Behavioral Interviews Part 2: Ways to Ask the Right Questions

We have mentioned that, if done right, behaviorial interviewing can help your board members discover the 1% difference between several great candidates. This 3 part series is designed to provide you with everything you need to know for conducting quality behavioral interviews. Part 1 covered what not to ask. In Part 2, we’re going to focus on…

Behavioral Questioning: Ways to Ask the Right Questions

A far better interview strategy is to focus on a behavior-based line of questioning.  The right questions enable a good interviewer to learn much more than they ask.

Actual performance stories reveal many layers of a candidate’s leadership style — whether they are collaborators, analyzers, quick responders, or deliberators. These and many other indicators are unintentionally on display in a leadership-management narrative, not the least of which is how they respond to questions from a board member. Are they straightforward, articulate, and precise, or are the wandering and evasive. Are they personally responsible or evasive about wins and losses?


Here are some examples of performance based questions  if you were interviewing someone from the private sector who was considering making a move to nonprofit leadership:

“What did you do to compensate for the loss of the XYZ account?”

“When your leading product was found to contain excessive levels of a carcinogen, what steps did you take to reassure consumer confidence and minimize damage to the brand?”

“When the subprime lending crisis threatened the financial markets and charitable giving began to decline, what did you do to safeguard the organization’s stability?”

What did you learn from each of those challenges?”


Notice the difference? Past behavior and performance is the best indicator of how an executive will lead in the future. Reviewing actual performance also gives the interviewer the opportunity to verify the stories with references. Remeber: there is no way to verify hypothetical scenarios.


We want to know! Comment with a performance based questions that you’ve either given as an interviewer or received when being interviewed that you felt provided an especially helpful snapshot of personal leadership style.


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Dr. Tommy Thomas Tommy Thomas is Lead Partner of JobFitMatters® as well as Board Member and Managing Director of parent entity SIMA® International. He specializes in cabinet-level retained executive search for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.