Should we ask behavioral questions and how to do it?
September 18, 2020

Nowadays, the timeline and fast tempo of recruitment projects require recruiters to use appropriate tools that allow them to prepare a shortlist of candidates as soon as possible. We need to be gentle but what to do with behavioral questions?

We are trying to balance between fast actions and certainty of taking the right decisions about candidates’ skills.

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

Properly asking behavioral questions can help you in:

  • giving certainty of collecting necessary information
  • eliminating the 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 the candidate to demonstrate knowledge and skills by giving specific examples
  • comparing candidates with each other by using the same interviewing structure.

Another advantage of the competency and behavioral 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 a place in daily tasks or while working with specific teams.

Planning first

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

Firstly, you have to create a candidate’s competency profile and plan an interview based on asking questions about these targeted competencies. 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 behavior is expected from future employees considering the current team members, company culture, projects, and customers.

It’s worth considering typical situations with which your candidate will have to deal with in professional circumstances. Create together with the Manager a competency profile – remember it should be included to some point in the job advertisement, so your applicants are aware of what is expected from them. Then, prepare behavioral questions. The way a candidate answers will confirm whether his or her reaction is the one that you desire.

How to build behavioral questions?

There are several methods of building and asking behavioral questions.

Are you familiar with the STAR technique? If not please pay attention to this point. It will help you to prepare and conduct a behavioral interview in an easy but also efficient way. Let’s start by 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 the JAVA Developers’ team. Apart from exceptional coding skills, we want this person to interact with other teammates in a 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 asking the 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 the leader’s role. It may correspond to steps that can be taken in the incomparable situation in your organization.

You can build similar questions using this technique concerning teamwork, 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 in your interviews and enjoy its benefits!

Senior HR Recruiter