The one interviewing method you all should know!

Asking the right questions in a job interview is not easy. Sure there are numerous lists with interview questions, but how can you be sure they fit the job requirements? You can’t. A wonderful counter example would be the question we all know: "what are your weaknesses?" Please never ever use this because it doesn’t say anything about your candidate’s abilities.

As a matter of fact, the right questions are vital for assessing whether your candidates will be able to do the job. Fortunately, there is a very powerful tool which helps you ask questions accurately. Have you ever heard of the “Critical Incident Technique”? Let’s take a closer look at this method. We will, with the help of a concrete situation, create a situational question, which is based on this method. Here we go!

What is the Critical Incident Technique based on?

  • Experts (employees, supervisors, customers) are able to estimate fairly well which situations are critical to professional success. For service staff, for example, a crucial situation may consist of dealing with difficult customers ...
  • In these situations, different behaviour leads to very different results: an unfriendly service employee may annoy customers to the point where they will never come back, or clarify the situation and make everybody happy.
  • When we are faced with a situation, we have access to a certain behavioural repertoire and we have to choose how to act. This can be measured.

Please note, however, not to base your questions on situations which require insider knowledge. Also, we recommend combining situational questions with other types of questions in order to get a complete picture of a candidate and their skills.

5 steps to creating a situational question

Here we go: you can use situational questions in different interview formats, such as pre-recorded video interviews or face-to-face interviews.

1) Look for experts from the respective department (eg. supervisor)

Question 1: "Mr. Smith (Head of Social Media Marketing), we are currently looking for a new Junior Social Media Manager (m/f). What tasks will the future Social Media Manager be expected to fulfil?"

2) Ask them for situations that are particularly critical for the respective position!.

  • What were the (external) circumstances (contextual information)?
  • Where did the situation occur?
  • Who was involved?
  • What actions were taken

Question 2: "Can you remember a situation in which there was reputational damage caused by the activity of an employee (m/f) in this position, which could have been prevented? If so, when did this situation take place, what was the initial problem (context), which employees were involved and how did they behave?"

The answer might be: "To introduce a new product that was somewhat troublesome, we wanted to support our “First Level Support Team” via our social media channels. However, the social media manager in charge always responded to posts that dealt with service problems with quite a delay, and after being asked by a colleague. Then, he only answered that the service hotline should be called. Of course, the corporate social media channel is not meant to collect customer requests, but our customers do not know this."

3) Ask what kind of behaviour is effective in these situations, less effective or even damaging

"It would have been more effective to respond on time, expressing understanding and immediately offering a solution, such as asking the customer to send us their contact details via private message, so we could forward them to the appropriate service points right away. Then, our service staff would get back to them to deal with their request. Ideally, we are able to solve this problem quickly and make the customer happy, thanks to our quick response.”

4) Check with others to confirm this way of action. -> The social media manager in charge of the career pages, fully agrees.

5) Turn this situation into a question and the behavioural examples into behavioural anchors

  • good answer: timely responses, express understanding, ask for contact information, forward request internally, public status update to show that there was a quick response to the complaint
  • mediocre: timely response, express understanding, refer to service point
  • bad: “wrong channel: "Please contact our service"

So, this is the final question:

“Put yourself in the following situation: You are taking care of one of our social media channels. Although it is not aimed at dealing with service requests, you are repeatedly confronted with customer complaints or service requests, due to a somewhat problematic product launch. What would you do?”

  • good answer: timely responses, express understanding, ask for contact information, forward request internally, public status update to show that there was a quick response to the complaint
  • mediocre: timely response, express understanding, refer to service point
  • bad: “wrong channel: "Please contact our service"

 Do you have any questions? Fire away!

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