Have you ever hired someone who you thought was the “perfect fit” during the interview process, only to realize later you were dead wrong? You are left scratching your head, asking yourself “what did I miss…and (more importantly) how do I avoid making this mistake in the future”. Sure, candidates sometimes exaggerate their abilities. But it’s also possible the candidate isn’t intentionally misrepresenting themselves, but instead the questions being asked are soliciting hypothetical responses as opposed to factual ones.

When a candidate is asked a typical interview questions, such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses”, they reply with a scripted answer, which doesn’t help you uncover much about their ability to address real situations when under pressure. In contrast, when you ask a candidate behavioral questions that are based around past experiences you are able to uncover how they think at a deeper level. You can then better gauge how they will respond to issues they will face in the role. You’ll also notice patterns in how the candidate answers questions which will give you a clearer picture of the candidate’s decision making process and true strengths.

So, what is a behavioral question? It is one in which the candidate is asked to offer an example or describe a specific incident related to a given topic. Asking open ended behavioral questions results in an answer that allows you to learn about an individual’s past successes and failures to gain true insight into their abilities and personality. Below we explain the key advantages of asking behavioral questions and we share some behavioral interview questions you can ask to gain the most insight about a candidate.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Behavioral questions require the interviewee to offer proof of his abilities rather than just information. “Give an example of a time when you had to make a tough decision. What process did you go through and what were the end results?” is a great behavioral question. With this question a candidate must show experience making tough decisions, first of all. Then, the candidate must identify a planned process for working through alternatives and key factors. The results indicate the connection between the action and consequence.

In contrast, asking a candidate “How would you deal with making a tough decision?” allows for a more scripted, hypothetical example. While a candidate may know the best approach to addressing a tough decision, it does not guarantee the prospect could actually make a challenging call effectively. You are essentially asking in a best case scenario how would you like to deal with a tough situation, not how have you actually dealt with a tough situation and what were the results.

A Genuine Story has a Consistent Theme

Another major advantage of using behavioral questions is they give you the chance to gauge the genuine nature of a candidate. Good candidates spend time preparing for the interview. They rehearse responses to standard questions. While a candidate can strategize, it is difficult to rehearse answers to a behavioral question. You want to get to know the real person in the interview process – not a rehearsed version of the individual you are considering hiring.

Over the course of the interview, ask several behavioral questions on the most important skills or qualities you need in the position. If people skills are of utmost importance, incorporate multiple questions that invite the applicant to showcase his or her abilities. “Describe a time when you went above and beyond to meet the needs of a client,” and “Tell me about the last time you worked with team members to create a successful product or result,” are examples.

As you review the examples provided by the candidate, watch for consistency. A genuine prospect with great people skills should not struggle to come up with a few different instances where he or she used them. A candidate who stumbles or who isn’t able to provide consistently strong demonstrations of people skills may not be a good fit for the position.

Read Between the Lines

Behavioral interview questions also enable you to gauge other soft skills beyond the direct ability evaluated by the response. Behavioral questions are open-ended, which means you witness the candidate’s logic and reasoning abilities and communication skills in putting together a thoughtful, articulate response. You may also gauge a prospect’s level of creativity.

Other skills detected based on the nature of the response given include leadership, flexibility, decision-making and willingness to learn.


By asking the right open ended questions you gain insight into how a candidate makes decisions and how they would function as a part of your team. Hypothetical questions typically result in hypothetical answers and they may not offer real insight into the candidate’s abilities. By including behavioral questions in addition to traditional interview questions you get the most accurate, consistent and well-rounded view of a candidate. In the next interview you conduct, don’t be afraid to take the candidate off script a bit. You’ll get a chance to see how well he or she speaks and effectively they communicate relevant information. This interview style also allows you to learn more about the candidate’s past experiences and allows you to understand how they reason and utilize their skill set, which offers invaluable insight into the candidate’s suitability for your position.

Strategic Contract Resources is an international organization focused on connecting our clients with the most sought after energy industry professionals. At SCR, Energy (power, oil & gas, and petrochemical) is our specialty. We know the industry, we know the people and we know how to bring the best candidates and companies together throughout the world. Contact us for additional information.

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