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Elevate Your Interviewing Skills: Uncover Candidates' Potential with the Right Mix of Questions

Elevate Your Interviewing Skills: Uncover Candidates' Potential with the Right Mix of Questions

Material Matters Member News Industry News/Information Rikka Brandon Hire Power Building Gurus

Rikka Brandon - Building Gurus - Hire Power

Note - this is the fifth article in a series of 12 provided by Rikka Brandon. The sixth article "Avoiding Inappropriate Interview Questions" was featured in the April/May 24 issue of BLD Connection Magazine. 


Want to make the process of interviewing job candidates more productive? The trick is to ask the right mix of questions—questions that truly help you determine not only the candidate’s experience, but their ability to do the specific job you’re hiring for.

We break down interview questions into three categories—functional, behavioral, and situational. Here’s how they work.

Functional Interview Questions

Functional interview questions are a simple tool to use to determine if an applicant can do the job you are hiring for. They are focused on what the individual has done in the past.

On their base level, functional questions only require a yes or a no answer; however, savvy interviewers know that valuable information can be gained by asking a functional interview question and then using follow-up questions to get a clear understanding of the candidate’s level of knowledge and experience.

Here are some functional interview questions to ask a candidate:


General Questions

  • Have you ever done [insert key responsibility you’re hiring for]?
  • Have you used [software pertinent to the role]?


Management Questions

  • Have you ever managed a team of people?
  • Have you ever had to provide corrective action or disciplinary action to an employee?
  • Have you ever had to fire someone?
  • Have you ever had profit and loss responsibility for a [insert likely amount] budget?


Sales and Marketing Questions

  • Have you ever developed a marketing plan?
  • Have you ever sold [this]?
  • Have you ever sold to [this type of customer]?

I highly recommend using functional interview questions in your first/phone interview because they’ll tell you, before face-to-face interviews, if the person can handle the basics of the job.

Behavioral Interview Questions

The idea behind behavioral interview questions is that they give you a glimpse into the job applicant’s work ethic, their approach to challenges, and their ability to work as a team.

Behavioral interview questions can’t stand alone though—they need you to be an active listener who asks for clarification or qualification until you understand. Often, the greatest value comes from outside the scope of their initial answer.

The key to behavioral interview questions is that they ask about a specific example or situation. 

Here are some behavioral interview questions to ask:

  • Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond for a customer.
  • Give me an example of a time that a co-worker frustrated you and how you handled it.
  • Describe a situation when you had to resolve conflict in the workplace.
  • Tell me about a time you set a goal and achieved it.
  • Tell me about a time you set a goal and DIDN'T achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision.

These questions set the stage for job applicants to tell you about their skills, their experience, and their approach. All of which can be very helpful in determining their fit for the job.

However, I think the greatest value is from the simple fact that many people don’t actually answer the question you asked. For example:

Interviewer: “Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond for a customer.”

Candidate: “Well, at ABC Company we prided ourselves on the customer always being right. It allowed me to really go above and beyond in many ways.”

This is an articulate response—but it doesn’t actually answer the question. The true value of behavioral questions is the fact that you can determine if they will actually listen and follow instructions. Most people will give a specific answer once you ask the question a second time; however, some will really believe they are answering the question and may begin to get annoyed because you are asking them the same thing repeatedly.

Situational Interview Questions

A situational interview question is one that requires job seekers to respond to a specific hypothetical situation they may face on the job. These will help you determine what the person you’re interviewing will really be like on the job, how they’ll problem-solve and handle stressful situations, and how they will get along with the team and take constructive criticism.

Similar to behavioral questions, situational interview questions are designed to “short-circuit” memorized answers and force the applicant to think on their feet. The main difference between the two is that behavioral questions are focused on the past and situational questions are focused on the future.

In order for you to get the most value from your situational interview questions, you have to really think about the position you are trying to fill and develop specific questions.


Here are some examples:


“A customer is walking in, the phone is ringing, and a co-worker needs help making a copy. Walk me through how you’d handle these competing needs for your attention.”


Sales Client Relationships

“Walk me through how you’d build a relationship with a potential customer who just came through the door. Walk me through how you’d approach them and ultimately try to uncover their needs and get a chance to work on their project.”

Customer Relationships & Retention

“How would you handle a client who was angry with you over something that wasn’t your fault?”


If you take some time to think about these questions and really tailor them to the position and workplace you have in mind, you’ll end up with a workforce you will get more value from. Rikka Brandon is a leading recruiting and hiring expert in the LBM industry. She’s the founder of Building Gurus, a boutique training, consulting, and executive search firm for building products manufacturers and distributors. She’s also the creator of Hire Power   an on-demand training for recruiting and hiring in the building products industry. If you’re interested in working with Rikka, schedule a call at

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Source : Rikka Brandon

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