Bad, Better, and Best Types of Behavioral Interview Questions

bigstock-Thumbs-up-and-down-buttons-8003791.jpgSome behavioral interview questions get asked so frequently, we forget to stop and think about whether they’re effective. However, as interview expert and talent consultant Jordan Burton reminded us in a recent webinar, some behavioral interview questions (questions intended to discern how a person has performed in the past to indicate how they’ll perform in the future) yield significantly better and more authentic information than others.

Speaking from almost 10 years of experience as a talent advisor to top companies and investors, here three types of behavioral interview questions that Jordan suggests go from bad, to better, and best.

Bad: Hypotheticals

“How would you deal with…”
Status: Avoid in general

Questions like, how would you deal with a cranky coworker, a tight deadline, etc., give the candidate license to fabricate reality, says Jordan. It allows them to spin a story that has no reflection on how they would actual handle something. In fact, it gives people who have done and continue to do things poorly an opportunity to talk about all the things that they know they should do.  

Better: Hunt and peck

“Tell me about a time when you…”
Status: Use sparingly

When you have a set of results and competencies expected for a role, it’s tempting to go directly after them with hunt-and-peck type questions. There can be some value in asking a candidate questions like when did you exhibit ‘X’ type of skill, or do something that looks like ‘X’ or ‘Y,’ says Jordan, but he cautions against placing too many filters on your questions. I.e. “Tell me about a time when you were on a multi-functional team and you had a tight deadline and an aggressive customer.” When you construct too many parameters, you force a candidate to rack their minds for a third-rate example, or worse, make something up altogether.

Best: Unaided chronological review

“Let’s walk through your time at X…”
Status: Use

Jordan’s preferred type of behavioral interview is a chronological review that walks through a candidate’s resume. Talk through the places they’ve worked, high points and low points, accomplishments, transitions from one role to the next, etc. Importantly, this type of interview lets the candidate tell you what’s important. If they’re the right candidate, you’re going to hear things that fulfill your the competencies and results you’re looking for  – all in an authentic way.

To read more about how to lead a chronological interview, and the exact questions Jordan likes to ask, download our latest ebook, Top Interview Tips: The Employer’s Essential Handbook (and jump to page 30!).