Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
Behavioral-based interview questions are a type of question interviewers use to get in-depth information on a job candidate’s experiences. Instead of asking yes/no questions pertaining to the skills listed on the job posting, interviewers ask candidates for examples from their previous work experience that demonstrate the qualities the job requires.
When candidates answer behavioral interview questions with their previous experiences, they're encouraged to follow the STAR method:
Situation: Set out the problem or need to be resolved.
Task: Explain the goals set to resolve the situation.
Action: List the actions taken to meet these goals.
Result: Show how your actions met the goals you set out.
When preparing behavioral interview questions, hiring managers should consider this framework and identify the situations, tasks, actions, and results expected in the position..
Compare these questions for a potential project manager:
Checklist question: “Have you ever used the (tracker software) calendar to update due dates?”
Behavioral question: “Tell me about a time when a project fell behind. How did you diagnose the delay?”
Asking follow-up questions can also help candidates fill in steps of the STAR method they may have missed. “So when the project fell behind due to an employee’s car accident, how did you communicate with everyone further down the pipeline?”
Behavioral interview questions don’t just uncover the results of a candidate’s actions. These questions encourage candidates to discuss how and why they made those decisions, and this reasoning helps interviewers get a sense of how well the candidate aligns with the organization’s values. This helps the organization ensure that people share the same definitions of success, effective management, and other key factors for successful operations.
For one candidate, success might mean outearning other salespeople; another may see success as great teamwork on a project. One candidate may have a broad range of soft skills perfect for management, while another may have a deep knowledge of the skills of their trade. Using behavioral interview questions draws out the details, making it easier to recognize quality candidates. These questions also help broaden the definition of a good fit beyond highly-specific attributes, helping hiring managers recognize potential in a more diverse group of people.