Asking behavioural questions during job interviews is an effective method to identify candidates who are likely to excel. However, 57% of talent professionals say they struggle to assess soft skills accurately during the interview process.
To nullify this difficulty, LinkedIn recently published 30 interview questions to identify high-potential candidates.
These behavioural interview questions require the candidate to give context for a scenario, share their actions and what the result was. This helps an interviewer understand a candidate’s work experience, how they will react in certain situations and if they are suited to the role and the company.
Why Ask Behavioural Questions?
Asking behavioural questions not only helps to understand a candidate’s skills and experience but helps uncover what a candidate is like in certain situations.
There are also many longer-term benefits to asking common behavioural interview questions. These include:
- Reduce Employee Turnover
Recruiting a new employee takes considerable time and money. Therefore, if a hiring decision goes wrong it can cost your company significantly. High turnover or recruiting unsuitable candidates can affect your remaining employees which in turn can impact your client base.
- Make Hiring Easier
Behavioural interviews help you to know the candidate in a better way - namely a candidate’s thinking style, tendencies, motivations, and preferences.
- Predict Future Behaviour
Behavioural interviews help the company understand how an employee may react to the given situation. Questions like “give me an example of” or “ what will you do if” can help to understand the actions the candidate shall take to fulfil the given task.
How does a behavioural interview make hiring easier, reduce employee turnover and predict future behaviour?
The best predictor is future behaviour is past behaviours and actions. The reason that behavioural questions bring these benefits is because they are able to drill down into the way a potential employee will think or act in certain situations, based on past scenarios.
Asking behavioural questions can provide you with peace of mind and confidence that should a similar scenario arise, you have some idea of how the candidate will react. This makes hiring easier and has the possibility to reduce employee turnover. This is because you are making an informed decision about your hire and how they fit into the culture of your organisation and if they align with the values.
What Behavioural Questions Should be Asked?
Knowing what questions to ask is based on what skills you are looking for. Before asking what behavioural questions you need to ask a candidate, first you need to understand what skills you are looking to hire for. Then consider, why these skills matter to the role and the organisation.
For some roles, you may not need to understand if a potential candidate is adaptable or will be suited to a leadership role. But the ability to prioritise and collaborate might be key. This could be because the role you are hiring for will need to communicate with multiple stakeholders who typically focus on different things.
By understanding what skills you need and why they are important to the role, can help you identify the best behavioural questions to ask.
At Xref, we consider hires for the long term. A candidate might not have a specific skill today, but we are able to identify skills gaps and train that person for growth and development. For us, the ability to train an employee often helps encourage loyalty and reduce turnover.
Here are some of the most common skills hiring managers are looking for.
For each skill, this article will drill down into the most common behavioural questions asked. Once you have identified what skills you are looking for, you can take inspiration from these questions to get the most out of your behavioural interviews. It is important to adapt these questions for each candidate and as your organisational values and goals change.
- Adaptability: 69% of hiring managers say the most important soft skill they screen for is adaptability.
- Culture Add: Companies with inclusive talent practices generate up to 30% higher revenue per employee.
- Collaboration: 50% of great collaborators also tend to be top performers.
- Leadership: Organisations with strong leadership are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition.
- Growth Potential: The cost of replacing an employee is about 1.5x their salary.
- Prioritisation: When employees know how to prioritise, they’re less likely to drop the ball or to burn themselves out.
Given that 54% of employees may require significant reskilling or upskilling over the next few years to keep pace with new technology and evolving business needs, adaptability is essential.
As an employer, understanding how well a candidate can adapt to a situation demonstrates resilience. Flexible working requires adaptability and the ability to change direction or reprioritise tasks if a business focus changes are all possible reasons for an adaptable candidate.
Five interview questions that can assist to measure a candidate’s adaptability include:
- Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before? How did you react? What did you learn?
- Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
- Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about the biggest change you have had to deal with? How did you adapt to that change?
- Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your outcomes.
It is important to understand that each organisation is different and each candidate and their experiences are unique. As such, you may not need to ask all of these questions to understand how adaptable a candidate is.
At Xref, our candidates often undergo multiple interviews with different members of our team across various departments in our business, to help uncover different perspectives and different ways of thinking.
If you need to understand if you candidate will be a good cultural fit, consider asking culture add questions. A culture add is someone who doesn’t just preserve your existing company culture, mission, and core values, but helps it evolve and grow. Seeking a candidate to add to your culture, rather than fit into it, allows for increased diversity amongst hires.
Five behavioural interview questions pertinent to culture add are:
- What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
- Tell me about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energised, and productive at work. What were you doing?
- What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
- What would make you choose our company over others?
