Behavioral questions are included in job interviews because they are thought to be accurate predictors of future job success. Rather than those with simple "yes" or "no" answers, behavioral questions tend to be more revealing of past performance than typical interview questions. Although there are perhaps a dozen types of behavioral questions, most fall into a handful of categories.
Leadership questions focus on strategies an employee has used to manage teams, as well as for hiring, developing, and motivating people. These questions may ask the interviewee to demonstrate skills such as influencing others and building coalitions.
Typical question: What is your leadership style and can you give me an example of how you have used it?
Sample answer: I lead by consensus, though I never hesitate to make a decision, if needed. We had bottlenecks in our plant. I asked the team to help me figure out how to increase throughput. We examined our processes to uncover efficiencies. Each small group had to provide support for an idea that was not their own. Together, we agreed on a solution that revised the workflow, yet still managed to hold costs steady.
Technical questions gauge the employee’s demonstrated ability to use subject matter expertise to solve business problems. Questions may focus on projects completed, issues handled and mistakes made.
Typical question: How have you stayed current on industry trends since graduation?
Sample answer: We live in an increasingly competitive, ever-evolving business environment. I want to make the best use of my development time, so I question colleagues and mentors to see how they stay informed. For the past two years, I have participated in two industry groups and read trade publications each week, as well as a business book each month. I set development goals each year that include networking and technical classes.
Adaptability questions focus on the employee’s ability to demonstrate flexibility during change. The emphasis is on shifting strategic direction and exercising decisiveness as the business requires.
Typical question: When have you had to switch courses midstream and what was the outcome?
Sample answer: While my team was gathering requirements for a new accounting system, we realized that one particular group of users had been overlooked. Although we could have continued with a workaround, we knew that our customers need more. I realized that team morale could drop because we had to backtrack. So, I rallied the team together and helped them understand that we were doing the right thing.
Problem solving focuses on the employee’s ability to break down the elements of a business problem, identify linkages and dependencies, and drive toward resolution.
Typical question: What is a problem you have solved and how did you do it?
Sample answer: Our facilities were stretched to capacity. Yet, we needed a way to increase revenues. Although we couldn’t add more members, I knew we could get each member to pay slightly more. We implemented a tiered pricing structure that provided improved services, yet held costs steady.
Pamela Fay has been a business writer for more than 15 years, with work appearing in publications such as "Legal Times." She has also worked in the consulting arena since the 1990s, specializing in leadership development, human resources, change management and diversity. Fay holds an M.B.A. from Dartmouth College.