What’s the most over-asked job interview question? It’s hard to say, though “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is probably a leading contender.
Although such long-standing queries aren’t entirely useless, many employers are getting better results with a more pragmatic approach: behavioral interviewing. It involves posing questions that aren’t hypothetical but, instead, elicit real-life examples of how job candidates handled challenging job-related situations in the past.
Tune Up Your Job Descriptions
Behavioral interviewing is hardly new but still not universally applied. It evolved years ago when employers started recognizing the limitations of traditional theoretical interview questions, such as “What would you do if a customer or supervisor asked you to do something unethical?” Instead, behavior-based interviewing challenges job candidates to provide a concrete example of how they responded to a situation described by the interviewer.
Devising the right questions, however, is tricky. You need to precisely correlate the wording of the situation with the essential job functions of the position. And questions should factor in not only specific behaviors, but also technical knowledge, performance skills, and motivation. With all that in mind, it’s imperative for employers to create detailed job descriptions so interviewers can tailor questions to the open positions.
Shoot For The STAR
Indeed, coming up with probing, insightful, behavior-based interview questions has become a specialized industry of sorts. If you plug the phrase “behavioral interviewing questions” into your favorite search engine, you’ll be inundated with articles and videos on the subject.
Among the first things you’ll likely notice is there’s a widely accepted approach to devising behavioral interview questions called “STAR.” That’s an acronym for:
Situation: Set the scene for the scenario you’re presenting to the candidate.
Task: Indicate what specific job duties relate to the question.
Action: Ask candidates to describe in detail what they did.
Result: Find out how the situation was resolved.
As mentioned, you’ll find hundreds of examples of behavioral questions online. But, just to throw one out there, say you’re interviewing an experienced candidate for a supervisor role. You could ask, “Tell me about a time when there was a notable conflict between two or more of the employees you managed (situation). It was obviously part of your job to resolve such a problem (task). Describe how you addressed the conflict (action) and how it was ultimately resolved (result).”
Keep in mind that some candidates might be honestly unable to answer certain behavioral questions if they’ve never experienced the given situation. In such cases, your interviewers should move on to a different question or they’ll risk forcing the interviewee to invent a response.
Hiring wisely entails more than asking insightful questions — but it’s a good place to start. Behavioral interviewing can provide practical insights that hypotheticals can’t. Just be sure to comply with all applicable employment laws.