Straightforward, closed-ended questions were once considered the best way to evaluate candidates and assess their readiness for the workplace. If managers needed to know something about a candidate, they simply asked. For example: “Are you familiar with iOS?”, “Would you consider yourself a strong leader?”, “Can you swing a hammer?” and “Are you good at following directions?”

If the candidate answered with a yes or a no at all the right moments, that was that. He was welcomed onboard and given a start date…often with disastrous results.

These days, hiring data, HR studies, and empirical evidence are pushing managers away from these standard questions and toward a more open ended, behavior-focused approach. Managers now recognize that behavior and cultural aptitude are more important that skill-based metrics, and interview scripts are becoming more subjective and also more meaningful. If you intend to work behavioral questions into your selection process, keep these considerations in mind.

1. Keep your questions open.

Don’t ask anything that can be answered with a yes or a no. Instead of “Are you a risk-taker?” try: “Tell me about a time when you had to take a risk in order to achieve a goal. How did the story end?”

2. Teach managers how to make sense of subjective and narrative responses.

This skill doesn’t come naturally. So train your managers and make sure they know how to interpret candidate responses, identify red flags, and recognize signs of promise and cultural fit. Start by making sure your managers know what personality traits, work philosophies, and social tendencies they’re looking for.

3. Be fair, and as far as possible, be scientific.

If you want to know how your candidate solves problems and you present her with a hypothetical problem to solve, chances are you’ll hear a complex answer loaded with layers of information about who she is and what she can bring to the company. But to extract this information, you’ll have to read between the lines. And to make use of the information you’ve extracted, you’ll have to find a fair and scientific way to compare the answers of multiple candidates. Each answer will be different, and each will need to be interpreted with active corrections for unconscious bias.

Don’t let great candidates get away. Keep your interviews open-ended, but also focused on concrete details and measurable specifics. For help, turn to the staffing professionals at Expert.

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