Behavioural Interviewing: Evaluating a candidate’s soft skills

Behavioural interviewing is a strategic approach to hiring that focuses on a candidate’s past behaviour in specific situations to predict their future performance. This is based on the principle that past behaviour is a good indicator of how a person will behave in similar circumstances in the future.

Unlike more traditional interview questions which focus on hypothetical scenarios, behavioural interviewing is about exploring real-life situations and experiences that the candidate has encountered. This method provides valuable insights into the candidate’s soft skills, work ethic, and adaptability, offering a more rounded understanding of how they might perform in the role and fit within your team.

What are key behavioural interviewing techniques?

Structured questions

Structured questioning involves using specific, consistent questions designed to elicit detailed responses about a candidate’s past experiences and actions. The predetermined questions help interviewers maintain consistency and uniformity, allowing for fair and objective comparisons for each candidate.

STAR method

The STAR method is a structured model to help candidates give clear and focused answers, describing a Situation they faced, the Task required, the Action they took, and the Result of their action (S-T-A-R). The brevity of the answers reveals insights into the candidate’s communication style, as well as their people and organisational skills.

Focus on competencies and skills

This technique allows interviewers to assess how candidates have applied their skills in real-world situations, giving insight into their proficiency, problem-solving capabilities, and how they might perform in the role. By concentrating on competencies such as teamwork, leadership, communication, and adaptability, interviewers can gauge a candidate’s potential fit and effectiveness within their business.

Probing and follow-up questions

Probing and follow-up questions are used in behavioural interviews to delve deeper into a candidate’s responses, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of their experiences and skills. Such questions often seek clarification, additional details, or examples, helping interviewers uncover the nuances of a candidate’s behaviour and decision-making processes. By asking probing and follow-up questions, interviewers can challenge superficial answers, encourage candidates to reflect more deeply and gather more precise and relevant information to accurately assess the candidate’s suitability for the role.


Consistency in behavioural interviews refers to the practice of asking each candidate the same set of questions, ensuring a fair and standardised evaluation process. This approach allows interviewers to compare candidates objectively based on their responses to identical scenarios and criteria. Maintaining consistency in questioning helps to minimise biases and subjectivity, leading to fairer hiring decisions. This is key to ethical hiring and ensures that all candidates are assessed on the same competencies and skills that are crucial for the role.

Behaviour evaluation

Behaviour evaluation provides valuable insights into a candidate’s character, work ethic, and interpersonal skills, which are often as important as technical abilities in determining their overall suitability for the job. You might also choose to combine this with psychometric testing.

Examples of behavioural interview questions

Communication skills

1. Can you tell me about a time when you had to explain a complex idea or process to a colleague or client? How did you ensure they understood?”

2. Describe a situation where you had to handle a difficult conversation at work. How did you manage it and what was the outcome?

Leadership skills

3. Give an example of a time when you had to lead a team through a challenging project. What was your approach and how did it turn out?

4. Tell me about a time when you had to motivate a team member who was disengaged or underperforming. What strategies did you use?

Problem-solving skills

5. Describe a situation where you faced an unexpected problem at work. How did you identify the issue and what steps did you take to resolve it?

6. Can you provide an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision quickly? What was the situation and how did you handle it?

Teamwork and collaboration

7. Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with a colleague who was very different from you. How did you ensure effective collaboration?

8. Describe a project where you had to collaborate with multiple teams or departments. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

Adaptability and versatility

9. Can you give an example of a time when you had to adapt to a significant change at work? How did you handle the transition?

10. Describe a situation where you had to learn a new skill or approach quickly to meet a project’s needs. What was the outcome?

How do you rate and score candidate answers effectively?

Create a consistent rating scale (e.g. 1-5) for each competency or skill. Based on your reviews with your existing team members, clearly define what constitutes a low, average, and high score for each question, based on the desired competencies and skills.

In the interview (or after), use a standardised evaluation form to score each candidate. Record specific observations and examples from the candidate’s responses to justify scores and facilitate decision-making. Lastly, if possible, have multiple interviewers score independently and then discuss to reach a consensus, reducing individual biases.

Metrics to consider when measuring Behavioural Interviewing

1. Employee performance

Monitor the performance of hires made through behavioural interviews and compare key hiring metrics before and after implementing behavioural interviews. Are you seeing an uptick in candidate quality and job fit?

2. Employee success

Track the performance and achievements of hires made through this method. Are they accelerating in their roles and driving results? Collect and analyse feedback from both interviewers and candidates. Evaluate the candidate experience. Is the process more efficient and effective? Has your time to hire reduced?

3. Retention rates

Monitor how long new hires stay with the company. High retention rates indicate a well-oiled hiring process, setting every new hire up for success.

4. Cultural integration

Observe how new hires blend into the company culture. Are they contributing positively to the team dynamics and company morale?