Here’s the problem:
You get into an interview and the same common interview questions are asked. The candidate has answered these a million times before. The interviewer has asked the same questions and heard the same answers a million times before.
It’s a waste of everyone’s time!
I think there is a better way. It’s called: Behavioral Interviewing.
What are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Behavioral interview questions are questions designed to reveal the true nature of a candidate’s personality, motivations, and values. They typically ask the candidate to present a situation, the actions taken to overcome the situation, and the result of the actions. Behavioral interview questions are used so both the candidate and interviewer have a more productive interaction.
Whether you are an interviewer looking for better questions or a candidate who wants to prepare for great questions, these are my favorite behavioral interview questions:
- What’s something that you used to believe but no longer believe?
- Who were the competitors at the last company you worked for, and how did your company differentiate itself?
- Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
- If I called your current boss, what would they say about you?
- Are you working on anything exciting outside of work?
- You have two teleportation devices. Where do you place them and why?
- Wait… do you remember all of our names?
- If you didn’t have to work, why would you come into the office?
- Describe the last significant conflict you had at work and how you handled it?
- Is there something I didn’t ask that I should have asked you?
This list comes from real hiring managers, CEOs, and experts from leading companies such as Evernote, Nature Box, and Curology. There are also questions we have created from our research at the Science of People.
I have learned the right interview questions unlock necessary information to make sure you truly are getting to know someone’s behavior. This is the only way to know if a hire will be good for your company—and if, as a candidate, the company will be a good fit for you.
What’s something that you used to believe but no longer believe?
This is one of my favorite behavioral interview questions because it explores someone’s ability to change and be open minded. One of the hardest parts about starting a new job is the learning curve—new ways of doing things, new culture, new relationships. And sometimes those new ways are going to challenge someone’s old ways. This interview question unlocks a few key behaviors:
- Can they easily recall a time they have changed their mind? If not, you might have someone who is very stuck in their ways.
- What was the magnitude of the change? If someone says, “I used to believe in the Easter Bunny and no longer do,” that shows a lack of seriousness. However, if someone answers, “I used to believe charisma and leadership were genetic, but now I believe they can be learned, and leadership is a skill I have been working on.” Wow! Winner!
Who were the competitors at the last company you worked for, and how did your company differentiate itself?
This one comes from Ian Siegel, co-founder and CEO of ZipRecruiter. If anyone is an expert at hiring and interviewing, it is Ian and the team at ZipRecruiter.
“I want to determine if the candidate had a strategic understanding of the business. Surprisingly, few candidates can answer this question. I am especially impressed by candidates who have a grasp of existing competitors, potential competitors, and what a disruptive, new market entrant could do.”—Ian Siegel
I love this question as a behavioral interview question because it taps into a way of thinking. Every great employee should know three basic things about their company:
- the company’s mission
- the company’s goals
- the company’s competitors
When an employee is aware of all three—even if it doesn’t directly tie into their job—it shows they are thinking whole-mindedly about why they do what they do.
Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
This interview question from Chris O’Neill, CEO of Evernote, is a great way to gauge someone’s outlook and perspective. Here’s his insider interview tip:
“The answers are very revealing. ‘Best day’ answers demonstrate what makes that person tick, what motivates them. ‘Worst day’ answers tell whether a person is a team player—if their response focuses on what went wrong, without taking any ownership, there is a good chance they won’t thrive in a collaborative environment.”—Chris O’Neill
I would recommend taking this a step further and thinking about what your ideal answer to this question is as an interviewer. If you were to ask your top performers this behavioral interview question, how would they answer? What examples would they give?
If you find a candidate who has similar answers to your top performers—they are a winner!
If I called your current boss, what would they say about you?
Fair warning: This interview question will likely get your candidate’s blood pumping a bit. ANYTIME you ask about a previous boss, it is a bit nerve wracking. That doesn’t mean it’s not a useful question. Here’s why you should ask it in an interview (or prepare to have an answer):
- How does someone work under pressure? This is a tough question EVEN if their boss loved them. It’s hard to talk about yourself positively or negatively.
- How does someone talk about themself? Are they a boaster, a downer, humble, smooth talking? How do they respond?
- How does someone talk about their past boss? This is an important one. You want to know how someone has processed a previous relationship. Do they hold grudges? Resentment? Praise?
Chris M. Williams, CEO of pocket.watch asks this question for one big reason:
“Interviewees tend to be very honest in their response because they anticipate that there’s an actual possibility I’ll make that call.”—Chris M. Williams
Only ask this question only if you actually are willing to call their previous boss—especially if you hear something that piques your interest—and you want to confirm it.
Are you working on anything exciting outside of work?
