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These days, behavioral interview questions are seen as a necessity in most interview situations. Regardless of a candidate’s technical ability, hiring managers need to get an idea of their attitude, teamwork skills, and ability to communicate (all of which can be assessed fairly easily through behavioral questions). When asking behavioral questions, be sure to avoid the following mistakes.

Not probing for details

You should never assume something in an interview- we all know what assuming does. Instead, probe for specific details with follow-up questions. Karl Sakas, who advises digital agency owners worldwide on how to hire technical candidates, stresses this point, saying, “Be sure to ask follow-up questions, too—otherwise, you're wasting an opportunity to dig into a candidate's thought process.”

Not training your interviewers

Your interviewers should know how to design good questions and phrase them. Ideally, all interviewers should go through a training process before being allowed to interview prospective candidates (especially for technical roles). Make sure that your interviewers have a clear understanding of what they’re trying to evaluate. They should be asking behavioral questions with a clear goal in mind, not because they found it on some list of “Top Behavioral Interview Questions” on the internet.

Using “trick” questions

Candidates should never feel that they are being tricked during the interview process – this will turn them off from the job completely. Jason Bay, a Senior Product Manager at Bonanza, feels that the best behavioral questions are straightforward and asked without implying that there might be a hidden right-or-wrong answer.

“An example of a trick question might be, ‘What kinds of managers have you had conflicts with at your past jobs?’ While the answer might help you evaluate the candidate's fit with your organization's managers, it's also likely to either make the candidate feel nervous (are the managers at your company similar to the ones they're describing?), or cause them to give an ambiguous/diplomatic response to avoid conflict”, says Bay.

Focusing too much on the negative

Often behavioral questions will ask candidates about a time something went wrong and how they handled it, but it’s important to focus on some positive questions as well. Steve Gibson, Director at JotForm, expands on this theory, saying, “Frequently interviewers will focus on challenging experiences and how the candidate handled them. It's equally important to find candidates who can talk at length about times everything went well. It's far better to aim for a positive goal than to try avoiding a negative one. Candidates that have had a lot of positive professional experiences are valuable.”

Other questions to avoid based on their negativity include “What did you dislike about your last manager?” and “Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker and how you resolved it”, says Shelley Benhoff, CEO of HoffsTech.

We touched on what not to do when asking behavioral interview questions, but what are some examples of good questions to ask? Raj Sheth, CEO and Co-founder of RecruiterBox, provided us with one basic question and the subsequent follow-up questions to ask. 

Basic question: How are technical decisions made in your team? (This is an open-ended question to start the discussion. Based on the answer you will go deeper and ask other questions like the ones below).

  • How are different people’s suggestions processed
  • What happens when a team member have a different suggestion than the eventual decision?
  • Did you ever have a different suggestion?
  • What was it?
  • What was a different suggestion eventually employed?
  • If the same decision had to be made by you again, what choice would you make now?interviewing developers ebook


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