Discovering how a candidate has reacted in the past in different situations, can be very useful to help predict how they might behave in the future.
You are looking for factual, evidence-based answers, it is not enough for the candidate to just agree with the importance of topics being asked about!
Are they a solution generator?
“Tell me about an idea you came up with in a previous role. What was the problem you were trying to fix, and what was the outcome?”
“Talk me through a time when something went wrong that you were working on, how did you resolve the situation?”
Do you want to hire someone who is great at generating, or identifying issues for someone else to deal with, or someone who is able to think through the problem, drawing on previous skills and experiences to suggest or implement solutions. If they also reference knowing when to get others involved, this is a good sign of being a team player, recognising they aren’t working in isolation and should be able to identify who can help, and be able to effectively communicate with others.
How does the interview cope under pressure or with a heavy workload?
“Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline. What steps did you take to resolve this?”
“How do you manage conflicting deadlines? How do you prioritise?
You are not looking to not hire someone because they have missed deadlines in the past, but you want to understand if this is a regular or occasional occurrence. It is more important to understand how they react in these situations (do they have major organisational issues!), and what they may need to help them achieve in the future. A star future hire will demonstrate commitment to go the extra mile, balanced with good organisational skills and ability to switch off at the end of the day so that they are not going to burn out in a short space of time. Conversely someone who would have no hesitation in walking away, on time every night, may not have the sufficient drive and commitment your vacancy may require at peak points.
You can extend this further for leadership roles, by asking questions about how they set goals for team members, and how they monitored these/resolved missed deadlines.
Is the interviewee a team player?
“Talk me through a project you completed as part of a team. What part did you play, what challenges did you face, what was the outcome?”
“Tell me about a time when you had to work with a particularly difficult team member, how did you handle this and what was the outcome?”
This should evidence their enthusiasm for working as part of a team, how they handle challenges or working with difficult individuals. A warning sign would be blaming others for project failures, not being willing to take shared responsibility, showing little evidence of ideas they had to resolve issues.
What is their communication style?
“Tell me about a time when you had to handle a stakeholder/customer/client who was unhappy with your service. What steps did you take?”
“Tell me about a time you had to get colleagues onboard with a project you were working on, even if they weren’t going to directly benefit from this.“
This is a great opportunity for the candidate to showcase influencing and interpersonal skills, attributes that will are typically fundamental in ensuring their success with a new company. If you are interviewing for a leadership role, you can extend this further by asking about their delegation skills, challenges faced, how they overcame, how they got the best out of a team/dealt with underperforming team members etc.
Are they adaptable and willing to learn?
“Tell me about a time when you’ve gone above and beyond in a previous role.”
“Talk me through a situation when you had to adjust to the way someone else worked.”
Candidates who demonstrate the ability to be flexible, to learn (and from others) and adapt will be valuable additions to your team, complimenting existing staff.
Prepare specific competencies you want to assess in the interview. Remember you will only have so much time so you need to identify what is most important to succeed in a particular role. You may need to split this out over a couple of stages to allow time to dig deeper into certain questions, to also allow the candidate to perform at their best (can be more challenging if facing a two-hour interrogation!)