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Five New Ways to Ask the Traditional Interview Questions

Traditional job interview questions are so common job applicants can accurately predict what questions they have to answer. Shake things up a bit with behavioral interviewing tactics.

Next time you need to fill a job position, toss the old, predictable questions out the window and give behavioral interviewing a try. Instead of asking generic questions, behavioral interviews ask for specific examples of how interviewees use job skills and respond to challenges.

With traditional questions, interviewees have plenty of opportunity to "pad" their answers and prepare for questions in advance. Behavioral interviews ask for specifics, making it difficult for an interviewee to gloss over shortcomings.

Below are five common job interview questions and more insightful behavioral interview alternatives.

What are your strengths?

You just know this question will have a rote response. Interviewees talk about strengths they think you'll find desirable, whether or not they actually possess those strengths.

Instead, ask interviewees to describe work situations where they used their unique skill sets. By asking them to talk about their actions in specific situations, you can better evaluate their abilities.

What are Your Weaknesses?

It’s almost pointless asking this question. Interviewees announce their "weaknesses" are working too hard, being too committed to company productivity or other examples of thinly disguised strengths.

Behavioral interviewers ask interviewees to describe situations where they lacked skills or experience. How did they resolve the issue? What steps did they take to acquire necessary skills? Even if the original situation resulted in failure, how an interviewee handles failure could speak well of her.

How do You like to Spend Your Free Time?

This isn't a bad question to ask in and of itself, but really, what's the interviewee going to say? That he spends his weekends playing Halo 3? Of course not. He's going to try to make himself out to be a family man, a community volunteer or a driven athlete.

Ask the interviewee to describe a situation in which he used work-related skills in a non-work environment, or used skills from his personal life at work. You get a better sense of the interviewee's adaptability, and he doesn't make himself out to be a skydiving version of Mother Teresa.

Would You Describe Yourself as Goal Driven?

Another common traditional interview question that, once you look at it closely, doesn't tell you anything about the interviewee. Naturally she's going to say she's goal-driven—would you say any different in a job interview?

Again, use behavioral questions to dig up specifics. Ask the interviewee to describe a situation in which she set a specific goal and worked towards it. Follow up with questions on how she managed time and resources.

How Would You Handle Conflicts with an Employer or Manager?

Granted, this is a difficult question to answer, but only in the sense that interviewees need to gauge how your company handles staff conflicts.

Most people have some experience with on-the-job conflicts, so instead ask the interviewee to describe a time he was in conflict with a co-worker or superior. How did he handle the event? What was the cause and outcome? The answers will be more informative, and more realistic than asking him how he'd handle a hypothetical situation.

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