Build great Teams – People management

Question – Get It Right In The Behavioural Interview

Question – Get It Right In The Behavioural Interview

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Ask the right question and you’ll get the information you need.The Behavioural Interview is a great way to find out if a candidate has the attributes you are looking for. In a previous article we discussed identifying the attributes that are most important for a particular role in your company. Knowing what you are looking for is the first step in finding the right person to hire, but how do you find out if the candidate has the attributes you are looking for?

The best way to find out is to ask, but there are different ways to ask a question. You want to ask questions that will result in open honest answers that will help you decide if this candidate will be the right fit for the open role in your company.

Types Of Question

There are many types of question. If I ask a candidate “Do you speak French”, they are going to assume that I am looking for someone who can speak French. If they’re sensible, and if they speak French at any level at all, they are going to answer “Yes”. Does that exchange tell me anything useful? This type of question is a ‘Leading’ question. It is leading the candidate to giving you the answer they think you want to hear. It can be difficult, but try and avoid asking leading questions.

Other types of questions are ‘Open’ questions and ‘Closed’ questions. ‘Open’ questions, as the name suggests, leave it wide open for the candidate to tell you anything. This is a good thing in an interview. You want to see how they interpret a question. Find out what they think is relevant. You want them to give you the details that they think demonstrate their ability or experience. All this information, if given freely by the candidate, will tell you a lot about them.

By contrast ‘Closed’ questions expect a more specific response. The most common closed question is one that leads to either a ‘Yes’ response or a ‘No’ response. These can be useful to keep the interview on track, but as long as the question isn’t leading, they can also be useful to find out what a candidate thinks about something. There can be no sitting on the fence with a Yes/No question. You might start with a ‘Closed’ question to force a point of view, and then use an open question to get them to explain that point of view further.

Behavioural Interview Questions

Assuming you have created a prioritized list of your top eight to ten attributes for a given role, you next need to develop behavioural interview questions to determine if your candidates have these attributes. What do we mean by behavioural interview questions? By using behavioural interview questions you are trying to get the candidate to provide you with real-life, past examples of job-related decisions, actions and results that demonstrate they have the attribute. This provides you with information about how they might perform in your job in the future.

Maybe you are hiring for a high-pressure job that requires a French speaker. You’ve found a candidate who speaks French, but you don’t know what experience they have. Have they translated live debates in the European parliament, or does their ability stop at ordering a beer in a café? Finding out if they’ve successfully spoken French in a high-pressure environment will give you more useful information that just asking ‘Can you speak French?’ Digging deeper with more questions to find out under what circumstances they have spoken French, and what the outcome was, will be more useful to you in making a decision.

Within your behavioural interview questions you should think about when and how to use ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ questions. In general, try to use mostly ‘Open’ questions. You should also try and avoid asking ‘Leading’ questions.

An Example

If PROBLEM SOLVING is the attribute in question, you are aiming to gather specific examples from previous work situations that demonstrate that this candidate is good at problem solving. You might want to know more about how they approach solving a problem, than being given an example when a simple problem was resolved successfully. If this is the case, you might consider asking about a problem they were not able to solve. You can then dig down using open questions to encourage them to talk about the thought process they went through as they tried to solve the problem. Asking “Why” or “How” are good ways to dig deeper.

You might ask “Tell me about a time when you were faced with a difficult problem”. A question posed in this format might also get them to talk about how it made them feel, which can also tell you a lot about the candidate.

Time spent developing non-leading behavioural interview questions before an interview will be worth it if it helps you identify the best fitting candidates for your role in your company.

My Question To You

What questions do you ask when you interview? Do you use leading questions? how well do you open and closed questions? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at You can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.


About the Author:

Nikki Faulkner photo Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.

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