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The 5 Behavioral Based Questions You Should Be Asking

Candidates are expecting the behavioral-based interviewing strategies that your company is likely deploying. Despite this preparation, a critical review of your interview question inventory can help you determine if you are asking the right behavioral-based questions to inform your hiring decision.  Here are a few that I’ve encountered and utilized that can tell you an immense amount about the candidate’s approach to work and life.  

 1. Tell us about a time that you faced adversity.   

This question will uncover the candidate’s attitude towards challenge. Did they describe an instance where they faced significant struggle yet they maintained a positive and persistent attitude? Did they place blame on external factors or utilize what was in their control to change their situation? The innate or learned behaviors of “Grit” can demonstrate a candidate’s passion to persevere. You may even have the candidate take the Grit Scale before the interview to gain a baseline of these characteristics.  

2. Describe your approach to difficult conversations with your colleagues.  

Similar to Question #1, you will discover how the individual faces challenge, but in a different context. The ability to have a tough conversation is a skill that only your best candidates will have mastered. Candidates who are able to describe successfully navigating such waters likely have high Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Again, if you would prefer to screen candidates for high EQ before they arrive for their interview, have them fill out this short assessment and share their results with you.  

 3. Tell us about a time you led a group of people to achieve something.  

Gathering some insight to your candidate’s leadership style will help you 1) decide if the candidate will bring a unique set of skills to your organization and 2) decide how to include this candidate most effectively in existing or new teams. Firstly, it may be a “red flag” if the candidate does not have an answer for this question. Assuming that the candidate has participated as a leader at some point of their life, the description of how they led others, brought those individuals to consensus, implemented change, and other attributes of their leadership style will undoubtedly help you make your final decision about this person’s candidacy. There are plenty of leadership assessments available, but here is a very brief one from Harvard Business Review if you’d like your potential candidates to describe their style before the interview.  

4. Tell us about a change you implemented at work. 

The answer to this question will give you insight to the person’s ability to think creatively, problem-solve, and also insight to their leadership style, again. Was the change implemented something the candidate discovered on their own or was it mandated from and external force? How did they communicate this change to their colleagues and get buy-in? Do they describe results or outcomes associated with the change? How much did they follow the project after the initial ask was completed? This question will also help you discover how an individual will act during times of ambiguity.  

 5. Give an example of a time you felt successful.  

This gets at what the candidate really wants out of their work. When they have felt valued and contributed to meaningful work, this is when they are in their “Zone of Genius” as described by author Gay Hendricks in The Big Leap. Are their values and secret dreams something that your company can help them reach? Are they entering a culture that will foster a feeling of their definition of success?  


Of course, this is a short list of potential questions you can ask at your next interview. If considering adding to this list or asking different questions, reflect upon what types of information you hope to receive from asking specific behavioral-based questions.  

The 5 Behavioral Based Questions You Should Be Asking
Jackie Boyle

Jackie is a full-time pharmacist and career coach at TheHappyPharmD, where she helps pharmacists live life by design. She loves her family, changing the world and the profession of pharmacy.