Interviews are a crucial part of the hiring process and your best chance to assess if your candidate is the right fit for your open role.
While standard questions like “What did you do in your last role?” can help you clarify basic facts about a candidate’s background, they don’t help you tap into their behaviours and values, which are just as important for job performance and satisfaction as formal qualifications.1
Make your next interview your most effective yet, with these 7 questions:
Behavioural interview questions help you assess a candidate’s suitability based on their past behaviours. A candidate’s answers will show you how they handle difficult situations in the real world.2
1. “Tell me about the biggest challenge you overcame in your past roles and explain exactly how you tackled it.”
Ideally, the candidate will be able to tell you about a significant challenge and describe, in detail, how they implemented a solution. Their answer will also give you an insight into their general attitude and approach to work. Do they seem intimidated by setbacks and problems, or are they willing to face up to difficult situations, no matter the size or scope?
2. “Tell me about a time you had balance multiple competing deadlines. How did you organise the work to make sure everything was finished on time?”
This question tests the candidate’s ability to prioritise tasks, stay calm under pressure, and manage their time effectively. Depending on their level of seniority, it may also provide some insight into their delegation skills. Consider how the candidate’s experience balancing deadlines aligns to what will be expected of them in the role.
3. “Tell me about a time you trained your team members to use a new system or implement a new procedure. How did you do it?”
A candidate’s answer to this question shows you how they adapt to change and how they use their leadership skills to bring others on board.
Check that your behavioural questions map onto the job description. For example, if you are recruiting someone for a junior sales role, asking behaviour-based interview questions about leadership skills is a waste of time. If you aren’t sure which competencies you should be focusing on, ask employees who are already doing similar work in your company.
A candidate may be perfectly qualified for the role on paper, but if they don’t feel at home in your company, they are likely to leave. Ask a few questions that give you an insight into their working preferences and how well they will fit in with your existing team.3
4. “What kind of management style do you prefer?”
Half of the UK workforce have quit their jobs to get away from a manager they didn’t like.4 This question helps you decide whether a candidate is likely to be compatible with the person who would manage them if they joined the company.
5. “Describe your perfect work environment.”
In the interests of both the candidate and your existing employees, you need to choose someone who will thrive in the work environment. Take what the candidate says at face value and make your decision accordingly. For example, if they say they prefer a fast-paced environment where teamwork is the norm, they may not be suited to a role that involves a lot of self-directed solo projects.
People high in emotional intelligence, or EQ, tend to be more motivated, effective, and engaged. They form better relationships and work, and know how to influence others without causing offense or unnecessary conflict.5
Asking the right questions will let you know whether they have the self-awareness, self-control, positive outlook, and interpersonal skills that come with a high level of EQ.
6. “Tell me about a time you had to resolve a disagreement with a colleague.”
Conflict at work is inevitable, so you need to pick a candidate with the emotional maturity to handle it. They should be able to tell you precisely what the disagreement was about, how they came to appreciate the other side’s perspective, and how they reached an amicable outcome.
7. “How do you stay calm under pressure?”
This question tests the candidate’s self-awareness and self-management, two key components of EQ.6 If the candidate tells you they never feel pressured, that’s a red flag; either they are lying to you, or they can’t monitor their own stress levels.
Great interview questions are clear, relevant to the role, and yield useful information. An interview is your best opportunity to learn all you can about a candidate, so don’t waste your chance. Take your time to draw up a set of questions that appraise not only their hard knowledge, but also their soft skills and personal values.
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1. Martin, J. (2014). For Senior Leaders, Fit Matters More Than Skill. hbr.org
2. Society for Human Resource Management. (2016). Behavioral Interview Guide: Early Career Job Candidates. shrm.org
3. Howard, S. (2019). Reason #4 why employees quit: Poor organizational fit. predictiveindex.com
4. Faragher, J. (2019). Half of UK workers quit due to bad management. personneltoday.com
5. Chignell, B. (2018). The importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. ciphr.com
6. Goleman, D. (2015). How emotionally intelligent are you? danielgoleman.info