview, but aren’t sure how to begin, a quick Google search will set you on your way, or there are some basic ones to get you started here.
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