Luke Watkeys, Business Manager
Whenever we help managers draft interview questions, this one pops up more often than we would like to see. Whilst its popularity (or infamy) has stood the test of time, the question is unfocused, generic… and won’t help you to select the right candidate. It’s about as useful as a an ashtray on a motorbike.
‘Can you give an example of a time when you have had to deal with conflict, either with an internal or external client.’
This is a classic competency question. These types of question are more systematic, with each question targeting a specific behaviour. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. You then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations.
These questions are useful for two main reasons:
· They focus on behaviours. Provided you have defined the behaviours you are looking for, and actively test for them at interview, you will find that you don’t just get the people who have the ‘knowledge’ of a job, but those who can actively demonstrate their ability to behave in a way consistent with high performance (be it in teamwork, communication, relationship management etc…)
· Candidates are asked to provide examples from their past in order to demonstrate that they have behaved in a certain way before. If you ask a hypothetical question, you will only ever get a hypothetical answer. Remember, there is no greater predictor of future behaviour than past behaviour.
The key to these questions is that candidates are required to demonstrate that they are able to behave in the way your organisation needs by using examples based on their prior experience, and not just talk about the topic in a theoretical and impersonal manner.
So, back to strengths and weaknesses. Remove weak unfocused and generic questions, replacing them with competency questions, and watch the strength of your selection decisions improve exponentially.