Interview tips to measure behavioral competencies in retail, healthcare, and manufacturing

Tuesday, February 16
<span>Photo by <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Branimir Balogović</a> on <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

Every position requires certain definable skills and abilities in order to have success on the job. We often see these defined as competencies which allow hiring managers to determine whether or not an applicant would be a good fit for the role. Taking this a step further there are certain behaviors, or behavioral competencies, which tell hiring managers and recruiters how well the applicant applies their knowledge to the tasks at hand.

Behavioral competencies can be easily grouped in the following categories: people, success, and managerial. People related behavioral competencies could be empathetic listening and interactions and interpersonal skills like relationship building and service skills. Success related competencies could look like time management skills and project management with coworkers. Lastly, managerial behavioral competencies might show up as coaching employees for professional growth or inspiring employees to perform better versus draining their motivation with micro-management.

With the above definitions and examples, let’s take a deeper look at behavioral competencies by outlining some possible interview questions that can help you, as the hiring manager, get a better grasp on your applicant’s behavioral competencies. For applicants: these tools for interviewers can easily be twisted to use as guidelines for how to nail an interview as well!

For this exercise, we will highlight and focus on three individual industries that have kept the economy moving throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: healthcare, retail, and light industrial manufacturing. These are industries that are always in demand and will always be recruiting for qualified, professional individuals.


Within the healthcare industry there are many behavioral competencies that are always needed and regularly exercised on the job. More often than not, hiring managers will need to know how each applicant succeeds using their people related behavioral competencies. Let’s look at the following two interview questions and how an applicant answers help your hiring decisions.

Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult patient.

Your applicant should answer this question with some specific details about the occasion. First the applicant should detail what happened in their example and clearly define the problem. That means they should explain who the patient was, how the situation arose, and what the patient’s emotional state appeared to be. Then, they should explain what their action or solution was to solve the patient’s problem. Did they attempt to calm the patient? Did they embrace their active listening skills to show empathy to the patient?

Then, finally, the applicant should clearly explain what the result was. As the interviewer, did you feel like you would be okay with the applicants actions were or that the resolution was appropriate if this story was about your parent, child, or loved one? If not, try to push the applicant to think further or defend their actions. If the applicant is resistant to constructive criticism or your input? If not, it’s a good idea to move on to the next applicant.

In careers in an industry as important and personal as healthcare, you always want to look for behavioral competencies that showcase their interpersonal skills. If the applicant answers questions without highlighting how they not only solve problems, but connect to their patients on a deeper level, they may not be the type of brand ambassador that you want for your organization.


Everyone knows that a job in retail is, more often than not, extremely exhausting and can be unfulfilling some days if you’ve had to deal with rude and berating customers. Keep a look out for applicants that speak poorly of the customers they’ve served and tend to have a negative outlook on the industry as a whole.

Describe a stressful situation you’ve dealt with at work and how you managed the situation.

A good rule of thumb for interviewing in the retail industry is to look for applicants who use the STAR technique for answering questions. S - they should detail what the stressful situation was. T - describe the task at hand. A - highlight what their plan of action was. R - show what the result of their action was.

Some applicants may take this time to speak poorly about their customers and assume that you, too, look down on the population that you serve. Others may use this opportunity to show their interpersonal skills by detailing how they used empathy to understand why a customer was upset and then show how their “task” in the situation directly affected the end result. If an applicant is not able to show how the result came from their detailed actions, they may not have behavioral competencies that are vital to being successful in a service related role like retail associates,

Light Industrial Manufacturing

Warehouse associates are some of the hardest working, most underpaid employees in the nation. They are oftentimes found working in non-climate controlled environments where attrition is high and the likelihood of potential raises or bonuses may be low, depending on the company itself. A vast majority of these workers come through temporary staffing services and may have been moved from warehouse to warehouse looking for a good fit. When it comes time to offer an associate a permanent placement, behavioral competencies could help you determine if a worker would be worth the cost of onboarding to your organization.

Tell me about a time when you embraced change within the workplace.

In the general warehouse environment there are numerous changes that come as the seasons change throughout the year. One of the most common changes comes with a company’s peak season as hours increase, the workload grows dramatically, and new team members are brought on in droves.

Look for answers that showcase qualities like:

  • Flexibility in scheduling or the desire to work more hours as needed and additional days if the need arises.
  • Open-mindedness to embracing new coworkers as the workplace greets temporary workers for the duration of peak.
  • Helper attitude to show how they welcome new coworkers, seek out opportunities to take on new responsibilities, and offer a helping hand in areas where they may not normally perform work duties