It is important to get a sense of someone’s life outside of work—not because this is necessarily relevant to their work experience, but because it can tell you how well someone would fit into your company’s culture. And you never know what interesting thing you might find out from this behavioral question! Their answers could potentially tell you a lot:
- If they can’t think of anything. It could indicate poor work/life balance. If someone is obsessed with work, they might not have time for anything else. Does that work for you culturally?
- If they say something generic. This could be a lack of creativity, but it also could be nerves. How important is well roundedness to your company? How important is easy small talk and nerves-free banter?
- If they have a fascinating or surprising answer. Great! You might get a sneak peek into who they really are. How does that fit with your company?
Their comfort level with this question also will tell you a lot about how this candidate might socialize with colleagues, which is important for work-environment chemistry.
You have two teleportation devices. Where do you place them and why?
This gem of an interview question (an uncommon one at that!) comes from David Lortscher, founder and CEO of Curology. Here’s why he loves this question:
“Questions that are open ended test for critical thinking, instead of pure knowledge. One candidate told us they’d place one device in their home and one on the moon because they want to explore space and make new discoveries. That may translate into someone who displays expansive thinking, is curious, and is hungry to learn.”—David Lortscher
This question might feel irrelevant or silly—and it is a little “out of the box.” But that’s a good thing! How does your candidate do when put on the spot? How creative can they be? What does their answer tell you about their priorities? This is also a great opportunity to lighten the mood in an interview: give your own answer and have a laugh.
Wait… do you remember all of our names?
Oh man, this idea comes from Gil Addo of RubiconMD, and it is a really interesting test of behavior in an interview. Here’s what he advises:
“We like to have a little fun with our sales candidates, while testing their ability to connect with people. They act like the interview is done, then call them back in and have them go over everyone they met, including their names and what they talked about. We end by asking directly, ‘Did you get the job?’ It’s a great way to gauge their self-confidence and see if they can hold their own from start to finish in an unpredictable situation.”—Gil Addo
This is intense, but the skills of remembering names, having self-confidence, and quickly memorizing people’s details are essential for sales roles. Why not test those abilities right in the interview room?
If you didn’t have to work, why would you come into the office?
This question comes from Gautam Gupta, co-founder and CEO of NatureBox. This is the perfect behavioral interview question because it looks directly at motivations and interest. You can gauge someone’s “why” very quickly—do they work for the money, the status, the appreciation?
In my book Captivate, I present research that argues each of us has a primary value.
Primary Value: The underlying motivation that drives a person’s decisions, actions, and desires.
It’s incredibly important to know this about potential employees—it explains their behavior and helps you keep them motivated. Here’s what Gupta has to say:
“I try to understand the person’s motivations and interests. I also try to understand where they want to take their career and how NatureBox fits within that path. Lastly, I’m looking to gauge their intellectual curiosity.”—Gautam Gupta
Again, think of your ideal answer to this question. What do you hope will drive your potential employees?
Describe the last significant conflict you had at work and how you handled it?
No one likes conflict. But it happens. How will your candidate deal with it? History is your greatest help. This question will tell you a little bit about how they view conflict and how they might handle it. You are also looking for an honest, specific answer. Watch out for any red flags, such as obvious or potential lies.
This question comes from Kent Porter, founder and CEO of Porter Leadership Development. Here’s why he likes it and why you should use it too!
“Savvy hiring authorities respond well when I say, ‘We hire them for what they know, we fire them for who they are.’ The question now is how do we determine who they are? Questions like this help to discern who a candidate is.”—Kent Porter
Be prepared to ask follow-up questions—get details, use specifics. The more you know about how they handled the past, the more you will know about how they might handle the future.
Is there something I didn’t ask that I should have asked you?
I like to give candidates an opportunity to showcase a special talent, need, or request. If your interview is too carefully choreographed, you will not give a candidate sufficient space to share something important. This is a chance for them to shine—and they should take it!
If they say that everything was covered, you might wonder how prepared they were or if they want to go above and beyond. If they overshare here, that could tell you something as well.
Facebook Behavioral Interview Questions
A large part of the world uses Facebook—every month, there are over 2.8 billion users. And with incredible employee benefits, high salaries, and an outstanding reputation, Facebook has no shortage of willing employee candidates. Here are the behavioral interview questions you might ask or have to answer at Facebook.
- What would you say are Facebook’s biggest challenges in the upcoming years?
- Facebook has restrictions for users under the age of 13. How would you go about identifying users younger than 13?
- How would you improve Facebook notifications if you could make any changes you wanted?
- If you were given the opportunity to talk to Mark Zuckerberg for 10 minutes, what would you ask? And why?
- Describe the use of hashtags on Facebook, as well as how they can be abused.
- What were your first impressions when you first started using Facebook, and why did you stick with it?
- Why do you want to work for Facebook?
- What is your most favorite feature about Facebook and why?
- What do you think Facebook’s biggest weakness is?
