interview questions

How to Identify High Potential Candidates with Behavioral Interview Questions

Why behavioral interview questions matter

Great businesses are built on people. People who not only have the right skills and experience, but who have the potential to do great things in the role, the team and in the company. However, screening candidates for potential is the toughest part of an interview. Oftentimes, you assess someone’s potential by looking at their soft skills and unique perspectives. Yet, in a 30-minute conversation, it’s really difficult to fully understand the person behind the profile.

The good news is that behavioral interview questions are a proven way to reveal a person’s potential, specifically their ability to adapt, grow, collaborate, prioritize, lead, and strengthen company culture. By looking at an individual’s past behavior, as well as his or her skills and experience, you’ll instinctively know if he or she possesses all of the qualities you need in your next hire.

To help you be more efficient and effective, we surveyed nearly 1,300 hiring managers for their top behavioral interview questions. Scroll through for the best questions to ask, and tips to glean the answers you need.


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Six soft skills that reflect potential

Potential can be interpreted many ways, but there are common soft skills and characteristics found among successful hires and high-potential people. Here are the most important soft skills hiring managers look for during interviews (ranked in order of importance):

  1. Adaptability
  2. Culture add
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth potential
  6. Prioritization

In this article, we will cover three of the six skills. First, let’s go over adaptability.

How to screen for adaptability

Sixty nine percent of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important soft skill they screen for. It makes sense: to stay competitive today, your company needs to be able to adapt to a changing economy and business needs. That means you need employees who can adapt as well, and high-potential people often have this ability.

Here are some of the most popular questions to ask:

  1. Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
  2. Describe a situation in which you embraced a new system, process, technology, or idea at work that was a major departure from the old way of doing things.
  3. Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  4. Tell me about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you adapt to that change?
  5. Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives.


How to screen for culture add

When we talk about culture fit, we don’t mean falling into a “hire like me” mentality. If all of your employees act and think the same, your company won’t thrive. Instead, look for candidates who share the same beliefs and values as your organization, but also bring diversity of thought and experience that will drive your company forward. We call this a “culture add.”

Plus, research shows that employees who are a good culture fit are more likely to stay with your company and will have greater performance and job satisfaction.

Here are some of the most popular questions to ask:

  1. What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
  2. Tell me about a time in the last week when you’ve been satisfied, energized and productive at work. What were you doing?
  3. What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?
  4. What would make you choose our company over others?
  5. What’s the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you and why do they think that?

How to screen for collaboration

Done right, collaboration keeps the business moving at a fast pace. Done wrong, employees find it extremely distracting. When you look at an organization’s top collaborative contributors, and look at employees who are recognized as top performers, there is about a 50 percent overlap. So hiring people who can collaborate effectively and work well with others is essential to success.

Here are some of the most popular questions to ask:

  1. Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?
  2. Tell me about a time when you were communicating with someone and they did not understand you. What did you do?
  3. Tell me about one of your favorite experiences working with a team and your contribution.
  4. Describe the best partner or supervisor with whom you’ve worked. What part of their managing style appealed to you?
  5. Can you share an experience where a project dramatically shifted direction at the last minute? What did you do?

Do you feel ready for your next interview yet?

Keep an eye out for our next article, in which we’ll share the final three soft skill questions to ensure you are asking candidates all the right questions!

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