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How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview + Example Questions

  • Publish Date: Posted 5 months ago
  • Author: Kelly O'Neill

In today’s job market, it's not just about finding talent; it's about finding the right talent. Qualified candidates (who are actually as qualified as they say they are) are few and far between. As a hiring manager, it’s up to you to qualify (or disqualify) candidates you interview. But, with just a 30-minute to an hour, how do you identify the candidates who are qualified, and eliminate the ones who aren’t?

Traditional interviewing methods fall short in today's labor market. They simply do not delve deep enough for interviewers to accurately assess hard and soft skills, competencies, and personality.

That's where behavioral interviewing steps in. To be brief, a behavioral interview is a strategic approach where the interviewer evaluates a candidate's past behavior and experiences as a predictor of their future performance in similar situations.

But what exactly is behavioral interviewing? Why is it so valuable for interviewers, and how can you conduct them successfully? We’re here to demystify it all and unravel all the secrets behind behavioral interviewing, giving you the key strategies and knowledge, you need to conduct a successful interview and find the right people.

What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing cuts through the fluff of most traditional hiring methods, like skills tests or standard interviews, laser-focusing on a candidate's past actions to predict their future performance.

Behavioral interviews hinge on the idea that the best way to forecast a candidate's success in a role is to scrutinize how they've handled real work situations before. Steer clear of hypotheticals and vague skill assessments.

Too often, organizations spin their wheels trying to find the perfect candidate, only to ultimately settle for someone who really isn’t a great fit. While these candidates might initially seem adequate, they often face challenges in effectively fulfilling their duties, potentially causing disruptions rather than adding value. This not only slows down projects but also results in significant time and money lost. Yikes.

In a behavioral interview, you cut straight to the chase, digging up concrete examples of how candidates have tackled real work challenges before. This approach sharply contrasts with traditional interviews, which often focus their time on hypothetical scenarios and vague discussions about skills.

Why is Behavioral Interviewing So Important?

So, what makes behavior interviews so important? A candidate’s answers will provide you with concrete evidence of their experience, skills, and how they potentially fit into your company’s culture. It's like having a sneak peek into their professional DNA.

Using behavioral interviews, you gain insight into things such as problem-solving skills, leadership skills, adaptability, time management, and other qualities that are vital for success in the industrial markets..

  1. Predictive Value: Behavioral interviewing reveals how a candidate will perform in your company based on their past actions. It's a straightforward way to reduce uncertainty in the hiring process, unlike traditional interviews.

  2. Culture Fit: No matter how you spell it, company culture is critical to success. Behavioral interviewing goes beyond skill assessment; it clearly indicates whether a candidate will fit into your company’s culture by assessing how they’ve approached work in the past, which is essential for a productive workplace.

  3. Competency Assessment: In industries with specific demands like oil & gas, renewables, and power generation, behavioral interviews cut to the chase, assessing candidates for the exact skills and competencies your sector requires. This method ensures you hire individuals who meet your industry's precise needs because they can prove that they’ve done the job successfully before.

Managers must master behavioral interviews to directly assess a candidate's past behavior, providing a reliable indicator of future performance in their team. This approach not only confirms necessary skills but also gauges alignment with company culture, critical for long-term success, going far beyond the capabilities of a traditional interview. By excelling in this technique, managers effectively build competent, cohesive teams, reducing turnover and boosting productivity.

 How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview

Now you grasp the power of behavioral interviewing, let's get into the nuts and bolts of pulling off these interviews with finesse, so you always get the information you want out of your candidates.

Conducting a behavioral interview poses challenges like needing in-depth preparation and skillful questioning, alongside managing candidate preparedness, and avoiding bias.

Don’t worry. With thorough preparation and our team’s guided expertise, navigating these hurdles becomes a breeze, making behavioral interviewing an invaluable tool in your hiring arsenal.

  1. Craft Industry-Specific Questions: Don't just throw out generic questions. Tailor them to your industry's specific needs to ensure you're pinpointing candidates with the right competencies. Questions should drill down into candidates' experiences, focusing on what really matters in your industry.

  2. Implement the STAR Method: Use the STAR method as your blueprint. Have candidates detail the situation or task, their actions, and the results. This structured approach streamlines your assessment and gets you the concrete answers you need.

  3. Enforce Consistency: Level the playing field. Stick to the same set of questions for every candidate in a particular role. This strategy eliminates bias and ensures a fair assessment across the board.

  4. Focus on Training and Feedback: Don't just wing it – train your team. Educate them on the nuts and bolts of behavioral interviewing and regularly review their technique. This commitment to continuous improvement will sharpen your interviewing edge, making your process increasingly effective.

Behavioral interviewing is a powerful tool that can streamline your hiring process and lead to more successful placements in your company.

Behavioral Interview Sample Questions

Now that you’re ready to dive into behavioral interviewing, let’s equip you with some practical examples and top questions to ask during these interviews. We tapped our team of expert recruiters who’ve conducted thousands of interviews for their advice on the best questions to ask when conducting a behavioral interview.

Here’s what they suggest asking candidates in your next interview:

Questions About Problem Solving:

Behavioral interview questions are particularly effective in gauging a candidate's problem-solving abilities, especially in specialized fields like power generation, energy, and renewable energy. These questions should aim to uncover not only the candidate’s technical expertise but also their approach to challenges, adaptability, and innovative thinking:

  1. Technical Problem-Solving: "Tell us about a specific technical problem you encountered in your previous role as an instrument technician. How did you approach it, and what innovative solutions did you apply to overcome it?"

