Look Beyond a Resume to Find the Best Employees

Written by
Saleha Walsh

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A lot of job applicants can make themselves look good on paper, and a lot of employers have hired a person who had all the right experience, but didn’t perform up to their expectations. By incorporating behavioral interview questions into candidate interviews, hiring managers are better able to gauge how a candidate will respond in certain situations and dig deeper into what really makes that candidate tick.

There are no right or wrong answers

Research has shown that past experience is the best predictor of future job performance and it is often behavior and intangibles that differentiate superstars from regular employees. High performers have that “it” that can be difficult to articulate. Behavioral interview questions are a tool that allows you to see who stands out among the applicants based on how they choose their answers. These questions require specific examples. They are structured and job-focused; objective, systematic and unbiased and they can provide invaluable insight on a candidate’s work ethic, style and cultural fit for your company and the job they are interviewing for. The questions don’t have right or wrong answers, but they can give you information on a candidate’s ability to handle stress, as well as his or her adaptability and resilience. These questions can also illuminate the candidate’s approach to teamwork, leadership, negotiating skills and attention to detail, among other things.

Candidates should be able to relate outcomes in detail, especially ways in which they have handled difficult situations. Ask if they have received feedback regarding these situations from customers, colleagues or managers about what they did well or ways they could have improved their response. Observe what excites them and listen carefully.

Ask questions specific to the position

Use your questions to drill down on the various skills you care about for this position, tailoring questions based on the responsibilities of the job and your company culture.

For example, you could ask a candidate to describe a time s/he had to communicate technical information to someone not trained in his/her area of expertise. Then follow up with more questions like, “Were you successful?” “How do you know?” “What would you do differently if you found yourself in that position today?” The answers will shape your follow-up questions.

Here are some sample questions that can be adapted for your use:

•Organization/problem-solving: “Tell me about a time when you had several competing deadlines. How did you decide what gets done first? Did everything get done? Was it all done when expected?

•Leadership/motivation: “How do you set goals for your team/department and win support for and commitment to them?”

•Reliability: “Can you talk about a time you made an error at work? How did you resolve it? What did you learn from this situation?”

•Standards: “Describe a time when you were not satisfied with your work performance.”

Here are some tips:

•Ask open-ended questions that require the applicant to describe explicit situations and/or past challenges. Seek specific examples by starting questions with “Describe a time when…” or “Tell me about…” and then ask follow-up questions to gain a clearer, detailed picture of their past work experience. People generally love to talk about themselves so listen, you’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn!

•You are listening for ways their past actions and thought process fit into your company’s needs, or don’t.

•Questions for managers are different than those for customer service representatives; those for bookkeepers are different from IT support professionals. Customize your questions based on the position and what matters for that position.

We can help.

Insource’s HR consultants are professionals who can review your hiring practices and then help you develop and implement recruiting and hiring strategies. We learn about your business to responsibly and positively represent it to candidates. We talk with you about the position(s) you need to fill now and may need to fill in the future, taking into account your budget, projected and desired growth and what others in your industry are doing. And when it’s time to interview, we ask candidates behavioral interview questions to help gauge future performance within the context of the your company’s needs and culture.

Our unique business model allows us to work with you on an as-needed basis when issues like this arise, saving you and your staff valuable time and money and helping you manage business risks. For more information, please contact Saleha Walsh, Director of the Human Resource Consulting Practice at 781-374-5103 or Sharon Stone, Insource’s Director of Business Development at 781-374-5109.