What is behavioural question?

Nowadays, timeline and fast tempo of recruitment projects require from recruiters to use appropriate tools that allow them to prepare shortlist of candidates as soon as possible. We are trying to balance between fast actions and certainty of taking right decisions about candidates’ skills.

One of frequently used tool while interviewing candidates is asking behavioural/competence questions. As the name suggests, following the Oxford Languages Dictionary, it refers to “involving, relating to, or emphasizing behaviour” and searching for behavioural patterns. Isn’t it a thing we are looking for in HR? Patterns of behaviours that will show how candidate reacts in given situations.

Properly asking behaviour questions can help you in:

  • giving certainty of collecting necessary information
  • eliminating possibility of understatements of experience or facts presented by a candidate
  • controlling over the conversation and showing it is well-planned
  • minimalizing risk of prejudices and falling into stereotypes
  • allowing candidate to demonstrate knowledge and skills by giving specific examples
  • comparing candidates between each other by using the same interviewing structure.

Another advantage of the competency and behavioural interview is that the future employee refers to real and specific life-based examples. You can understand better who is your candidate, how he/she thinks and reacts in difficult or typical situations that can have place in daily tasks or while working with specific teams.

Planning first

There are no written rules how and when you should use competency/behavioural questions. I would say “use it whenever you have such possibility and time but do it smart”. There are no boundaries connected with seniority of the role or specific of the industry. Each of your candidates from junior’s role to top management should represent chosen competences connected with communication, teamwork, ability to adapt or solving problems.

Firstly, you have to create candidate’s competency profile and plan an interview based on asking questions about these targeted competences. Focus on the ones that are the most important within the role. Ask which set of skills is important for your Hiring Manager and what behaviour is expected from future employee considering the current team members, company culture, projects and customers. It’s worth to consider typical situations with which your candidate will have to deal with in professional circumstances. Create together with Manager a competency profile – remember it should be included to some point in job advertisement, so your applicants be aware what is expected from them. Then, prepare behavioural questions. The way candidate answers will confirm whether  his or her reaction is the one that you desire.

How to build a behavioural question?

There are several methods of building and asking behavioural questions.

Are you familiar with STAR technique? If not please pay attention to this point. It will help you to prepare and conduct behavioural interview in an easy but also efficient way. Let’s start from explaining what the STAR indicates to: S – for SITUATION, T – for TASK, A – for ACTION and final R- for RESULT.  Now look at the example.

Imagine you are looking for a Technical Leader of JAVA Developers’ team. Apart from exceptional coding skills we want this person to interact with other teammates in respectful and nonviolent way, so we are looking for good communication and conflict solving skills. The question you can ask can be: Could you please tell me about/recall a situation in which you had a problem with communication between your team members? How did you deal with it? What did you do? What was the result of your actions?

The Candidate should focus on one SITUATION, and describe it with details, later explain TASKS that had to be done to solve the situation, and describe ACTIONs taken to complete the task. Finally it is important not to forget about the RESULT of taken efforts. It is also worth to ask candidate what he/she would do differently while facing the same situation in the future. The answer will give a lot of useful information about the candidate’s reactions and way of “doing things” while performing tasks in leader’s role. It may correspond to steps that can be taken in comparable situation in your organization.

You can build similar questions using this technique concerning team work, speed of taking decisions, creativity, adaptability, problem solving skills, leadership or many others.

Don’t be afraid to use this method, try to implement it to your interviews and enjoy its benefits!

Karolina Morawiecka
HR Business Partner

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