  2. Team Collaboration: "Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a team to solve a complex problem quickly. How did you contribute and what was the outcome?"

  3. Adaptability in Crisis: "Share an experience where you had to adapt quickly to a significant change or crisis in a project. How did you manage the situation and what was the result?"

  4. Project Prioritization: "Describe a situation where you had limited resources (like time, budget, or manpower) in a project. How did you prioritize and solve the problem?"

  5. Risk Management: "Tell us about a time when you identified a potential risk in a turnaround project. How did you assess and manage the risk?"

  6. Client-Focused Problem-Solving: "Have you ever encountered a problem that directly affected a client? How did you handle the situation to ensure client satisfaction?"

  7. Learning from Failure: "Discuss a time when you attempted to solve a problem but did not succeed. What did you learn from this experience, and how have you applied this learning in your later work?"

Remember, you want to ask questions that encourage your candidates to share specific experiences that demonstrate their problem-solving skills, adaptability, and lessons learned from work. When preparing for an interview, consider the common obstacles your current employees face and ask questions that get to the root cause of the issue.

For example, if your plant continually struggles to complete a turnaround or shutdown on time or budget, ask candidates about their experience managing tight resources in previous roles. This way, you know right away if a candidate is qualified for your open role.

Questions Focusing on Teamwork or Collaboration

Obviously, whoever you hire to fill your open role will have to work with others in some capacity. Even if they’re the only member of their department or team, they’ll have to collaborate with other employees. Finding the right team player, who’s not only technically qualified but also a culture fit for your organization can be daunting.

Thankfully, our team has crafted a few sample questions that dig into how candidates approach teamwork and collaboration:

  1. Team Integration: "Can you describe a situation where you had to integrate into an established team in? How did you approach this, and what steps did you take to become a productive team member?"

  2. Conflict Resolution: "Tell us about a time when you faced a conflict within. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?"

  3. Leadership in a Team Setting: "Can you provide an example of when you had to take the lead on a project within a team whether expected or unexpected? What was the situation and how did you ensure a smooth transition, team alignment and success?"

  4. Feedback within a Team: "Share an experience where you had to give or receive constructive feedback in a team. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?"

Questions to Understand a Candidate’s Communication Skills

Clear communication is essential. Picture this:

Imagine a scenario where a project manager is leading a turnaround at a large power plant. The project involves critical maintenance and upgrades necessary to enhance the plant's efficiency and safety. The team consists of diverse professionals: engineers, safety inspectors, technicians, and contractors, each with their own specialized roles.

In this case, clear and effective communication is key in sharing information about any potential equipment failures, coordinating a rapid and safe response to any accidents, and maintaining team morale. Your project manager, a single individual, must masterfully communicate procedures, updates, and status changes to all departments. There’s no room for error.

When the stakes are this high, make sure you ask questions that uncover your candidate’s communication skills and style:

  1. Team Communication: "Describe a scenario in the energy sector where effective communication within the team was crucial. How did you contribute to this and what was the result?”

  2. Effective Communication in Challenging Situations: "Can you describe a situation where you had to communicate a complex issue in the energy sector to a team or client who was new to the industry? How did you ensure that your message was understood clearly?"

  3. Interdepartmental Communication: "Describe your experience with cross-departmental communication in a previous role. How did you ensure consistent and effective dialogue across different teams or departments?"

  4. Communication in Crisis Management: "Share an instance where you had to communicate during a crisis or emergency situation in the energy industry. How did this differ from standard communication?”

Leadership Focused Behavioral Interview Questions

It goes without saying that team leaders have a tremendous impact on their team and the company at large. Leaders influence company procedure and operational rhythm, culture, standards, and much, much more.

Hiring a leader is no easy feat. Here's a concise list of behavioral interview questions designed to uncover a candidate's leadership qualities:

  1. Demonstrating Leadership in a Crisis: "Tell us about a time when you had to take charge during a crisis or safety incident. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?"

  2. Developing Team Members: "Share an instance where you helped develop the skills or careers of your team members. What approach did you take?"

  3. Vision and Strategy Implementation: "Provide an example of how you developed and implemented a strategic vision. What was your process? What was the impact?"

  4. Adapting Leadership Style: "In your experience, how have you adapted your leadership style to different situations or team needs?"

  5. Evaluating and Improving Team Performance: "Tell us about a time when you had to evaluate your team's performance. How did you approach this when a team member is exceeding expectations? How do you approach it when they’re falling short?"

These questions are just a starting point, and we encourage you to customize them to suit your industry’s specific demands and the role you’re hiring for.

Let Per Se Handle Your Interviews

Hopefully, the insights and sample questions our team laid out for you guide you through your future behavioral interviews with ease. With these tools, you can uncover the right candidates for your organization.

Behavioral interviewing is the unspoken gift to the hiring world as it reduces the guessing game in whether or not a candidate is the perfect fit for a role.

Looking to fill a role? Look no further. Our industry-specific talent pools, full of qualified candidates ready to get to work, allow you to hire better, hire faster, and hire smarter. Let’s connect and build a workforce solution fit for your needs.