Behavioral Interview Tips (And 8 Questions to Consider Asking)

behavioral interview questionsA productive interview uncovers far more than whether a candidate possesses the requisite skills for the job. It also provides information about their emotional intelligence and fit for your corporate culture.

That’s where behavioral questions come into play – they are designed to help you understand how candidates behaved in recent job experiences.

Here are four general tips on using behavioral questions to produce your best interviews with candidates. After these tips, you’ll find a list of suggested questions you can tailor to your specific company and job role.

4 Behavioral Interview Tips

1. Keep yourself on track with the STAR system.

Write down the letters S-T-A-R as you ask each interview question. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. As the candidate answers a question, make sure they address each part of STAR, and then cross off the letter as they complete that part. It’s otherwise too easy to get distracted and prematurely move on to the next question, which means you’d have to evaluate based on incomplete answers. 

2. Allow candidates time to come up with examples.

You already know the questions you’re going to ask, and have heard others’ answers to them. But remember, your candidate needs some time to pause and reflect before they can come up with the answer. Be sure to convey that you want them to think about the question – that they do not need to hurry. 

3. Try the polar opposite of your question if they can’t seem to come up with an answer. 

Eager candidates are often nervous in an interview setting. Sometimes they can’t think of an answer on the spot. When you see they are truly stumped, try asking the polar opposite question. For instance, you can ask them to, “Tell me about a time where you didn’t try to motivate another employee who needed to finish up a project, but in hindsight you wished you had.” This technique will likely jumpstart their stuck thinking – and may well reveal an even more interesting and pertinent answer for you. 

4. Be specific when you ask follow-up questions.

If your candidate hasn’t addressed a key piece of information or if you feel their answer is somewhat lukewarm, ask about a specific component of their answer. You might nudge them with a “Tell me more about that” comment. Or ask them to expound on one particular element of their answer. Direct them to the piece of the whole you’re wanting clarification on, and they will have an easier time knowing what to explain to you. 

Behavioral Interview Question Ideas  

As you tailor these questions to your company and job role, be sure you structure each behavioral interview question around a skill or value that you want to see in your new hire. 

“How do you work under pressure?”

Perhaps ask for an example of a stressful work situation and how they handled it. This question provides some insight into how the candidate copes with chaotic situations. Do they tend toward knee-jerk reactions, or thoughtful responses? 

“Tell me about how you have motivated employees or co-workers.”

This question helps you see how well the candidate might fit into your culture. Is their example of motivating others based on uplifting and supporting strategies, or is it more of a coercive type of motivation? Do they motivate others in ways that respect boundaries? Look for leadership potential through a willingness and ability to serve as an informal leader.

“Here’s a situation you’re likely to run across in this job role. <Explain situation.> How would you handle it?”

This question lets the candidate visualize themselves in the job role, and therefore provides you some insight into their work style and how they will fit in with other employees and within the company as a whole. Plus, you’re more apt to get answers that reflect their true behaviors rather than answers they’ve rehearsed for interviews.

“Tell me about a time you needed to raise an uncomfortable issue with your boss.”

This question helps you find out whether a candidate will be upfront and open with their management team members. It can also reveal whether they are inclined to step up and voice issues that are important – when it’s easier to stay quiet and maintain the status quo. 

“How do you approach disagreeing with another person at work?”

This question touches on tact and discretion as well as overall kindness. Can the candidate cooperate and negotiate to reach some type of concord? Do they take the route of avoidance and acquiescence to avert confrontation? The ability to professionally disagree with no trace of rancor can be an invaluable trait in an employee. 

“Describe a decision you made that wasn’t very popular – how did you effect the decision?”

This question shows how a candidate handles choices that result in disgruntled colleagues. Does the candidate show poise and grace, or a heavy-handedness when implementing a new decision? Ask how the others affected reacted to the circumstances, and how the situation resolved itself. 

“Tell me about a time you made a significant mistake and the steps you took to address it.”

The goal with this question is to evaluate how a candidate accepts the repercussions of their errors and how they choose to learn from mistakes. Balanced candidates consider the past as training that informs their future decisions and actions. And they offer that same consideration to those around them, rather than blaming or holding grudges.

“Tell me about the last time a client or colleague got upset with you.”

This question helps you evaluate a candidate’s interpersonal skills and their ability to process and manage conflicting and mixed emotions, especially in a professional setting. Be sure to find out why the client or colleague was angry, how the candidate responded, and how the situation was settled.

Adding behavioral questions to your arsenal of interview tactics will help you garner more of a 360-degree view of your candidate and their fit for your company.