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One Important Interview Technique You’re Forgetting

April 11, 2013


I was recently talking with my friend who just got back from a family vacation in Hawaii. I was very interested to hear all about her trip. When we finally talked I asked her very excitedly, “How was Hawaii?” and she replied with “It was beautiful, we had a great time.”

Well, I was not satisfied with that short answer.

I wanted all of the details. What islands did you go to? What did you see? Was the water blue? How was the weather? I wanted to know everything - what the beaches were like, if they tried surfing, what their favorite part was and how they survived the long flight will two small kids. I started asking questions and she started telling me every detail. I eventually got the whole story. hawaii 162431940

When conducting past behavior interviews, interviewers can sometimes forget to get the whole story. Asking candidates vague and general questions will get you a vague and general answer in return. By me asking my friend the general question, “How was Hawaii?” I got a very vague answer. If I would have started out with a specific question, I would have gotten a very different answer. When interviewing, you want to ask the candidate specific questions and listen for detailed and specific answers. By asking very specific and targeted past behavior questions, you will get specific answers about how candidates handled situations in the past.

Interviewers can easily forget to ask for details. A vague explanation may sound good and make the candidate appear as if he or she met the customers’ needs. However, if you dig down and ask for the details of the situation, it may look very different. When interviewers ask questions such as: “Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to satisfy an upset customer?” Candidates often feel like this is something they do all of the time and give a general answer about their customer service ability. While this may give you some insight into how they feel they meet customers’ needs, it will not give you any examples of how they handled specific customer interactions in the past.

Encourage them to get specific. Have them tell you a story of a time when they were able to satisfy a customer. Ask about the background of the situation, what they did, how the customer reacted and how the situation ultimately turned out.

Make sure you ask questions and get all of the details you need to get a specific past behavior example for each question you ask. It is your job as the interviewer to ask the right probing questions to get the complete story.


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Megan Why Megan Why is a Consultant located in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. Her areas of expertise include: workplace safety, interview training, and pre-employment selection assessments.