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How to Do Scenario Interviewing

by Ellie Williams

Scenario-based interviews, also called behavioral interviews, can offer employers a glimpse into how an applicant will perform on the job or how well the applicant would fit in with the rest of the team. This interviewing style requires candidates to envision themselves encountering certain situations and describing how they would respond.

Identify Crucial Skills

A scenario-based interview should focus on the aptitudes or qualifications key to succeeding in the position and at the company. For a sales position, for example, you’d likely concentrate on people and communication skills. With a computer programming position, however, you’d be more interested in technical skills and intellect. Review the typical workday for someone in that position and select the skills they’ll use most often. Ask other employees, especially those who will work closely with the person, what characteristics they’d like to see in an applicant.

Explain the Position’s Requirements

While you might think your questions speak for themselves, applicants might not know what you’re looking for. This is especially true when language or cultural differences come into play or when interviewing candidates who don’t think well on their feet. Help applicants provide relevant and accurate answers by reviewing the key qualifications or other factors you’re assessing at the beginning of the interview. This will help them tailor their answers to the position and to the corporate culture.

Ask for Verifiable Information

One major advantage of scenario interviewing is that you can fact-check an applicant’s claims, especially if you ask for specific examples. For example, if someone describes himself as a team player, that’s a subjective assessment that’s difficult to prove or disprove. However, if he recounts an instance where he stepped up and salvaged a project that was about to unravel, you can ask his former boss about the incident when you check references. It might turn out the applicant exaggerated the role he played or the severity of the situation to make himself look good.

Role Play

Scenario-based questions are the next best thing to seeing an applicant in action, but for a more realistic assessment, consider role-playing instead of simply asking questions. If you want to evaluate a candidate’s customer service skills, play the role of a confused or disgruntled customer and ask the applicant to address your concerns and win your business. To evaluate management skills, ask the candidate to pretend he’s giving instructions to an employee or leading a staff meeting.

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