When faced with an afternoon line-up of interviews to fill a vacant position in your department, your biggest worry is probably whether or not you select the right candidate.  It's likely you'll have a number of similar applicants, so how can you differentiate between them and be sure to pick the best person for the role?

As you meet each candidate these are probably the main questions in your mind:
  • Are they capable of doing the job?
  • Will the person be a good fit with others in the team?
  • Will they be enthusiastic and work hard?
Behavioural-based interviews allow hiring managers to assess a candidate’s performance as a result of questions that delve into detail about their past experiences. For example, how they have handled tricky situations or difficult people. Behavioural-based questions enable you to get proof of a candidate’s actual experience and approach – which is often the best indicator of how they will operate in your workplace.
To help you find the best person for the job, there are three key areas you will need to gain an understanding of during the interview; technical skills, cultural fit and attitude. Before the interview, make a list of essential attributes that the successful candidate needs to possess, and tailor your questioning around these.

Assessing technical skills

Depending on the level of the role you’re recruiting for, you will almost certainly be looking for evidence that the interviewee has past experience in something similar. You need to know that they are up to facing the challenges of the position.
It’s important to recruit someone with the right level of skill – too inexperienced and you will need to train them. Conversely, over-experience means they risk being bored and may not stay in the job.
Here are some examples of behavioural-based questions that can help you uncover a candidate’s skills:
  • Tell me about a complicated work related problem you’ve had to deal with. How did you tackle it and what was the result?
  • Tell me about your best work related achievement over the last 12 months. What skills did this involve and how did it benefit your organisation?
  • Think of a project or situation where you made a mistake. What happened, how did you rectify the problem and what did you learn from it?
Often if employers have two people with the same qualifications and experience to choose between, the person with the most enthusiasm and excitement for the role will come out on top.

Determining cultural fit

Gaining an understanding of how your candidate behaves in certain situations is key to determining whether they will be a good fit in your team and the organisation as a whole. In some cases, it is easier to identify the type of person who won’t be a good culture fit for the organisation!
During the interview you will need to ask questions about how the person interacts with direct team members, broader colleagues and managers.
Here are some behavioural-based questions to test your candidate’s cultural fit:
  • Tell me about the most difficult person you have worked with, what did you do about it and what was the outcome?
  • Describe the best manager you’ve ever worked for. How did that person influence your performance in the work environment?
  • How would you describe your ideal work environment? What kind of company culture do you most enjoy being part of?

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Evaluating attitude

Positive attitudes are infectious and a great asset to any team. People who also have a strong work ethic are particularly admired in the workplace, so it’s important that you recruit someone with the right attitude to work and someone who won’t be a drain on everyone’s energy. Often if employers have two people with the same qualifications and experience to choose between, the person with the most enthusiasm and excitement for the role will come out on top.
Here are some behavioural-based questions to help you assess a candidate’s attitude to work:
  • When have you accomplished something you didn’t think was possible? Tell me about the situation and how you achieved it.
  • Describe for me a situation where the poor efforts of a colleague reflected negatively on you. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time you’ve pulled the team together. How did you influence or build morale?
What are your favourite behavioural-based interview questions? Do you think they are more difficult (or easier) to answer than standard questions?

Summary

Behavioural-based interviews raise the applicants past experiences in order to gain insights into their performance.  The three areas you should assess are:
  • Technical skills
  • Cultural fit
  • Attitude
Your questions should be tailored around the essential attributes for the role and how the applicant has displayed these qualities in relation to the above areas.
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