Want to make great hires? Ask behavioural interview questions.

When it comes to ascertaining whether a candidate really would be a good cultural fit for your company, you don’t need a crystal ball. The only thing that a smart recruiter needs is a set of strategic behavioural interview questions.

The candidates of today are savvy. They know all the standard interview questions they’re likely to be asked and they’re well-versed in answering them commendably. They know how to deliver elevator pitches, how to talk about their strengths and weaknesses and how to do their company research to great effect. Whilst this can be fantastic, it also means that they know how to manipulate the truth to land the job.

If you want to dodge the rehearsed, word-perfect answers and use your valuable interview time to find out whether a candidate would truly thrive in the role, you need to pose questions that elicit a thoughtful, genuine response. Behavioural interview questions will give you an insight into how a candidate really acts in everyday work situations, removing all hypothetical elements and instead dealing only in fact.

With these top 5 behavioural interview questions, you can use a candidate’s past behaviour to predict their future performance:


1. “Describe some examples where you’ve gone above and beyond for a customer.”

This question is not only relevant for customer-facing retail and hospitality professionals, but also for people working in developer jobs, finance positions, HR roles: any sector you can imagine. It highlights how a candidate steps up and uses their initiative, revealing their attitude and approach.

Most candidates will reel off their dedicated work ethic if you ask them about their strengths. This question will challenge that response, forcing them to think on their feet and produce genuine examples of how they solve problems and portray your brand to customers. If you want a brand ambassador, you can’t afford not to ask this question.

2. “Give me an example of a time that a co-worker has frustrated you and how you dealt with it.”

Before you hire someone, you need to know how they cope with conflict and office tensions. But if you ask a candidate if they lose their temper at work, they’re almost certainly going to lie to you and say no. They’ll find this question much trickier to evade.

You’ll make the candidate put their cards on the table when it comes to dealing with workplace frustration, gathering a clearer vision of how they survive in stressful situations. And if a candidate still maintains that they don’t get frustrated at work after you’ve phrased the question in this way, they’re clearly either lacking in self-awareness or unable to be honest.

3. “Tell me about a time you set a goal and achieved it.”

We’ve all heard candidates describe themselves as something along the lines of ‘goal-orientated leaders with proven capabilities in driving results’. But beneath the buzz words, phrases like this mean and prove nothing.

With this question, you’re ascertaining whether or not the candidate has made a measurable impact and followed their targets through into fruition. You’ll learn how they tackle challenges and take ownership of their career, and you’ll be able to compare how their real examples of achievements match with what they’ve written in their CV. If the candidate struggles to answer this one, the odds are that they’re more talk than tangible business action.

4. “Tell me about a time you set a goal and DIDN’T achieve it.”

Equally as important as finding out how a candidate creates results is finding out how they fail. Failure is an inevitable part of working life, but the majority of professionals aren’t keen to share stories of their business flops.

By asking this, you’ll gain perception on how the candidate copes with disappointment and how openly they can acknowledge their mistakes. Again, if a candidate maintains that they’ve never made a mistake or missed a target, you know that you’re very probably dealing with a liar. If, however, the candidate answers this with too much ease or with too many examples, you’re dealing with an underachiever.

5. “Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision.”

Nobody wants to have to micro-manage an employee. You need to discover whether the candidate can work autonomously, be a decision maker and problem-solve. This question hits all those touch points, and will also reveal how a candidate approaches complicated situations. You’ll learn how logical and rational the candidate is and how they think about problems.

If the candidate can’t pull up an example of when they’ve made a difficult decision, they’ve obviously never been entrusted with much authority and alarm bells should ring.

Behavioural interview questions are as close as you will get to finding out how the candidate would actually perform within the job role. They set the stage for candidates to demonstrate their skills, experience and approach, using specific examples rather than rehearsed pitches or hypothetical situations. To recruit great hires, just ask great questions.

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