Interviews play a critical role in determining whether a candidate has the technical, behavioral, and motivational fit to be successful in a position.

An interview must be a two-way exchange of information to be effective in an evaluation process.  During an interview process, the candidate is also determining if they want to work for Auburn University.  There are multiple approaches and structures to interviewing candidates to ascertain what a candidate brings to the table. 

Two types of interviews and associated resources are listed below to assist you in a successful interview process.

Behavioral Interviews

There are advantages to incorporating behavioral interviewing in your evaluation and selection process. Behavioral interviewing is based on the principle that past performance is the best predictor of future performance.

If developed accurately, behavioral interview questions are designed to demonstrate the candidate’s core characteristics or competencies desired by the hiring supervisor. This approach is more specific than traditional questions and is geared to exploring the demonstrated behaviors in their previous experiences.  

Behavioral Interview Questions

  1. What has been the most stressful situation you have ever found yourself in at work? How did you handle it?

  2. What have you done in the past to prevent a situation from becoming too stressful for you or your colleagues to handle?

  1. Tell me about a situation in which you have had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?

  2. Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives.

  3. How was your transition from high school to university? Did you face any particular problems? How did you handle them?

  1. Describe the project or situation that best demonstrates your analytical abilities. What was your role?

  2. Tell me about a time when you had to analyze information and make a recommendation. What kind of thought process did you go through? Was the recommendation accepted? If not, why?

  3. Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was the outcome? What do you wish you had done differently?

  4. What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision? Why?

  1. What process do you use to check that you have the right details from a customer?

  2. Give me an example of a time you discovered an error that been overlooked by a colleague. What did you do? What was the outcome?

  3. Tell me about a time that you were confused by a customer’s request. What steps did you take to clarify things?

  1. When have you had to deal with an irate customer? What did you do? How did the situation end up?

  2. Tell me about a time you have “inherited” a customer. What steps did you take to establish rapport with them? What did you do to gain their trust?

  3. How have you handled a situation in the past where your client has changed the brief or “changed the goalposts”?

  4. Give an example of a time you went well out of your way to ensure a customer received the best possible service from you and organization. What was their reaction?

  5. When have you ever gone out on a limb to defend a customer? What happened?

  1. Tell me about a recent successful experience in making a speech or presentation?

  2. When have you had to present to a group of people with little or no preparation? What obstacles did you face? How did you handle them?

  3. Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your co-workers? How did you do it?

  4. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).

  5. What obstacles or difficulties have you ever faced in communicating your ideas to a manager?

  6. Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.

  7. When have you chosen to communicate a particular message in person as opposed to via email even though the email channel would have been a lot faster?

  1. When was the last time you thought “outside the box” and how did you do it? Why?

  2. Tell me about a problem that you’ve solved in a unique or unusual way. What was the outcome? Were you happy or satisfied with it?

  3. Give me an example of when someone brought you a new idea that was odd or unusual. What did you do?

  4. When have you brought an innovative idea into your team? How was it received?

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed. How did you handle it?

  2. Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision. What obstacles did you face?

  3. What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make at work? How did you arrive at your decision? What was the result?

  4. Give me an example of a business decision you made that you ultimately regretted. What happened?

  1. Give me an example of an important career goal which you set yourself and tell me how you reached it. What obstacles did you encounter? How did you overcome the obstacles?

  2. Tell me about a professional goal that you set that you did not reach. How did it make you feel?

  3. How have you gone about setting short-term goals and long-term goals for yourself or your team? What steps did you take along the way to keep yourself accountable?

  1. Describe a project or idea (not necessarily your own) that was implemented primarily because of your efforts. What was your role? What was the outcome?

  2. Describe a situation in which you recognized a potential problem as an opportunity. What did you do? What was the result? What, if anything, do you wish you had done differently?

  3. Tell me about a project you initiated. What did you do? Why? What was the outcome? Were you happy with the result?

  4. Tell me about a time when your initiative caused a change to occur.

  5. What has been the best idea you have come up with during your professional career?

  1. Discuss a time when your integrity was challenged. How did you handle it?

  2. Tell me about a time when you experienced a loss for doing what is right. How did you react?

  3. Tell me about a business situation when you felt honesty was inappropriate. Why? What did you do?

  4. Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree. Why?

  1. Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How/why was this person difficult? How did you handle it? How did the relationship progress?

  2. Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn’t like you. How did you handle it?

  3. Describe a recent unpopular decision you made. How was it received? How did you handle it?

  4. What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful business relationships? Give me examples of how you have made these work for you.

  5. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa). How did you handle the situation?

  6. Tell me about a time when you had to work on a team with someone you did not get along with. What happened?

  7. Describe a situation where you had a conflict with another individual, and how you dealt with it. What was the outcome? How did you feel about it?

