Using Behavioral Interview Questions Results in a Better Quality of Hire

I’m going to tell you below 1) why hard interviews are generally a good thing, and 2) how to make yours harder.

So you have some data as to why I’m telling you this — recently Glassdoor undertook a study conducted by examining a large sample of interview reviews as well as company reviews. It did this in six countries: U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany.

Key Findings of the Study

  • More difficult job interviews are statistically linked to higher employee satisfaction across the six countries examined.
  • Overall, a 10 percent more difficult job interview process is associated with 2.6 percent higher employee satisfaction later on.
  • On a five-point scale, the optimal difficulty leading to the highest employee satisfaction is 4 out of 5.

job interview difficultyIn this study by Glassdoor, it was noted that there is a strong correlation between difficult interviews and happy and engaged employees. In the figure below you can clearly see this correlation.

interview difficulty by countryThis figure shows, in all six countries surveyed, that a 10 percent more difficult interview rating at companies is associated with a 3.5 percent higher overall employee satisfaction. This is a statistically significant link.

Behavioral Interview Questions Make a More Difficult Interview

The same study cites several techniques that make an interview more difficult. Brain teasers, puzzles, business problems, behavioral interview questions are identified as techniques that make interviews more challenging.

On a parallel and somewhat more personal note, my son has been interviewing recently in technology companies in San Francisco. Being well schooled by me in the art of handling the behavioral interview question, he commented that the high-profile software company he was most interested in had by far the most challenging hiring process. He was asked behavioral questions, posed technical problems to answer, and even asked by his hiring manager to “Answer this riddle …” to examine his problem-solving skills.

How Difficult Is Too Difficult?

A difficult interview can signal other dysfunctions within the hiring team or company. These dysfunctions can range from slow decision-making to lack of alignment or just a general lack of hiring skills. These issues notwithstanding, the study found that more was not always better.

One of the key findings of the study was that there is an optimal level of difficulty of the interview. On a five-point scale with five being the most difficult, the average rating of about four was considered optimal. However, the humped back curve was always evident in the results of each country examined indicating the optimal level of difficulty.

In another study listing Glassdoor’s Top 25 Most Difficult Companies To Interview, the top five on the list report an Interview Difficulty Rating of 3.7 to 3.9 out of 5. In each case candidates interviewing with these companies reported challenging and enjoyable experiences.

How to Make Your Interviews Harder

The first and simplest step to take toward making your interviews more challenging is to ask more difficult questions. Here is a list of free behavioral interview questions to get you started.


  • Tell me about a time when you admitted making a mistake and accepted responsibility for it.

Communication Skills

  • Tell me about a time when you had to persuade someone in writing.


  • Tell me about a time when you were particularly creative.

Customer Satisfaction

  • Describe a situation where you had to address an angry or dissatisfied internal/external customer.

Decision Making

  • Tell me about a time when you had to get to the root cause of a problem to make a decision.


  • Give me an example of a difficult or challenging project you volunteered to lead.


  • Describe the biggest ethical dilemma that you have faced at work.

Interpersonal Skills

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  • Describe a time when you had to deliver bad news or negative feedback to a co-worker.


  • Give me an example of the steps you have taken in developing a plan.

Problem Solving

  • Describe a time when you accurately anticipated a potential problem.

Relationship Management

  • Give me an example of how you manage conflict in the workplace.


  • Give me an example of a time when you had to let someone down.

Results Focus

  • Tell me about a time when you got results in a situation where others had tried and failed.


  • Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple responsibilities at work.


  • Describe a time when you made a positive contribution as a member of a dysfunctional team.

Distribute these questions among your interviewing teams. Teach your interviewers to follow up each behavioral question with probes to find PAR, specific problems the candidate faced, the actions that they took, and results that they achieved.

This will help you obtain specific examples of past work behavior and performance, making it easier to determine if the candidate is a fit for the position.

You could also try brainteasers, puzzles, and riddles if you like. By the way, my son got the job!

Tell me in the comments section below about your way of making interviews difficult.