A Blended Approach to Using Different Kinds of Interview Questions

By Posted in - Interviewing on April 16th, 2013 0 Comments

There are different kinds of interview questions which can be used to gather different kinds of information. In the seminal book, “Behavior Description Interviewing,” the authors outline a framework for understanding the different kinds of interview questions. This framework is presented below, along with some example questions.

Biographical Facts, Credentials and Achievements

  • “What was your grade point average?”
  • “What awards or commendations did you receive?”

Technical Knowledge

  • “How proficient are you in using .net framework?”
  • “How familiar are you with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection?”

Experience/Activity Descriptions

  • “What has been your experience in creating branding and identity campaigns?”
  • “Tell me about your responsibilities in your last position.”

Self-Evaluative Information

Likes and Dislikes

  • “What did you like best about the job?”

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • “What do you consider to be your strengths?”

Statements of Goals/Attitudes/Philosophy

  • “Where do you want to be five years from now?”

Hypothetical/Speculative Statements

  • “What would you do if an employee called in sick three Mondays in a row?”

Behavior Description Questions

  • “Describe your most challenging assignment to successfully execute. Why were you successful or unsuccessful?”

Non-trained interviewers spend a large majority of their time asking too many questions that are not behavior description questions. These questions typically provide low-yield information. While the information does have some value, it is inferior to the quality of information obtained from behavior description questions. The interview should have more behavior description questions than other kinds. Of all the various types of interview questions, behavior description questions provide the most useful information.

The Behavior Consistency Principle

The best predictor of future behavior/performance is past behavior/performance in similar circumstances.

  • Corollary 1. The more recent the past behavior, the greater its predictive power.
  • Corollary 2. The more longstanding the behavior, the greater its predictive power.

*Content taken from the book,Behavior Description Interviewing: New, Accurate, Cost Effective by Tom Janz, Lowell Hellervik, and David C. Gilmore (1986)

Taking a Blended Approach

A best practice is to use a variety of question types during the interview, particularly at the beginning of the interview when the candidate may be most nervous. A good approach is to gradually introduce behavioral description questions in the first part of an interview. You will want to start with activity/experience questions, followed by some self-evaluation questions, and then introduce behavior description questions. This process is like digging a well. You start off shallow and then dig deeper and deeper to get to the information you want.
Since non-behavior description questions are easier to answer, the candidate will be more at ease and become accustomed to providing answers before the more challenging behavior description questions are introduced. Non-behavior description questions can also be used occasionally throughout the interview to provide relief from the response demands of behavior description questions.
If you are interested in learning how OMNIview can assist you in effectively implementing behavioral interviewing, please call us at 877.426.6222. Practical and affordable interview management HR software with efficient interviewer training can quickly convert bad interviewing practices into best practices.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
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