employer interviewing a candidate for a job at a desk

How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview

Have you ever hired a candidate who aced their interview but was not the best fit once they started the job? In many cases, conducting a behavioral interview or asking behavioral interview questions can help hiring managers avoid this dilemma and better screen candidates for a specific role. Here’s how.


What Is a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral interviews focus on a candidate’s past experiences to show how they have (or have not) demonstrated certain behaviors, skills, abilities, or knowledge. Behavioral-based interview questions aim to unveil how a candidate handles employment-related situations. In other words, behavioral interviews can give interviewers insight into how candidates have proven they exhibit certain behaviors and how they may continue to do so if hired.


Why Should You Conduct a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral-based interviews can be extremely effective in weeding out candidates who aren’t the best fit for your organization or the role in question. In fact, how the candidate answers behavioral-based interview questions is a good predictor of how the candidate may behave in the future.


When Should You Conduct a Behavioral Interview?

A behavioral interview can be done as a standalone interview (perhaps for a second, third, or fourth interview) depending on the employer or the position. However, many companies opt to include behavioral-based interview questions as part of their initial interviews to shorten the hiring process.


employees talking at a desk


How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview

While each organization has a different approach to setting up behavioral interviews, there are a few standard steps to follow. Here’s a general outline for getting started:

  • Identify the behaviors and skills required to be successful in the role and at the company. The first step is to evaluate each job posting and identify the skills and behaviors you need from someone in that role. Consider others who have been successful in that specific position — what made them thrive? You may even want to talk to staff within the department that is hiring to come up with a solid rundown of desired attributes.
  • Create a list of behavioral-based interview questions. After you’ve determined what you’re looking for in an applicant, it’s time to draft a list of behavioral interview questions to ask candidates. Avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions to get your candidates talking and provide sufficient answers to help determine whether they exhibit the right behaviors. Some examples of questions to ask include:
    • Please tell me about a time when you spoke with an angry customer or colleague. What was the problem, and how did you resolve it?
    • Please tell me about a time when you took the initiative to do something you weren’t expected to do and elaborate on how it helped your team or company.
    • Can you describe a time when you experienced a problem and how you went about solving it without the help of a supervisor?
    • Tell me about a time when you had to manage multiple projects at once and a difficult deadline. How did you handle your responsibilities and meet the deadline?
    • Please tell me about a time when you had to lead a project. What was the project, and how did you go about making sure everyone was on the same page?
    • Describe a time when you experienced failure at work or made a mistake. What happened, and how did you rectify the problem?
    • Give me an example of a professional goal you’ve set for yourself and explain how you achieved that goal.
  • Create a scale for evaluating a candidate’s answers. Consider what types of answers you are looking for ahead of time. This will help you prepare to ask follow-up questions if you’re not getting the answer you need. It will also allow you compare all candidates’ answers on a more level playing field.


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Does the Process Change If It’s a Remote Interview?

In the midst of COVID-19, organizations are leveraging video conferencing technology to safely hold interviews, including behavioral-based interviews. The good news is that there aren’t many changes you’ll need to make if you’re conducting a virtual behavioral interview.

Your list of questions can remain the same, but you may need to be prepared to ask additional follow-up questions. This is especially true if you’re conducting a phone interview because you’ll miss nonverbal cues that you’d get in an in-person or video interview.


For more interviewing tips and tricks, browse our Employer Resource Library.

By iHire | November 24, 2020