Ask Better Behavioural Interview Questions: The SARR Method

Ask Better Behavioural Interview Questions: The SARR Method

Many hiring managers know to ask behavioural questions during the interview. This is a good first step, but the door is still open for vague answers and generalities. To get to the heart of the answer – and to help candidates whose nervousness may be keeping information back – probing questions are an effective way to peel back the layers of the situation being discussed. The SARR method is a handy way to ensure you’re getting all the information you want out of the interview. So what do SARR probing questions look like?

Situation: What was the goal? Who set it? Why was the project important? You want to find out all the relevant details of the situation being described. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. This way, you have a clear context for the candidate’s actions, and you can more clearly understand the impact of achieving the goal.

Action: What action did the candidate take? How did they respond to challenges? What did they do to stay on track? Get more granular here to see what the candidate did to help complete the project. Watch out: candidates might switch into “we” language – but you want to know what they did specifically. Make sure to ask questions that relate back to the candidate’s individual contribution. This will tell you how influential they were in the outcome.

Result: What was the outcome? What was the overall impact? What was the impact on the candidate? This can be a goldmine of information and can sometimes help to visualize how a candidate can contribute to your organization. If the goal wasn’t met, can the candidate clearly explain why? This could be an indicator that they’re able to learn from mistakes and find another solution next time. Remember to ask as many questions as you need to get the whole picture – sometimes a positive result isn’t achieved through a candidate’s actions, and sometimes a negative result can be a great indicator of how a candidate tackles adversity.

Pro tip: Conduct more effective interviews by following this 7-step process

Reporting: Who was the candidate answering to at the time of this situation? Ask for the name of the individual and if you can contact them. You’re doing this for 2 reasons:

  • If they’re not listed as a reference, you may want to contact this person as well. If this was a notable situation, they may have insight to augment the information provided by the candidate.
  • It’s been proven that simply asking this question indicates to your candidate that you’re serious about the level of detail going into their assessment. It’ll encourage a higher degree of honesty and a lower likelihood of embellishment.

The SARR method can help bring vague behavioural answers into much clearer focus. By probing for more information, you’re helping the candidate tell a fuller story, and you’re helping yourself by getting a more rounded view of the candidate. As the potential hires start to narrow down, the information you glean from these follow-up questions can help with determining your newest employee – and it’s always better to know more about your candidates than to have questions as you hand over that employment offer.


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