Small business owners don’t usually have the time to conduct an extensive recruitment process to fill a key position, and recruitment firms can be pricey for a start-up in need of a creative thinker.

However, you don’t have to be a recruitment professional to find the best members for your business team. Behavioral interviews move from the standard “Where do you see yourself in five years?” to thought-provoking questions that reveal real world experience, professional competencies, and personal values.

Asking the right questions and listening carefully to the answers can help you find a great candidate to fill that key position.

Before the interview, review the résumé. That résumé interested you enough to schedule an interview. Why? What did you see in the candidate’s résumé that led to this meeting?

Focus on the candidate’s areas of expertise to develop a list of questions that can let them demonstrate that expertise. Candidates who describe themselves as “problem solvers” should have a lot of examples to demonstrate that professional attribute.

Tell me a story. Instead of the standard questions used to interview job candidates, create a list of questions that encourage candidates to tell stories of their experiences in the real business world.

Present an imaginary situation and ask how they’d handle it:  “We make widgets. A new widget maker opens up across the street. How would you deal with the problem?”

This type of question delivers a behavioral response from the candidate: “Here’s how I’d handle that problem.” By examining the behavior of a candidate under certain working conditions, you’re likely to develop a clearer picture of how this candidate will behave in the future under typical conditions related to your business and business sector.

Past performance is a good predictor of future performance. Get candidates telling stories about past achievements to more clearly understand how they’d handle themselves within your company culture.  For example: “Have you ever had an unhappy client? How did you fix the problem?”

Ask candidates questions that reveal professional values.  The best candidates are likely to be adaptable, with a set of professional values that mesh with your own. If you work Saturdays, do you expect the same from a new hire? It’s important to find the right fit for your professional values – the values on which your business success is based.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • We’re always working under deadline pressure. How do you handle delivery dates that have to be met – sometimes without warning?
  • Describe a personal business goal you’ve achieved.
  • Describe a professional goal you’re working on now.
  • Provide an example of how you turned a problem into a challenge.
  • Have you ever felt under-used on a job? How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about an unpopular decision you had to make and the consequences of that decision.
  • Do you think a team is more productive than an ambitious “lone wolf?” Why or why not?
  • Tell me about a time you had a problem with a co-worker and how you handled the situation.
  • How do you handle mistakes on the job? How do you handle employees who make mistakes? How do you handle your mistakes?

You already know what you need. The difference between the traditional interview and the behavioral interview is not only in the nature of the questions you ask. Traditional interview questions deliver traditional responses from candidates – and not much information value.

In the case of a behavioral interview, you’ve already decided what skills you’re looking for. Now, your objective is simply to determine if candidates have those skills. How? By looking at past behavior – how the candidate handled specific problems, outcomes, reaction to mistakes, and other behaviors – you can more accurately predict future behavior, and if that candidate fits in with your business and with you.

You’ll also find a good fit for your growing business team…if you just ask the right questions.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.