Consulting Behavioral Interview Questions
If you’re dealing with the likes of McKinsey or Deloitte, then you know how serious consulting firms can be. Consulting behavioral interview questions, also known as consulting fit questions, are designed to test a candidate’s expertise in a field. Here are the top behavioral questions:
- What do you think makes a good consultant in this industry?
- Describe how you conduct market sizing.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with multiple clients at the same time. How did you manage this situation?
- Tell me about a time when you used data to solve a problem.
- Describe a time where you offered a piece of consulting advice, and it was a success.
- Describe a time where you offered a piece of consulting advice, and it was a failure.
- What do you think it takes to become a great management consultant?
- Please describe a major struggle one company is facing now and what you would recommend to overcome the problem.
Engineering Behavioral Interview Questions
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 140,000 new engineering jobs will be available by 2026, with a median annual wage of $91,010. Engineers looking to work in this lucrative field might have the skills, but do they have the answers to these tough questions?
- Please describe a situation when a project or assignment didn’t go as planned. What happened, and what did you learn?
- How would you describe engineering to an audience of nonengineering people?
- What safety procedures or routines do you have to ensure that safety is always held as a high priority?
- What is your favorite type of work to do in the engineering field?
- What’s your most successful engineering project?
- Describe the project that you had the most trouble with. What would you have done differently?
- Have you ever noticed a dangerous workplace hazard? How did you handle it?
- What is your favorite thing about engineering? Least favorite?
HR Behavioral Interview Questions
Human resources can be seen as the glue of a company. They help support employees within a business, and their special skill set is to maximize employee performance. If you’re hiring for HR, you’re likely hiring for a well-established company. Try asking these questions in your next interview:
- Tell me about a recent experience you had handling a grievance issue.
- Have you ever had to discipline an employee for their behavior? Please describe this situation.
- What do you think are the most important traits for an HR professional?
- What would you do if you were assigned a task, but it was not in your job description or skill set?
- What would you do if you saw 2 employees arguing over the direction of a project?
- How would you react if your boss or manager constantly disrespected you?
- Imagine you were tasked with leading a team, but your team disagrees with your plan. How would you handle this situation?
- Describe a situation where confidential information was shared inappropriately within the organization.
Business Analyst Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers
Business analysts require soft skills and technical skills, which can be difficult to interview for. Ideally, you’ll want a candidate who has a blend of soft skills as well as the technical know-how to lead a company in the right direction, using hard facts and statistics. Here’s what to ask:
- Describe a time when you had to advise a client toward a different course of action.
- Tell me about a time you had to complete user research.
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to convince a decision maker to change course?
- Can you describe your experience with creating technical and functional documents?
- Tell me about a time that you provided exceptional customer service to a client.
- What tools do you typically use as a business analyst?
- Tell me about a suggestion you have made that has benefited an organization you’ve worked for?
- When creating a business plan, what are some critical points a business analyst must address?
- Tell me about a time you had to manage multiple deadlines in a short period of time?
- Can you tell me about your experience working directly with clients?
Project Manager Behavioral Interview Questions
According to research by KPMG, 70% of companies failed a project in the past 12 months. That’s where the project manager comes into play.
A project manager plans, executes, and closes individual projects. They may work with a team or give advice about planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing of individual projects. Here’s what to ask to find your star project manager:
- Describe a time when you led a team to overcome a challenge.
- How do you deal with an uncooperative team member?
- How do you plan your projects and establish deadlines?
- Have you ever had a team member who didn’t take responsibility for meeting deadlines? How did you handle it?
- Have you ever had to suddenly shift priorities in a project?
- How did you deal with the most stressful aspect of your last project you completed?
- Please describe a time where you demonstrated your leadership to your team.
- Please describe a time when you knew your manager or boss was wrong. How did you deal with it?
Customer Service Behavioral Interview Questions
According to a recent report by Microsoft, 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand. So if you’re looking to hire a customer service rep to represent your company, look no further to find these essential questions:
- Tell me about a time you dealt with an unhappy customer or client.
- When you disagreed with a coworker or boss, how did you handle it?
- Please describe a time where you acted as a mediator and handled a dispute.
- Have you ever had a problem with a product or service you were offering? How did you handle it?
- Please describe a time where you unsuccessfully dealt with a customer. What lessons did you learn?
- Please describe a time where you went above and beyond for a customer to resolve their issue.
- Have you ever dealt with a customer whom you had a miscommunication with?
- Is there anything you have done at your previous company to increase revenues, reduce costs, or save time?
Bottom Line: Every answer is a behavioral clue. Listen closely to your candidates’ answers AND watch how they answer.
Research shows that nonverbal cues are a minimum of sixty percent of our communication. Even if someone has a perfectly scripted answer, pay attention to their body language, tone of voice, their nervous gestures. Behavior is words, actions, and signals. Take them all in!
To your success,