behavioral interview questions

Look for These 3 Soft Skills When Hiring to Identify High Potential Candidates

Behavioral interview questions can determine if a candidate not only has the right skills and experience, but who has the potential to do great things in the role, the team and in the company. In part one of this series, we reviewed three of the six soft skills that reflect potential in candidates. Those were: adaptability, culture add and collaboration. If you have not already, be sure to go back and review those here.

In part two, we are going to cover the remaining soft skills: leadership, growth potential and prioritization.


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How to screen for leadership

Research shows that organizations with high quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competition. During the interview, assess if the candidate can inspire, motivate and unleash potential in others.

Here are some of the most popular questions to ask:

  1. Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?
  2. Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
  3. Give me an example of a time when you felt you led by example. What did you do and how did others react?
  4. Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
  5. Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your coworkers or group? How did you do it? What were the results?

Related: How to Identify High Potential Candidates with Behavioral Interview Questions

How to screen for growth potential

Today’s fast-paced work environments require employees who can do the job now and have the potential to grow into new roles or leadership positions at your company in the future. After all, if an employee leaves, it costs your company one-and-a-half times that employee’s salary to replace him or her. That means that hiring people who have the potential to grow within your company not only saves you the pain of replacing them, but also saves you money. You can predict if a candidate has what it takes by screening for goal setting and self-motivation.

Here are some of the most popular questions to ask:

  1. Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?
  2. Describe a time when you volunteered to expand your knowledge at work, as opposed to being directed to do so.
  3. What would motivate you to make a move from your current role?
  4. When was the last occasion you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?
  5. What’s the biggest career goal you’ve ever achieved?

How to screen for prioritization

When juggling multiple tasks, we have to be able to decide which ones need to be tackled immediately, and which ones can wait. Hiring someone who can’t get this right means that key due dates and project timelines can fall through the cracks, ultimately hurting your business. People who can manage their time and prioritize effectively will help your business thrive.

Here are some of the most popular questions to ask:

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?
  2. Tell me about a project that you planned. How did you organize and schedule the tasks?
  3. Describe a time when you felt stressed or overwhelmed. How did you handle it?
  4. Give an example of a time when you delegated an important task successfully.
  5. How do you determine what amount of time is reasonable for a task?

Leaders share their most creative questions

To keep things interesting, we collected unconventional questions that top businesses and talent leaders like to ask. Sprinkle in one of these during your interview! The answer can reveal a lot about the candidate’s personality and the way they think.

  1. “Why shouldn’t I hire you?” Adam Grant, Wharton professor and best-selling author
  2. “How would your manager describe you? Now tell me, how would your best friend describe you?” Krista Williams, talent acquisition manager; Swarovski
  3. “It’s 12 p.m. one year from now. What are you doing?” Angela Bortolussi, partner at Social Recruiting
  4. “Is it better to submit a project that’s perfect and late, or one that’s good and on time?” Obed Louissant, VP of HR at IBM
  5. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?” Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

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Get the answers you need

While these interview questions help you identify high-potential candidates and select the best person for the job, asking the right questions doesn’t guarantee great answers.

Push candidates to give you better information by doing the following:

  1. Use the S.T.A.R. system: As the candidate answers each question, make sure they describe the Situation, Task, Action and Result.
  2. Don’t except situational responses: When you ask for specific examples, make sure candidates don’t give you situational (hypothetical) information.
  3. Give them time: Often good answers come after a moment of reflection, so don’t rush candidates or write them off if they don’t answer quickly.
  4. Follow up: Hone in on a specific piece of missing information in their response to dig deeper into the situation.

Be prepared for the reverse interview

After putting candidates in the hot seat, they’re ready to turn the tables on you. Give them the info they’re hungry for: 70 percent of candidates say they want more details into the role and responsibilities, followed by how they fit within the team, and information about the company mission and vision.

Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  1. What’s the biggest opportunity for this role? What’s the most challenging element about this role?
  2. What does success look like in this position?
  3. If you could describe your team in three words, what would they be and why?
  4. What type of person is works well with this team?
  5. How did the company determine its mission?
  6. Why do people say ______ about your company?

Hopefully, with the help of these prompts, you’ll feel ready to conquer your next candidate interview!


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