Recruitment is one of the most difficult processes in any organization. It not only involves figuring out whether or not a candidate possesses the right skill-set for the job but also if he or she has the right kind of attitude. Thus, technical or traditional questions that test knowledge, are as important as behavioral based questions. That is where behavioral interview comes into being. It is a way to understand how well a present candidate will fit in as a prospective employee, on the basis of past and present attitude and behavior.

In this guide, we will not only talk about behavioral interviews, but also the pros and cons of it, the STAR method of conducting interviews and assessing behaviors, and many STAR method examples in the form of questions.

What is behavioral interview?

Behavioral based interviewing refers to a method wherein the interviewer delves into the past of the candidate to figure out whether or not he or she will sit well with the future of the organization. Behavioral interview includes situation-based questions and an assessment of how the candidate handled it in the past. These interviews entail specific instances from the past, and then the recruiter carefully curates questions on the basis of real-life scenarios and assesses the candidate’s capabilities as a prospective employee.

Behavioral based interviewing helps the recruiter determine the competencies as opposed to just the traditional interviewing technique which only determines the skills required for a job.

Behavioral vs traditional interviews

The main difference between behavioral and traditional interviews is the predictability factor. Traditional questions are mostly so done and dusted that the employees more or less have the answers prepared in advance, and they don’t add much value to the interview except for some information which can already be gauged via some generic background search.

If statistics are to be believed, then traditional interviews are around 10% predictive, whereas behavioral based interviewing is 55% predictive. That’s nearly 45% of more predictability and success rate.

Currently, the best method of conducting a behavioral interview is via a STAR interview method.

What is the STAR method of conducting a behavioral interview?

STAR method is a straightforward way of structuring a response to behavioral interview questions. While this is more important for a candidate, it is imperative that the interviewers should also know about it so they can evaluate the answers accordingly.

STAR interview questions are basically prepared as per a format that helps the interviewer create questions that focus on the candidate’s ability to deal with real-life situations, basis past situations. STAR interview method is a technique that helps you create your own question arc while preparing an interview for a candidate.

behavioral interview star

Here’s how STAR interview method works:

  • Situation: This is where you set the context for a story which will form the base for the rest of the interview.
  • Task: Here’s where you will be asking the candidate as to what role he or she played in the aforementioned situation.
  • Action: What was the action undertaken by the candidate, in sync with his or her role in the given situation.
  • Result: What was the result of their actions in the given situation?

Together, these four components create the STAR interview method, which is a way of letting the candidate share an anecdote from his or her professional life. This would further enable the interviewer to understand how compliant the candidate is with respect to the vision and mission of the organization and also with respect to the team for which he or she is being hired.

The next question that arises is how to master the STAR interview method to prepare behavioral questions. The STAR method is not only a good technique for the interviewers to create questions but also for the candidates to structure their responses around it. Here’s how as interviewers, you can use the STAR interview technique to create behavioral questions:

  • Study the job description and the respective candidate’s profile thoroughly, and then chart out a few real-life situations that you think a person of that experience, in that position and situation, would have experienced. These are the situations on the basis of which you will base your questions.
  • While the situations can be the same for the job description, the individual candidates differ when it comes to responding to those. That’s the aim of your questions. Depending upon each candidate’s profile, alter the questionnaire and make it more personalized with respect to the candidate to get a more nuanced response, therein.
  • Again, gauge the level for which you are interviewing the candidate. Depending upon the experience that the designation requires, create questions that entail multitasking and pressure-like situations, so as to know how a candidate acts in such times. Also, ask about any team conflicts that the person has handled.
  • Focus on the results. Whatever questions you create, remember to ask the result of the candidate’s actions in a specific situation. The result may not be positive all the time, but it helps in analyzing whether or not the candidate is worthy of becoming a prospective employee.

The STAR interview technique enables you to assess the candidate accurately. Know how to apply it well in behavioral interview scenarios.

Behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions are curated after carefully studying the candidate’s background and the position for which they have applied. Then, depending upon where they lie in the organization’s hierarchy structure, they are interviewed. Following are some of the behavioral interview questions on the basis of designation:

Behavioral interview questions for managers or directors

  • What is the most successful business strategy that you created in your last position?
  • Was there any team building activity that you led? What was it, how did you do it, and what were the effects?
  • Was there any change that you introduced to the organization? What effects did that change bring about?
  • Did you hire anyone while being in your position? How did that resource turn out to be?
  • Name one risk that you think you took while being in your current position and how did it pay off, or not?
  • Have you been a part of any strategic planning process?
  • Did you ever disagree with your direct reporting manager? How did you put your disagreement across and what were the results?
  • Were you ever given feedback to improve? How did you act upon it and what were the immediate visible results?
  • Were you ever stuck in an awkward employee situation that threatened to jeopardize the team fabric? How did you deal with it?
  • Were there any times when you and your team did not see eye to eye on a situation? How did you manage to come to a consensus, as a senior and manager?

Behavioral interview questions for individual contributors who do not have to report directly

  • Was there ever a situation wherein you were required to collate information from multiple sources for a business project?
  • Did you ever call any colleague out for not contributing enough? How did they take it? What were the effects?
  • Did you at any point of time be in a position when you had multiple responsibilities but no one to guide? How did you deal with the situation?
  • Did you ever receive a strong criticism for your work? How did you react to the same?
  • Were there any last-minute deadlines that you had to deal with? What were the effects and feedback regarding the same?
  • Was there any problem for which you gave a solution in the past one year, and got lauded for your creativity and quick thinking?
  • Have you done any self-analysis and discovered any strengths and weaknesses that you may wish to elevate and depreciate, respectively?
  • How do you handle stress in the absence of any supervisor and the presence of multiple tasks for which only you are responsible? Cite any situation where you did so.
  • Have you ever taken the onus of solving a problem which was not yours to solve? How did you do it and what were the effects?

