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Dear Workforce How Do I Frame Character Questions During Behavioral Interviews

September 7, 2011

Dear Character Counts:

Behavioral interviewing is based on the assumption that one's past behavior is an excellent indicator of the actions that person will take, and the results he will generate, in the future under similar circumstances. Behavioral-based interview questions enable you as the interviewer to focus on how a candidate handled a real-life situation in the past, instead of how the person might handle a hypothetical situation in the future.

The typical behavioral interview question is based on the following framework: Problem/Situation –> Action –> Result. Ask candidate to outline a problem or situation they have faced that highlights the skill, trait or core competency you are seeking (problem/situation). Then, ask candidates to describe the action they took and the results it generated.

You can apply this technique to any question you find relevant to the role for which you are hiring by putting it in this problem/situation-action-results framework. For example, if you are looking to define integrity, you could ask the candidate to describe an actual situation or problem in their professional past that tested their integrity, what action they took, and what results they obtained.

Ordinarily we encounter two challenges when using this type of questioning. First, if the candidate is unable to come up with a similar situation or problem, it can take serious probing on your part to find it. Of course, that process in and of itself can be revealing about your candidate. Second, a candidate can potentially reframe your question to make some unrelated point about him or herself. When that happens, I simply redirect them to the original question.

If you are looking for character traits, an excellent complement to behavioral interviewing is personality and style testing. There are many excellent tools on the market to help you identify perfect candidates for your jobs.

SOURCE: David Peck, Leadership Unleashed, San Francisco, July 10, 2006

LEARN MORE: Please read a related article on gauging a person's passion and commitment.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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