  1. Tell me about a team project when you had to take charge of the project? What did you do? What was the result?

  2. Describe a leadership role of yours outside of work. Why did you commit your time to it? How did you feel about it?

  3. What is the toughest group that you have ever had to lead? What were the obstacles? How did you handle the situation?

  4. What has been your greatest leadership achievement in a professional environment? Talk through the steps you took to reach it.

  5. What have been the greatest obstacles you have faced in building/growing a team?

  6. Describe a time when you have not only been responsible for leading a team of people but for also doing the same job as your team members? How did you juggle/balance your time?

  1. Describe a situation that required you to do a number of things at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?

  2. How do you prioritize projects and tasks when scheduling your time? Give me some examples.

  3. Tell me about a project that you planned. How did your organize and schedule the tasks? Tell me about your action plan.

  4. When has a project or event you organized not gone according to plan? What happened? Why? How did you feel?

  1. Tell me about your previous success in building a customer base from a standing start. What steps did you take?

  2. What is your greatest sales-related achievement to date? What steps led to the final outcome?

  3. Describe a time when you convinced a resistant customer to utilize your services.

  4. What was the most stressful professional negotiation you have been involved in? How did you handle it?

  1. Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?

  2. Tell me about a time when you worked with a colleague who was not doing their share of the work. How did you handle it?

  3. Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or help others to compromise. What was your role? What steps did you take? What was the result?

  4. Tell me about a time when you had to work on a team that did not get along. What happened? What role did you take? What was the result?

  5. What was the biggest mistake you have made when delegating work as part of a team project?

  6. Tell me about a time when you had to settle a dispute between team members. How did you go about identifying the issues? What was the result?

  7. What have you found to be the difficult part of being a member, not leader, of a team? How did you handle this?

  1. Tell me about a particular work-related setback you have faced. How did you deal with it?

  2. When have you ever found yourself in a competitive situation professionally? How did you handle it?

  3. When have you seen your tenacity or resilience really pay off in a professional setting? What was the outcome?

Behavioral Interview Tips

  1. Review the position description

  2. Identify and determine the behavioral characteristics/competencies to be successful based on the position description

  3. Develop interview questions related to the characteristics/competencies that you determined in Tip #2 (refer to the Behavioral Interview Questions Sample questions)

  4. Develop a scale for rating the interview answers of the candidate such as "Unsatisfactory", "Meets Expectations", or "Exemplary"

  5. Be consistent in your interview questions of each candidate.  This will allow you to make comparisons between the various answers and approaches of the candidates that are interviewed

Behavior Interview Question Generator (State of Kansas)

Situational Interviews

In situational interviewing, job-seekers are asked to respond to a specific situation they may face on the job. These types of questions are designed to draw out more of (the candidate's) analytical and problem-solving skills as well as how (they) handle problems with short notice and minimal preparation.

Situational Interview Questions

A superior candidate will demonstrate professionalism in attitude and communication style when dealing with others. Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills are key. Good candidates don't need to like everybody, but they must be capable of working with everybody. Solid candidates will show that they achieved a workable outcome in the face of any coworker-related difficulties. Bad candidates will blame others and shirk accountability.

The answer can reveal a candidate's behavior toward authority, communication, and problem-solving. The person you want to hire will not allow personal feelings or disagreements to get in the way of working relationships inside the company. A good candidate should demonstrate emotional maturity and professionalism above all else.

This is another situational question exploring soft skills such as communication and relationship building. A candidate should demonstrate empathy and listening skills that allow him or her to understand the other side of a situation but also help bring about a change of opinion. Candidates should show how they negotiate and generally develop and strengthen relationships with others. 

Don't just look for what candidates did; ask for the thought process behind their actions and how they like to approach problems in general. Being collaborative is one strength you might look for here. Did the candidate seek out feedback from others in understanding the problem, developing possible solutions, and implementing a workable solution?

We're all human, and candidates should be able to admit that they've made mistakes at certain times. This situational question is really more about finding out how a candidate learns, reflects upon mistakes, and takes lessons learned into the future. If a candidate refuses to admit to any past mistakes, then it's a sign that he or she isn't willing or able to learn anything from difficult situations.

Here, you are asking interviewees to tell a success story that demonstrates how they organized their workflow, dealt with pressure, and navigated through competing priorities. It's a good opportunity to hear a candidate's planning process, how they communicate with others, and how they collaborate with colleagues toward a common goal. Did the candidate try to extend the deadline if possible? Did the candidate ask for additional help? Most importantly, did they fully commit their own time to meeting the deadline and ask others to commit, too?

