Many candidates have prepared answers for common interview questions. These can mask their true personality, experience and behaviors.
As an interviewer, your goal should be to determine what this person will be like after they get hired. Standard interview questions such as, “Tell me about you,” or “Tell me about what you did in a particular job” are great for understanding their background. However, they do not give you any insight into:
- how they handle situations,
- how they handle stress,
- how they solve problems,
- what their beliefs and attitudes are,
- and are they sharp and quick witted.
Behavior questions focus on how they approach and think about situations. These can be the most difficult questions to answer. They challenge candidates to think creatively and to recall examples on how they have how they have handled similar situations.
Warning: Be ready for resistance. I have actually had candidates get up and walk out when these questions were asked. While this may seem dramatic, I am so thankful to have uncovered either their inability to handle stress or their overbearing ego that would not have worked well with our team and our clients. Since our long term success is based on the people we hire for ourselves and our our clients, we only look for people who are adaptable, willing to take on new challenges, and not be stuck in their old ways.
Amazon has built an entire empire utilizing their Amazon Leadership Principles. In every interview, they ask candidates several of these behavioral questions based on whichever of these Principles are most appropriate for the position they are seeking.
Therefore, Fortify Experts has developed behavioral questions formulated around these Amazon Leadership Principles which we would like to share with you. Here is a savable PDF version or you can see these same questions below.
For each position, select one or two questions from several of the most appropriate leadership principles to ask each candidate. If there are multiple interview rounds, you may want to give each interviewer one or two of these principles to cover. It is best to ask the same behavior questions in each interview round to give yourself a better way to compare candidates.
Customer Obsession – Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
- Describe your most difficult customer and did you do anything different with them?
- Give me an example of a time when you did not meet a client’s expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?
- When you’re working with a large number of customers, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. How do you go about prioritizing your customers’ needs?
- Tell the story of the last time you had to apologize to someone.
Insist on the Highest Standards – Leaders have relentlessly high standards many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
- Tell me about a time when you couldn’t meet your own expectations on a project.
- Tell me about a time when a team member didn’t meet your expectations on a project.
Are Right, A Lot – Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
- Tell me about a time when you were wrong.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with incomplete data or information.
- Tell me about a time when you were proposing a solution that other doubted that turned out in your favor.
Ownership – Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.
- Tell me about a time when you had to leave a task unfinished.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work on a project with unclear responsibilities.
- Give me an example of when you took a risk and it failed.
Invent and Simplify – Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
- Tell me about a time when you gave a simple solution to a complex problem.
- Tell me about a time when you created a new way of doing something that gave a company a competitive advantage.
- Tell me about an out of the box idea you had and what was its impact?
Learn and Be Curious – Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
- Tell me about a time when you influenced a change by only asking questions.
- Tell me about a time when you solved a problem through just superior knowledge or observation.
Bias for Action – Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
- Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
- Tell me about a time when you took a calculated risk.
- Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you did not have time to weigh all of your options but had to make a decision and how did you come to that decision?
Dive Deep – Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
- Tell me a time when you devised a new way of looking at data that helped improve performance.
- Describe a time when you had to personally resolve a challenging technical situation which should have been done by one of your employees.
- Tell me about a time when you had to dive deep into the data and the results you achieved.
Earn Trust – Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
- What would you do if you found out that your closest friend at work was stealing.
- Tell me about a time when you had to tell someone a harsh truth.
- Tell me a time when you earned trust of a group.
Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit – Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
- Tell me about an unpopular decision of yours.
- Tell me about a time when you had to step up and disagree with a team members approach.
- If your direct manager was instructing you to do something you disagreed with, how would you handle it?
Think Big – Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
- Tell me about your proudest professional achievement.
- Tell me about a time when you went way beyond the scope of the project and delivered.
Hire and Develop the Best – Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.
- Tell me about a time when you mentored someone.
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a poor performer on your team.
Frugality – Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with limited time or resources.
- Describe a time when you need a bigger budget to achieve the desired results but was not granted it and how you overcame the challenge.
- Tell me about a time where you thought of a clever new way to save money for the company.
Deliver Results – Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.
- By providing an example, tell me when you have had to handle a variety of assignments. Describe the results.
- Give me an example of a time when you were 75% of the way through a project, and you had to pivot strategy—how were you able to make that into a success story?
- Tell me about a time where you overcame an obstacle and delivered results.
By taking the time to select the most appropriate behavioral questions, you can uncover the leadership skills and personality traits you seek to add to you team.
If you want to dive any deeper into a candidates’ behavioral attitudes and understandings, I would highly recommend also running them through a Birkman Assessment prior to hiring. These can help you on-board new hires faster and provide deep insights on how to coach and manage them to become their best.
Other Candidate Interviewing Resources:
- Effective Interviewing: How to hire effectively hire the best person
- Why you should add Behavior-Based Questions to your Interviews
- 5 Interviewing Tips to Hire Exceptional Talent
- Quick Interviewer’s Review Checklist
- Candidate Interview Evaluation Form
About Tim Howard
Tim Howard is the founder of Energy Sourcing (www.energysourcing.com) and Fortify Experts (www.fortifyexperts.com) which helps companies find exceptional “Embedded” talent through executive search, permanent placement, and project consultants.
Tim Howard is also a Certified Birkman Personality Coach which helps company’s develop High Performance Teams by increasing effective communication and reducing personal conflicts.
He has been leading technology staffing teams for over 15 years and is the founder of three other technology firms. He has degrees from Texas A&M University in Industrial Distribution and Marketing.
Invite me to connect: www.linkedin.com/in/timhoward