This question is an example of a unique interview question asked by hiring managers to help determine a candidate’s ability to think quickly and creatively.
- “Why should we hire you?”
- “What is your greatest strength?”
- “Describe the best boss you have ever had.”
The traditional interview questions above may have some value but they also have become so rote that we can ask them in our sleep and candidates have rehearsed their answers. They may have some value—asking someone their greatest strength can also reveal their greatest weakness, as they are often one and the same. However, asking only traditional questions misses an opportunity!
Situational interview questions ask a candidate what they would do in a particular circumstance. “How would you handle an angry customer?” or “What would you do if your co-worker spent an hour playing computer games every afternoon?” This approach is problematic because it assumes the candidate will do what they said they will do. Knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it are very different!
I once worked with a client who shared that in interviews, he would pretend that he had left his briefcase at home and ask the candidate to drive him there to retrieve it. He believed that watching the candidate drive—noting speed, concentration, aggressiveness, etc.—would help him determine if he/she would be a good employee. True, there may be some correlation between driving style and work behavior, but wouldn’t it be more valuable to see how a candidate has chosen to handle work-related issues in the past?
In conjunction with assessments and background checks, interviewing is an important part of the hiring process. These steps are designed to determine if the candidate will be successful in the job and fit your company’s culture. Evaluating skills and experience may be easy—measuring competencies is more challenging. A competency is a behavior (or set of behaviors) that describes an expected work performance.
Before we can probe competencies we have to define them (this is why development of a Performance Model is important). For example, a competency expectation for a manager might be having the ability to develop an effective team. Competency-Based Behavioral Interviewing assumes that the best predictor of future behavior is recent, past behavior. The following questions are examples of effective Behavioral-Based Interview Questions we sometimes use:
- “Tell me about a time you worked as a leader (or a member of a team) that had one or more unproductive members. What did you do? How did it work out?”
- “Give me an example of a time when you were not an effective team leader. What made you realize that? What could you have done differently?”
- “Tell me about a time when you had to convince your team to do something they didn’t want to do. What did you do?”
Competency-Based Behavioral Interview Questions can be developed for numerous competencies. Following are examples of competencies paired with questions for their exploration:
- Maintaining Organization: “Give me an example of how you organize your priorities when scheduling your time.”
- Initiating Change: “Tell me about a time when you turned a problem into an opportunity.”
- Showing Respect: “Describe a time when you had to resolve a difference of opinion with a co-worker or supervisor.”
- Dealing with Difficult People: “Tell me about a specific time when you encountered a rude customer.”
These and numerous other effective Competency Based Behavioral Interview Questions may be found in Victoria A. Hoevemeyer’s easy-to-read High-Impact Interview Questions.
Asking prepared Behavioral-Based Interview Questions—targeted at specific competencies—enables the interviewer to ask the same questions of each candidate. The interviewer can then compare responses and rank candidates by competency.
This requires patience! It may take a minute or two for the person to think of an example (they may break eye contact while thinking). A wise interviewer will not rescue the candidate, but will assure them to take a minute or two to think of a specific example. Generic responses are unacceptable (ex. “I have dealt with many angry customers and am comfortable with that.”). The interviewer should push for specifics (ex. “I’m sure you have. Please take a minute or two to think of a specific example.”).
Competency-Based Behavioral Interviewing is a powerful piece of a strong hiring process. Taking the time to develop and consistently use a thorough hiring process helps ensure job fit, making life easier for all involved!
Linda Winlock is the owner and President of Personnel Profiling Inc (PersonnelProfiling.com). Established in 1987, Personnel Profiling Inc. provides organizational development, employment assessments and human resource services to companies throughout the nation. Linda has over 25 years of experience working with all types of industries and companies of varying sizes including Trane Heating and Air, Atria Senior Living, Hillerich & Bradsby Co., and many others. Her experience includes many years of Executive Coaching, Interviewing, Team Building and Training. Linda’s formal education includes a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Louisville with a concentration in counseling psychology. Linda and members of her team will be ongoing contributors to the Academy Blog.
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