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Using behavioral-based interview questions to improve your interview process

Jan 22, 2018 5:28:14 PM / by The HR Trove by Willis Towers Watson


Hiring the right employees for your organization is critical and using behavioral-based interview questions can improve your interview process. It’s important to assess candidates for the job as well as for overall fit with your organization’s culture. But did you know that 46% of companies are not using organizational or functional competencies to assess candidates? (2016 Willis Towers Watson Global Talent Management & Rewards Study – U.S.) Talk about a missed opportunity!

Integrating competencies into the hiring process can help ensure that you’re hiring based on what matters most to the organization’s strategic priorities. Let’s walk through an example.

Your organization’s strategic priority is focused on innovation for the coming year. Some of the key competencies that help drive innovation include:

Innovation Image Blog 3.png

If these are the key behaviors that employees need to demonstrate successfully in order to help achieve innovation, how do you know if your potential candidates have it?

Competencies and the Hiring Process

The hiring process can vary from organization to organization, and even by role and level. However, we can agree that most processes include some type of interview – and sometimes, multiple interviews with several people. Behavioral-based interviews ask questions regarding a candidate’s experience or behavior across various situations, using past examples or events to describe past behavior. The fundamental idea is that past behavior can provide insight into how an individual might behave in the future. This type of interview can be incredibly effective if you are asking the right questions. But what are the right questions? They include questions that directly tap into the organization’s strategic priority.

You may have heard of the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to help respond to behavioral-based interview questions. A typical question goes something like this: “Tell me about a time when…” If you’ve ever been through an interview like this, you may have noticed that sometimes it is difficult to come up with a good example off the top of your head. When this happens, it’s helpful to have a back-up set of questions to help stimulate the candidate’s thinking. This doesn’t mean skipping over an important question, rather, it means asking it in a different way, or asking follow-up questions to help ensure the candidate provides a complete response. We call these triggers and elaborators. Here’s an example to demonstrate what that looks like:


Creating behavior-based interview guides can be tedious and time consuming for any organization. Luckily, a complete off-the-shelf behavioral-based interview question solution can provide everything you need to interview candidates for the roles you need to fill in your organization.

Our off-the-shelf competency solution offers a set of behavioral-based interview questions, complete with elaborators and triggers aligned to each competency. Small and medium sized businesses can select the interview questions that match their organization’s competency model, and begin using them immediately to interview, select and hire employees who possess the competencies that fit with their strategic priority.

Behavior Based Interview Questions Graphic


 Blog Contributor

Charleen Maher Ph.D.-Willis Towers Watson

Charleen Maher Ph.D., Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software Product Leader

Her experience in consulting spans across talent, change management and rewards projects, including global communication and change management strategy, design and implementation of organizational and functional competency models, development of performance management processes and tools, executive, leadership and manager assessments, and career management. In her free time, she enjoys trying out fitness classes including barre, CrossFit, and yoga across New York City.


Topics: hiring process, recruitment, behavior-based interview, behavioral event interview questions

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