Like the mistake question, this illustrates a candidate's ability to learn. While being open to feedback is never easy, the best candidates will take it in, analyze it, and potentially make changes based upon the criticism. Of course, good candidates never take criticism personally. A good answer will show emotional maturity, adaptability, and leadership potential.

A good answer should show off the applicant's proactivity. The situation should be a case where the candidate recognized a problem that nobody else was resolving and took the initiative to attack the issue. The action should show a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty when required. Proactivity and problem solving are rare traits that firms should be looking for; this question can go a long way toward revealing these attributes in a candidate.

You are trying to gauge how a candidate adapts to change, especially when working with new people. This is obviously relevant for all new hires, who need to fit into a company climate and hit the ground running. Top candidates will show that they are adaptable and open to change, that they'll focus on building relationships inside the company, that they know how to seek help when necessary, and that they don't judge people or processes too fast before knowing all the relevant facts.

Similar to the last question, this one asks candidates to demonstrate how adaptable they are when interacting with various personalities. Explore whether candidates can change up their style of communication for different people. This question allows you to evaluate emotional intelligence and people skills.

Inclusion and Diversity

Auburn University has a commitment to an inclusive and diverse work environment for our faculty, staff, and students.  To assist you in your ability to make a decision regarding a candidate’s experience and/or commitment, please review the following examples of Inclusion and Diversity questions that you may ask during the interview process:

  • We empower each other and value our diversity, celebrate and reward our success. What is your model of success and how will you fit into this culture? 

  • Please describe how you would work to create a campus environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and increasingly diverse. 

  • What opportunities have you had working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural, and inclusive settings? 

  • What is your definition of diversity?  How do you encourage people to honor the uniqueness of each individual?  How do you challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion? 

  • Tell us about a time when you had to work with someone who had the direct opposite personality of yours? 

  • Describe a situation in which you encountered a conflict with a person from a different cultural background than yours.  How did you handle the situation?  (Please be specific) 

  • Describe a time when you needed to work cooperatively with someone that did not share the same ideas as you. 

  • How would you work with people under your supervision to foster a climate receptive to diversity in the department, staff meetings, printed materials, initiatives, etc.? 

  • When interacting with a person from a different culture than your own, how do you ensure that communication is effective? 

  • What have you done to further your knowledge and understanding about diversity?  How have you demonstrated your learning? 

  • Has diversity played a role in shaping your teaching and/or advising styles?  If so, how? 

  • What do you see as the most beneficial aspect of inclusion and diversity to the university and to your work?  Describe a time when you have demonstrated this aspect.

Informational Interviews

An Informational Interview (also known as an Informational conversation) is a meeting in which a potential job seeker seeks advice on their career, the industry, and the corporate culture of a potential future workplace; while an employed professional learns about the job seeker and judges their professional potential and fit to the corporate culture, so building their candidate pool for future hires. (

Informational Interview Questions

Informational questions are asked in an interview to obtain specific information regarding a candidate’s background and experience.  These questions are directed to what a candidate may have accomplished in their career or educational experience.  Sample questions may include:

  • What makes you uniquely qualified for the position?

  • This position requires the ability to work after hours and occasional weekends during peak times.  Are you able to meet the work hour(s) expectations?

  • What specific work experience (or education) enables you to be qualified for this position?

  • What do you consider your strength(s)?

  • What do you consider your weaknesses and how do you overcome them? 

Identifying and Avoiding Interview Bias

Most of us consider ourselves to objective and fair-minded individuals.  However, many well-intentioned individuals are influenced by their unconscious bias. Unconscious biases come from direct experiences that we’ve had with people, events and situations as well as indirectly through stories, books, and culture.

It is important to eliminate bias in decision-making.  Prior to interviewing a candidate, familiarize yourself with the types of interviewer bias and how to eliminate them.

  • Confirmation Bias: This is a tendency for humans to seek out information that supports a pre-conceived belief about the applicant that has been formed prior to the interview. (Phillips and Dipboye, 1989). This means interviewers look to confirm a possibly hollow impression they may have formed of the candidate pre-interview, as opposed to having a more open outlook on the candidate’s abilities in this area.

  • Effective Heuristic: very technical, I know. This is where interviewer’s decisions are influenced by quick and superficial evaluations, such as the level of attractiveness of a candidate, race, gender, background, etc.—none of which are relevant to the candidate’s suitability for the role. (Postuma and others, 2002). One study found that applicant obesity actually accounted for 35 percent of the variance in hiring decisions.

  • Anchoring: This is a tendency for interviewers to place an arbitrary anchor of expectation of a candidate, which then influences their evaluation of the candidate. For example, candidates who had a high anchor of expectation were evaluated more favorably than those with a low anchor scale.

