Hiring Tip #5: Ask Behavior-description Interview Questions

You're hiring someone. You don't want to waste your time in the interview. So, if you want to ask good interview questions, ask people about how they've worked in the past. People repeat perceived successful behaviors (whether those behaviors were successful or not).

Behavior-description questions elicit the candidate's story of how they worked in the past. When people tell you a story about their work, they're likely to tell you how they worked, with whom, under which conditions, and so on. Ask questions like, “Tell me about that last project… Tell me about your position on the project…” If the person was a project manager, ask, “What techniques did you use to manage the project?” or “What was challenging about managing that project?” If the candidate is a technical person, ask “How did you make technical decisions on the project?” or “Was there a particularly challenging part of the design?” or “Tell me about a challenging problem you had to solve. What was the problem and how did you solve it?”

Behavior-description questions are open-ended, requiring more than a one-syllable answer. And, they help the candidate explain how they work. (Candidates may not know about these questions, and may need time to think of the answer, so don't forget to let the candidate think.)

Candidates, when you interview hiring managers and teams, you can ask, “Tell me about the last release. Did you go crazy during the release? When?” If they say they went crazy at the beginning of the project, then it's good bet this company that uses death march projects to succeed. If the hiring manager says, “At the end” and the technical staff say, “At the beginning”, there's a huge disconnect between the people who know what's happening on the project and the management team. Use these answers to guide your choice between jobs.

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