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The behavioral interview is the best tool for predicting success in the hiring process. In the hands of an organized hiring team, behavioral questions virtually guarantee a successful hire. Once an effective candidate pool has been established, a strong hiring team will systematically move through those potential hires using behavioral questions.

Behavioral questions focus on past behaviors. These are inquiries into the candidate’s past, demanding much more than a yes/no response. Answers to behavioral questions require story-telling and reveal strengths and weaknesses. Well-designed behavioral questions tie back to key technical skills and competencies as captured by the hiring team.

I’ve included two examples below – the first focused on technical skills and the second focused on soft skills. I am hopeful that these examples help to show the value of behavioral interviewing questions. 

Behavioral Questions concerning Technical Skills–Excel Guru Needed

Here is an example of a behavioral question focused on a technical skill — Excel proficiency:

“Tell me about your experience writing formulas in Excel.”

Do you see how phrasing the question in this way will lead to the candidate telling a story about their level of experience? A traditional (less revealing and less effective) non-behavioral interview question might be, “can you write formulas in Excel?” There is not as much to be learned from that question.

Here is another behavioral question focused on technical skills in Excel:

Describe a project where you created VLOOKUPs. What was the outcome of that project?”

Can you see how much the behavioral question will reveal about a candidate’s technical skills in using Excel?

Behavioral Question concerning Soft Skills — Capable of working under strict deadlines

What about a soft skill such as hitting deadlines? Here is a very revealing behavioral question:

“Tell me about the last time you missed a deadline and the implications of that missed deadline.”

When asked a question in this way, the person being interviewed is required to reveal stories related to their work style, processes, and even their understanding of how deadlines affect an organization. This is incredibly valuable data in determining whether the person will be successful in the role.

Behavioral interview questions give us a framework to evaluate the past behaviors of a candidate. Since past behavior is the greatest predictor of future action, this approach gives us the best way possible to predict the success of a candidate. And while this approach does require time and energy in setting up and managing a systematic process, when compared to the value of an effective hire, I believe the return on investment makes it worth every moment.

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