  • Intuition: a huge part of the candidate evaluation process is based on intuition as there is not enough data to objectively test every area of the candidate’s fit to the culture and demands of the job. The problem is that intuition is not reliable, as it is thought to be susceptible to factors not related to the hiring decision such as emotion, memory, etc.

  • Studies have shown that allowing enough time to perform candidate evaluations increases accuracy and reduces gender bias (Bauer Baltes, 2002; Blair Banaji, 1996; Martell, 1991). So, allow plenty of time to read interview materials and take notes.

  • Structured criteria for decision making leads to more accurate evaluations (Martell Guzzo, 1991). So, make sure to conduct structured interviews based on job-related hiring criteria.

  • Structured processes for recording observations increase accuracy and reduce bias (Bauer Baltes, 2002). So, try and use structured evaluations during interviews and selection discussions.

  • Increased accountability reduces the effect of gender bias and increases the accuracy of evaluations.  Evaluators should use named forms, and each interviewer selection decision should be justified, documented, and filed.

Interviewing Candidates with Disabilities

An interview will help you assess a candidate's technical, behavioral, and motivational fit. When a candidate with a disability asks for necessary and reasonable accommodations, it is important to fulfill those requests to help ensure that all candidates receive equitable consideration. 

The following information will assist you in your interview process and will help you create a welcoming environment for candidates with disabilities.

  • Schedule the interview in a building with an elevator, accessible restrooms, and an accessible entrance.

  • Create an environment that is accessible to individuals with disabilities (contact the Office of Accessibility for additional information and assistance).  Provide the candidate a detailed agenda and ask if any special accommodations are needed for the interview process (Contact the Office of Accessibility for assistance and guidance).

  • Develop a list of interview questions that are job-related and pertinent to the essential and non-essential functions.

  • Greet the candidate as you would welcome all candidates.

  • If performing an action that may not be obvious to the candidate, alert the candidate to the action (e.g., announce to a vision impaired person: “Let me shake your hand.”) 

  • People with prosthetics or limited arm and hand motion usually shake hands.

  • Be sure to focus on the person, not the disability.

  • Ask the same questions of the candidate with a disability as you would a candidate without a disability.

  • Ask questions related to the essential functions of the job and ask if they are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.

  • Seek assistance from the Office of AA/EEO if accommodations may be necessary for the performance of essential functions (e.g., a visually-impaired employee may require larger font on a computer screen). 

  • Do not ask about the nature, severity or condition of a disability.

  • Do not ask about any prognosis or expectation regarding a disability.

  • Do not ask whether the person will need treatment while employed.

  • Do not ask about the progress of an illness, even if the candidate volunteers information about a medical condition, its remission, or treatment.

  • Do not ask about the medical history of any candidate.

  • Ensure that the interview location is accessible (e.g path of travel from parking, building entrances, restrooms, availability of an elevator).  Check on the nearest location of accessible parking spaces, available ramps, elevators, and accessible restrooms; communicate to the candidate these locations.

  • Enable candidates who use crutches, canes, or wheelchairs to keep them within reach; be aware that some candidates may choose to transfer themselves out of their wheelchair into an office chair for the interview.

  • To facilitate conversation when interviewing a candidate in a wheelchair, sit at that person’s eye level.

  • Never touch or lean on a person’s wheelchair; a wheelchair is part of the body space that belongs to the person who uses it.

  • Always identify yourself and introduce anyone else who is present when greeting a person with a vision impairment.

  • Ask the candidate with a visual impairment if they would like to take your arm at or above the elbow for guidance to the interview room.

  • Provide verbal directions as to the location of the seat.

  • Never pet or distract a service animal.

  • If there will be written materials in the interview, find out before the interview if there is an alternative format the person would prefer such a large print or Braille (seek guidance from the Office of Accessibility).

  • Do not shout or raise your voice.

  • Do not pretend to understand if you do not; ask the candidate to repeat what you do not understand.

  • Exercise patience by allowing adequate time for the candidate to speak rather than attempting to speak for them or complete their sentences.

  • Use a normal voice tone and at a moderate pace.

  • A candidate may lip-read; therefore, look directly at the candidate when speaking and maintain eye contact.

  • Speak expressively because the candidate may rely on facial expressions, gestures, and body movements to understand you.

  • Keep your hands away from your mouth when speaking.

  • Use a sign language interpreter, if needed.  Contact the Office of Accessibility for available resources.

    • The interpreter should be seated beside the interviewer, across from the candidate.  If there are multiple interviewers, ask the candidate where they would prefer the interpreter to sit.

    • Speak to the candidate, not to the interpreter and always maintain eye contact with the candidate

Last updated: 09/11/2023