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As the hiring manager, it is your goal during the interview to ask behavior-based questions that will help you determine if the candidate has the necessary capabilities to thrive in the position. The behavior-based interview structure is reliable because past behavior is regarded as the best indicator of future behavior. However, the candidate’s initial answer to your behavior-based question will probably not give you the full story. Asking appropriate follow-up questions will help you dig deeper to discover if the candidate is actually equipped with the skills that you’re looking for.

For example, you know you must ask the candidate about his or her problem-solving abilities because it is critical to doing the job successfully. Your first question on problem-solving might sound something like “share a particular challenge you have faced in a previous job and describe what you did to overcome it.” Based on that one question, it is highly unlikely that the candidate will share all of the information you need to assess his or her overall skill level in problem-solving. Therefore, asking probing questions about the candidate’s thought process and actions, outcomes and learning skills, and application to other situations provides you with a clearer picture of his or her problem-solving skills.  

Probe for Thought Process and Action

Probing for the candidate’s thought process and actions gives context regarding his or her decision-making skills and the motivation behind why certain steps were taken (or not taken). Potential probing questions include:

  • Explain your thinking on why you took steps X, Y, and Z.
  • How did you arrive at a final decision?
  • What caused you to approach the problem in this way?

Probe for Outcomes and Learning Skills

Now that the candidate has explained his or her thinking and actions, it’s important to find out how his or her decisions impacted the outcome of the situation and what he or she learned. This helps you see how the candidate dealt with any consequences and if he or she reflected on improvements that could be implemented in the future. Potential probing questions include:

  • What was the end result?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • What would you have done differently?

Probe for Application

Finally, you want to determine if the candidate applied any lessons learned to a different situation, position, or organization. This highlights his or her ability to repeat successes and avoid making similar mistakes. A potential probing prompt is:

  • Describe another time when you used those lessons learned.

Asking probing questions in a behavior-based interview will help you hire quality talent because it provides you with a structure to gain a deeper understanding of all of the candidates’ skill sets. With fleshed-out details, you can evaluate candidates more accurately, which enables you to select the most qualified individual.


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