Four Behavioral Interview Questions You Aren’t Asking (But Should!)

By Jezabel Southard

Posted on September 11, 2014

These days, most hiring managers are familiar with the concept of “behavioral interviews”. Most hiring managers have incorporated a few behavioral interview questions into their interviewing routine, recognizing the power of these questions to generate information-rich answers from candidates.

While general behavioral questions like “how do you handle failure?” can improve the interview process, if you’re looking for specific skills or traits in a candidate, you need to ask specific questions. Here are four focused behavioral interview questions you may not be asking – but you should.

  1. “Describe your system for planning and organizing your work.”

A candidate who can stay organized, manage the details, and prioritize effectively will give a focused, detailed answer to this question – whether or not he or she is naturally “detail-oriented.” A less-organized candidate will provide a less-organized answer.

The answer you want to hear: “At the end of each day, I make a to-do list of items I need to accomplish the next day. I prioritize this list, and I enter any relevant deadlines into my calendar with reminders…..”

  1. “When have you motivated others?”

People lead and inspire in different ways. Some master the “stump speech,” while others “lead from the middle,” quietly encouraging and lending a hand. How a candidate leads, and whether they do so effectively, will shine through in a concrete, specific answer to this question. By contrast, a vague answer will only reassure you that they do lead – but won’t explain how.

The answer you want to hear: “One of my co-workers was frustrated because her system for organizing new client records wasn’t working. I found some free time that week, and I told her I would help her develop a new system, because I knew her frustration was preventing her from addressing it effectively. So we….”

  1. “Have you found yourself in a situation where you tried really hard, but couldn’t achieve a goal you had set for yourself? Why did this happen, and what did you do?”

This twist on the “describe a time you failed” question looks for perseverance, troubleshooting skills, and the ability to handle failure. Candidates who have been through this process can describe it; those who haven’t will usually resort to “I always achieve my goals” or “Falling short just makes me more determined.”

The answer you want to hear: “In my last job, I set a goal for myself to be promoted to manager within one year. When I wasn’t promoted at the end of my first year, I scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss where I could improve. We decided…and then….”

  1. “When have you changed someone’s mind about an idea you thought was great, but the other person didn’t see it?”

Effective persuasion is measured by results – but it’s achieved by process. Top candidates will give you a clear example of their process; less-prepared candidates will typically resort to generalities.

The answer you want to hear: “One of our clients needed help with customer retention. I recommended ____, but the client hesitated because ____. So I convinced them by ____, and the result was….”

At TERRA Staffing, our recruiters specialize in connecting companies with candidates who have both the technical skills and cultural “fit” needed to thrive on the job. Contact us today to learn more about our staffing services in Portland and Seattle.


Categories: HR and Management Advice

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