What is behavioural interviewing? It is a fairly recent phenomenon but is quickly catching on certainly within multinational companies and more indigenous companies are beginning to use same.  In simple terms, it is based on the theory that past behaviour is a strong predictor of future behaviour. Basically, an interviewer asks specific questions seeking information about a candidate’s skills, character and performance, based on examples of past behaviour.  This form of interviewing can lead to successful hiring at every job level, by identifying the behavioural competencies that can lead to success in an organization’s culture.  According to Michelle Murphy Regional Manager of Collins McNicholas Galway, behavioural interviewing can be very beneficial to an organisation.

“By using this form of assessment, and creating pre-interview screening methodologies, a company can save time and costs in the long-term by hiring the right person for your organisation. Behavioural interviewing is becoming more popular than asking routine standard questions getting the candidate to discuss work realities rather than notions or suppositions.”

The benefits of undertaking a behavioural style interview include:

  • Eliminates any misunderstanding about previous experiences as it allows the candidate to describe in detail their past performance and situation in detail.
  • Reduces the possibility of personal impressions and therefore allows the candidate to highlight good performance regardless of their projected image.
  • Improves the quality of the interview by allowing the candidate to provide real-life examples of what they have done, not what they would do.

Types of interview questions

The hiring managers will agree on a set of questions related to the position advertised.  The selection criterion from the job description provides a good basis for creating interview questions and as a guide to the interviewer to enable them to gauge whether the candidate meets the criteria. By using the detail from the selection criteria several different types of questions can be used to provide variety and to measure an interviewee’s ability to respond to different forms of questions, including the following:

  • Behaviour-based questions. These take the format of “Tell me about a situation…” or “Describe an event where…” The questions assess the applicant’s actual skills or aptitudes through real experiences.
  • Explanatory questions. These usually take the format of “Why would you …” or “How would you explain …”
  • Open-ended questions. This type of question asks why, how, explains etc., and encourages the candidate to expand on a question by providing a detailed response. Ideally, these should be used in the majority of interviews.
  • Closed questions. These questions will only educe a yes or no answer from the candidate and are only useful in specific situations i.e. – Are you able to start work on Monday?
  • Situational questions. These questions take the form of “What would you do if …” or “What could happen if …” These questions test the candidate’s ability to handle future situations based on past learning and experience.

Top 10 questions

Question Skills Assessed
1.     Tell me about a time when you’ve received great feedback from a customer – and why? Customer Focus
2.     Tell me about the greatest challenge you’ve experienced when communicating complex information.     What was the situation, what approach did you take and what was the result? Communication
3.     Describe a situation where you found it difficult to persuade others to your point of view. Influencing or Persuading Others
4.     Tell me about a particular project or idea you’ve initiated; and what the end result was. Initiative
5.     Tell me about the most difficult person you have worked with, what did you do about it and what was the outcome? Interpersonal and Team Skills
6.     Give me an example of a time where you coached a direct report to significantly improve performance. What approach did you take and what was the result? People Management
7.     Tell me about a time when your work or an idea you had was criticised. Personal Adaptability, Energy and Resilience
8.     What are the two most significant accomplishments in your career so far and why? Self-Motivation, Self-Knowledge
9.     Describe a complicated problem you have had to deal with. How did you tackle it and what was the outcome? Problem Solving
10.  What has been one of the most difficult documents you have written? Why was it difficult? Written Communication

Question styles to avoid:

  • Leading questions: These questions tend to signify the expected answer and should be avoided since they are not likely to generate original thought on the candidate’s part.
  • Double Barrelled: These questions have two or more distinct parts, each requiring an answer. They lack clarity and preparation and can confuse the applicant. If used, they should be designed so each part can be answered.

Though it requires an investment of time, effort, and money, a well-designed structured behavioural-interviewing program can help managers more accurately predict a candidate’s potential for success on the job. Such a program can also reduce potential legal challenges to the interviewing process.

For more information on Interviews, please visit collinsmcnicholas.ie/jobseekers/interview-advice/

Michelle Murphy

Director & Regional Manager

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services