When interviewing potential candidates for positions on your dairy, there are three types of questions: standard, behavioral and situational. Using a combination of these questions is often the key to a successful interview technique.

1) Standard interview questions are the most common way to conduct an interview. They are used for basic data gathering and to obtain general knowledge about a candidate. The answers typically do not give in-depth information about how past performance might predict future performance, however.


  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “What are your strengths/weaknesses?”
  • “Why do you feel you will be a good fit for this position?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

2) Behavioral-based interview questions are becoming more popular, and are an excellent method for learning how a candidate will fit in your company. This type of question requires the candidate to relate to past jobs or experiences, and can be the best predictor of future job performance. Answers will indicate skills and abilities, as opposed to personality traits. They explore education and cumulative work experience, as well as intellectual capacity, attitudes and soft skills.

These questions should be open-ended, requiring more than a simple “yes”, “no”, or one-word response.

Examples of effective behavioral questions include:

  • “Give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.”
  • “Tell me about a time when you coached an underperformer to become an exceptional employee. What were your biggest challenges/rewards in doing so?”
  • “Describe a project or task that required close attention to details to keep the project on track. How did these matters come to your attention? How did you handle them?”

Successful candidates’ answers should take the interviewer through a detailed account as to how a particular situation was handled. Interviewers should look for a “STAR Response,” seeking specific details about the Situation>Task>Action>Results.

3) Situational interview questions are very similar to behavioral questions, but are more future-oriented. These questions ask job applicants to imagine a set of circumstances and then describe how they would respond in that situation. Use situational questions when hiring for a position that is entry-level or does not require a lot of work experience.

When thinking of situational questions, keep in mind that behavioral questions can be easily converted to situational questions:


“You have been asked to conform to a policy with which you do not agree. Not only do you have to conform to the policy, but you have to direct your team to follow it as well. How would you handle this situation?”

Constructing appropriate questions is an important part of interview preparation. Interviewers should review the position description, paying special attention to the required knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as the preferred qualifications.

Write questions out, using a good blend of standard, behavioral and situational questions. Make sure each question is relevant to the job, is open-ended and non-discriminatory.

Since there is not an exact answer for behavioral-based or situational questions or other information you received in the interview, you can develop a set of flexible guidelines for what the ideal responses would be. After the interview, examine each candidate’s answers and score them against the guidelines, evaluating them as objectively as possible.