How to Develop Behavioral Interviewing Questions

Behavioral interviewing questions are designed to gain insight into an applicant's qualities and characteristics as evidenced by past behaviors. Whereas in a traditional interview the interviewer might pose hypothetical questions to the applicant, in behavioral interviews, the questions target the candidate's real life experiences. Behavioral interview questions explore how a person has reacted in the past to situations and demands in a variety of environments, including work, school and community activities. Here are a few strategies for developing behavioral interviewing questions.

1. Determine the necessary qualities and characteristics required for the job. When interviewing a candidate for a management position, leadership strengths will be important. If hiring for a highly competitive research position, determination, persistence and intellectual curiosity may be important. Create a list of the required qualities.
2. Identify situations that highlight the application of the necessary qualities. For example, if you need a team leader who can address conflict quickly and constructively, ask the applicant to describe an instance in which conflict arose between 2 team members and the approach used to resolve the situation.
3. Gauge strengths and weaknesses. To gain insights about a candidate's strengths and weaknesses, ask questions that reveal the presence or absence of necessary qualities. For example, if the position requires a commitment to meeting project deadlines, you might say, "Describe a time when you missed a project deadline and the repercussions of the delay." The candidate's answer may reveal a commitment to keeping deadlines, a tendency to blame delays on others or other relevant characteristics.
4. Observe a commitment to personal and professional growth. Answers to behavioral interviewing questions can reveal personal qualities, such as self-awareness, humility and loyalty. Word questions to allow the interviewee to feel comfortable enough to admit mistakes and elaborate on lessons learned from life experiences. For example, you might say, "We all have our bad days. Tell me about a work situation in which you weren't at your best and the lessons learned from the experience."
5. Pose open-ended questions. Questions should be worded to allow the interviewee to describe a situation, the steps taken, and the thoughts and feelings experienced before, during and after the process. For example, instead of asking, "Have you experienced conflicts in the workplace?" phrase the question to invite a more revealing answer: "Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict with a work colleague and the eventual outcome."
6. Ask clear and succinct behavioral questions. Posing lengthy and complicated questions may cause confusion for an already anxious candidate. For example, if interested in how a candidate handles stress, you wouldn't discuss the impact of stress on the human body or the general prevalence of it in the workforce. A clear question would cut to the core issue: "Describe your experience with a highly stressful situation in the workplace and how you dealt with it."
7. Choose your words carefully. Write out the questions ahead of time so that you are not adding unnecessary language or omitting important words during the interview.
8. Request the input of your colleagues and supervisor. Ask them to review your list of behavioral interviewing questions to ensure that your intent for asking the questions is coming across clearly.





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