If you’re getting ready to hire a new member of your team, congratulations! Whether you’re filling an existing position or creating a new one, deciding to expand your business is exciting.

And daunting. Our clients tell us again and again how challenging the hiring process can be. When you post a job opening, you might hear from lots of candidates … or a handful … or just one. No matter how many people apply, your goal is to hire the right one. (Reminder: The average cost of a single bad hire is nearly $15,000. Ouch.)

The ideal candidate has the skills and experience (or, at least, the potential!) to do the job well. Just as important? This person also shares the values that you and your company hold dear. How can you gauge if a candidate’s values align with yours? The answer is surprisingly simple. You need to reframe the all-important interview process by asking behavioral-based questions.  

What are behavioral-based questions?

Behavioral-based questions focus on how someone has navigated actual situations in previous jobs, not on how they might respond to a hypothetical challenge or problem. It’s an important distinction to make, and it requires a language shift. Instead of asking, “Tell me how you would handle …,” you say, “Tell me how you did handle ….” The difference is subtle, but it’s a powerful way to get insights into a prospective employee’s real values. 

The truth is, most people know how to give the “right” answer to questions about theoretical scenarios, even if those answers don’t always reflect their true values or beliefs. (This explains why someone who nailed the interview might still be a disaster on the job.) Since past performance is the best indicator of future performance, you need to learn everything you can about an applicant’s actions and decisions in previous roles before you make them an offer. 

Why behavioral-based questions are so powerful

Here’s an example of an effective behavioral-based question: “Tell me about a time when you exceeded a customer’s expectations.” Let’s figure out why such a straightforward question is loaded—in a good way. 

You learn about the job candidate’s values

This concrete question encourages applicants to provide specific examples of how they conduct themselves with customers. Since people-skills are paramount in virtually every business, any future employee must be willing to build and maintain positive relationships with everyone they interact with. 

During the interview, listen for specific examples that reflect past values-based behaviors and decisions. You might hear things like, “I always greet people with a smile,” or “I take the time to learn a customer’s name.” Don’t hesitate to probe further. Can the interviewee describe the specific instance or scenario they’re recalling? Can they talk about the thought process behind their actions? The more details, the better. Not only will you get insights about the person and their experience, but you may also weed out folks who may be, uh, exaggerating their past success. (When Elon Musk interviews prospective engineers, he tests their expertise by asking about the minutiae of their problem-solving process.) You can learn even more about your candidate by asking behavioral-based follow-up questions like, “Tell me about a time when you were able to anticipate a customer’s needs.”

The job candidate learns about your values

In this example, asking about exceeding customer expectations lets the applicant know that customer service is a core value for both you and your business. (If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be asking about it!) You convey your expectation that employees put people first. It’s important information for you to provide, and for the candidate to hear, as you both consider working together. By clearly laying out such values, you also help boost a candidate’s odds of succeeding in your workplace.   

All this from one behavioral-based question? You bet.

Now you know why we’re such fans of the approach. Remember, while this interview technique helps you separate the grain from the chaff if you have multiple candidates to choose from, it’s just as useful if you only have one or two options. The more you know about a job applicant’s values and how they align with yours, the more likely you are to build a lasting workplace-relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

Before you go

Get more tips and tricks for finding the right person for the job in this blog post.

Next steps

Need guidance about making great hires or keeping your current employees motivated and engaged? Shoot us an email, and we’ll assess what’s good, and what could be better, in your business.

Download the guide: Achieve Your Business Goals Through Your Culture and People Strategies.

Download the guide: Achieve Your Business Goals Through Your Culture and People Strategies.

The success of your business depends on your culture. Therefore, it is critical to establish an intentional culture in your business and build strategies that support and reinforce it. The purpose of this eGuide is to provide a foundation for your business culture and ensure your people strategies and practices are aligned with it. Grab the guide - it’s free!

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