Behavioral interview questions for salespeople or people who are being hired to focus on new business

  • Cite 3 common problems that your customers have. Also, do tell me how do you solve those?
  • Has there been any particularly difficult sales call that you had to make in the past few years?
  • Have you created any new sales approach using your own mettle and research skills?
  • What impact did it have on the organization and your own growth?
  • Is there any particular organization sales that you remember being conducted solely because of your skills?
  • Have you ever been in a situation when you managed to sell your high-priced product when the customer was clearly inclined towards buying a low-priced one from the competitor?
  • Have you ever dealt with angry customers?
  • Was there any sales process where you thought silence would be better than words?

Behavioral interview questions in other cases

  • Have you ever applied your fact-finding skills to solve a problem?
  • Quote the latest example of any situation where you took the lead and showed initiative.
  • Have you ever worked end-to-end on an important document or deal?
  • Can you recall any time when you have served as an example to others?
  • What is the proudest professional moment in your life?
  • How do you tackle criticism and how do you act on bettering yourself?
  • How do you delegate projects?
  • Quote an incident when you had too many projects simultaneously yet you managed to time them effectively.
  • How do you set your goals and meet them?
  • Have you ever given a presentation in front of a group? What was it about and what was the feedback you received?
  • What personality traits do you think you get on well with? Why do you think you gel well with them?
  • Have you ever worked well professionally with a person you may not be on good personal terms with? How did you manage to do that?

It is to be noted that these STAR method interview questions or behavioral interview questions can be changed and curated as per the job for which the interview is being taken.

However, the best way to conduct a behavioral interview is by creating a mix of professional and behavioral based interview questions so that you get the right candidate; one that is good in conduct and skill both.

What is the best of conducting a behavioral interview?

It is not easy to assess the character of a person in one meeting. However, behavioral interview helps one assess, to some extent, how a person would react to certain situations if he or she becomes a prospective employee of the organization. Thus, apart from applying the right technique and crafting the right questions, it is also important to have the right kind of attitude while asking those questions. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Divide your questions into segments and explain each to the candidate before starting off. Maybe, take a 5-minute break where you just ease into the conversation. This will not only help loosen up the candidate but also establish a trust factor. Instead of rehearsed answers, you will get real answers.
  • Be very strategic in crafting your questions. Know the job description, the level of hierarchy for which you are interviewing, and also the candidate’s professional history. Combine these with the overall work environment and vision of your company. You have to create questions in a way that the candidate sits well with the organization’s vision, in the future. Asking the right questions will help you achieve that.
  • To ease your own process, be consistent with your questions. You can have the same questionnaire for all, with a few tweaks here and there. Thus, you will have a common parameter to judge all the candidates. Too many different questions will only encourage confusion and may lead to wrong judgements.
  • Try a scoring system for evaluation. Of course, do not put that in front of the candidate, but do it for yourself. Assign a value to your questions and then, at the end of all the interviews, compare the scores. While this is a macro parameter, it will at least give you a rough idea if the differences are too high.

Conducting behavioral interviews in an organized fashion is of utmost importance. Only then can you reap the benefits of it.

What are the benefits of a behavioral interview?

Behavioral interview questions or the STAR interview method helps to polish an interview process. While traditional interviews assess how good a candidate is with respect to the job, a STAR interview method or behavioral interview determines how a candidate will fit in the organization as a prospective employee. This is important to ensure the retention rate remains balanced.

Even the most talented individuals may not be team players or leaders. On the other hand, some may have a balance of both. Behavioral interview questions or STAR interview method helps in determining the same. Following are some of the benefits of including behavioral interview questions in your interview:

  • It helps in honing your hiring skills
  • Asking behavioral interview questions can ease the candidates into answering more technical questions later on
  • Real-life examples help establish the trust factor right at the start which otherwise takes some time to build
  • STAR interview method questions help determine the adaptability quotient of the candidate
  • These questions are simple and customizable, depending upon the job role and the candidate in question
  • STAR interview method questions help find out niche qualities such as communication abilities, leadership skills, intuition and integrity quotients, and more

STAR interview method questions help the interviewer in maximizing the value of the interview. These questions ensure that the flow of questions is more natural than stiff and make the candidates more comfortable, thus bringing to the fore their actual behavioral traits.

What are the challenges of a behavioral interview?

The behavioral interview does not possess many challenges. However, the interviewer has to be careful while creating the interview questions. Behavioral based interviewing is only successful when the questions are curated after a careful study of the candidate in question and the job description. The interviewer cannot have one template fitting all the candidates. Even if there is one job, the questions have to be tweaked as per the candidate.

Another challenge that the interviewer should keep in mind is that of going overboard with STAR method questions. Remember that behavior based interviewing is a part of the interview and not the entire interview in itself. You have to judge the conduct as well as the skill-set. Thus, while it may be challenging, it is important to create a good mix of questions.

Do you need to implement the STAR interview method?

Frankly, yes. STAR interview method or behavioral interview questions are a great way of assessing how well the candidate would sync with the organization. It also helps determine how the person would perform under pressure and other relevant skills that can only be gauged once the person is a part of the organization.

Traditional, skill-testing interviews miss out on these questions. Thus, it is important that you include a chunk of customized STAR interview method questions in the interview, to find the best employee for your organization.

Have you ever implemented the STAR interview method? Do connect with us on @HarmonizeHQ and let us know.

Also read: Ultimate guide to job offer letter with templates, examples and tips