You may come to an interview prepared for questions about teamwork, initiative, interpersonal skills and leadership. But Critical Incident questions have the potential to reveal your perspectives and competencies without you being aware of how much you are revealing. These questions focus more on behaviour rather than opinion. They focus on facts.
Tell me about a time when you were successful.
What about a time you had to follow directions or guidelines that you knew were the wrong way to go?
What was the toughest decision you made recently?
Tell me about the last time a customer or co-worker got annoyed at you?
Tell me about a time when you were less successful?
It is the follow-up questions that get behind the account of what happened to your motivations and attitudes: What led up to it? Who was involved? What did she say? What happened next? What do you feel about it now?
These questions can reveal, for instance, if success for you is simply self-serving, whether you avoid making decisions, make logical and evidence-based decisions or include the impact on people in your decisions. They can reveal some of your biases, for instance a tendency to push blame elsewhere rather than solve the problem. They can show if you tend to circumvent guidelines, if you are prepared to go the extra mile to complete critical tasks. Indeed, there are times when the follow up questions reveal that you had a rehearsed answer that exaggerated the reality.
Of course, they can also reveal that you have the ability to take well thought out risks, make an “heroic recovery” in dealing with customer complaints, prioritise intelligently, collaborate on innovations with co-workers. In short, have the emotional intelligence that makes you a potentially great employee.