- What’s the biggest misconception your co-workers have about you and why do they think that?
These types of questions can help you understand how a candidate is aligned to your company values and goals. As the hiring manager, you also gain an understanding of their ability to give thoughtful and honest answers as well as be transparent and self-reflective. These skills may be useful in your team to encourage collaboration, openness and innovation.
When a role requires teamwork, strong collaboration skills make a big difference. Even while a workplace may be increasing remote work opportunities, collaboration and teamwork are still very sought-after skills.
Today, with many teams working either remotely or in a hybrid model, collaboration may be more challenging to achieve. Communication skills often go hand in hand with good collaboration.
So, how can you be sure your candidate is a true collaborator? Consider asking the following questions:
- Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?
- Tell me about a time you were communicating with someone, and they did not understand you. What did you do?
- Tell me about one of your favourite experiences working with a team and the contributions you made.
- Describe the best partner or supervisor you’ve worked with. What part of their management style appealed to you?
- Can you share an experience where a project dramatically shifted direction at the last minute? What did you do?
You can ascertain if a team member is a skilled collaborator through multiple soft skills. Understanding a candidate’s ability to collaborate requires good listening skills on your behalf as the hiring manager.
How your candidate answers questions is just as telling as what they say. You may find that a candidate uses a healthy mix of ‘I’ and ‘we’ statements to communicate both individual and team contributions. Or if they express a willingness to adjust their working style to that of other’s, you may be speaking with a great collaborator.
Leadership and Growth Potential
With the Great Resignation impacting companies worldwide, retaining good employees means offering up learning and development opportunities to allow employees to continue to grow in your company.
This means that when hiring, you need to look for a candidate who has good growth potential within your company, to assist with ensuring longevity. Asking questions about growth potential also helps to understand drive and motivation within an individual.
Not every role will evolve into a leadership position, and not every hire will look for a leadership role, so these questions may not be suitable for every hiring manager.
However, no matter what seniority level you’re hiring for, it never hurts to think about a candidate’s leadership potential or growth potential. Offering growth and development opportunities is an important part of a strong employee retention strategy. Your company may also grow as a result of hiring this person.
If you are looking to understand if a candidate has leadership potential or is looking to grow and develop within your organisation consider asking:
- Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
- Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
- Tell me about a time when you led by example? What did you do and how did others react?
- Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
- Have you ever had to ‘sell’ an idea to your co-workers or group? How did you do it? What were the results?
- Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so.
- What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?
- When was the last time you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?
- What’s the biggest career goal you’ve achieved?
These questions not only point towards leadership capability, but also highlight how the candidate may navigate tough situations and how they work in a group.
Asking these questions can help uncover soft skills such as a strong sense of ownership and careful consideration of outcomes. A good leader is an influencer - assertive without being pushy. But good leaders can also be vulnerable, to get the best out of their team.
These types of questions also highlight an eagerness to learn, which shows the candidate is keen and willing to stay loyal and focused to your organisation. If they appear to be someone who is open to feedback, this also shows a willingness to learn and grow.
Learning and development opportunities are one of the key reasons why employees choose to stay or leave an organisation. Looking out for this desire early in the recruitment process can help you reduce turnover in the long term.
In recent times, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many businesses to reassess their business goals and focus on survival. Some people unfortunately lost their jobs, while others who survived had to increase their workload to make up for reduced headcount. The ability to prioritise tasks and reprioritise became crucial to success.
The ability to prioritise, goes hand in hand with flexibility. Prioritisation is essential to productivity.
Candidates who’ve mastered prioritisation can juggle key tasks and work towards achieving deadlines. You can uncover priortisiation abilities by asking:
- Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organise your time? What was the result?
- Tell me about a project that you planned. How did you organise and schedule the tasks?
- Describe a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?
- Give an example of a time when you delegated an important task successfully.
- How do you determine what amount of time is reasonable for a task?
These questions show that your candidate is able to implement a proactive process for organising their time. The ability to prioritise and re-prioritise also indicates good time management skills and flexibility which are crucial in fast moving organisations.
When conducting an interview, behavioural questions are a great way to create some tangibility and quantifiable information when it comes to assessing soft skills. These questions allow hiring managers and talent acquisition specialists to see clear examples of situations where the soft skills have been applied.
Just as you want your employees to constantly improve themselves, it is imperative that the human resources department is also striving to better their processes. Thorough planning prior to the interview, coupled with an evaluation of the line of questioning at the end of the interview, should be an ongoing process.
Understanding not just what questions need to be asked, but why you ask them and how you utilise the information provided, helps a hiring manager and talent acquisition specialist gain confidence in their hiring decisions. Knowing you have hired the ideal candidate helps with long term business goals, like growth.