Hiring employees has got to be one of the most difficult tasks in running a salon or any business. Most owners do not have human resources skills and rely on the standard “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” approach. While this method may seem straightforward, it lets the candidate dictate how you view her and gives you little information about how she will perform on the job. A technique called “behavior-based interviewing” is a way to get beyond pre-scripted responses and give you insight into how a candidate actually performs at work by asking for concrete examples of how she dealt with challenges in the past. Behavioral questions force candidates to demonstrate their skills, rather than simply tell you about them. Armed with better questions and better information you’ll be prepared to make better hiring choices. And better hires mean increased productivity, lower turnover, higher morale, and better quality service for customers.

The philosophy behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance. As a company, you must first determine the skill sets and competencies required for a particular position. The skills required by a nail tech, esthetician, and front desk coordinator may be very different. Skill sets could include: communication, interpersonal skills, planning and organization, decision-making and problem solving, leadership, motivation, critical thinking, team building, and the ability to influence others. Determining these skills ahead of time as they relate to each position will help to determine the questions. Here are some sample questions to ask when interviewing.

Decision Making and Problem Solving:

  • Have you ever had to keep from speaking or making a decision because you did not have enough information? What did you do?
  • Have you ever recognized a problem before your manager did? Tell me about the situation you were in.
  • Describe a situation when a customer wasn’t satisfied with her service. What did you do?

Leadership/Team Work:

  • Have you ever had a great idea that you wanted to share and needed the cooperation of others? Tell me about it.
  • Tell me about a situation with someone at work in which you later wished you had acted differently. What happened? What do you wish you had done and why?
  • We all get frustrated with co-workers from time to time. Tell me about an experience when you’ve been frustrated and what you did about it.
  • Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?


  • Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.  Describe a situation when you were able to have a positive influence on the action of others.



  • Tell me about a situation when you had to speak up (be assertive) in order to get a point across that was important to you.
  • Have you ever had a situation where you were misunderstood? What did you do?

Interpersonal Skill:

  • What have you done in the past to contribute toward a teamwork environment?
  • Describe a recent unpopular decision you made and what the result was.

Planning and Organization:

  • Think of a time you were late for an appointment. What happened? What did you do about it?
  • What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give an example.


  • Describe a situation when you had to change a system you were used to working with. What did you do?
  • How do you keep track of things that need you attention? Give me an example of how you do this.

Other Behavioral Questions:

  • Give a specific example of a policy you did not agree with that you conformed to anyway.
  • Give me an example of an important goal, which you had set in the past, and tell me about your success in reaching it.
  • Describe an instance when you had an ethical conflict with an owner or manager. What did you do about it?
  • What was the best facility you worked in? What did you like most about it?

As you can see, by using these types of questions you will get a much deeper understanding of the candidate’s behavior and can match results with company standards.

Today, more than ever, every hiring decision is critical. Behavioral interviewing is designed to minimize personal impressions that can affect the hiring decision. By focusing on the applicant's actions and behaviors, rather than subjective impressions that can sometimes be misleading, interviewers can make more accurate hiring decisions.

Millie Haynam is the owner of Natural Beauty Salon and Academy in Twinsburg, Ohio. She has been a licensed cosmetologist for 26 years.


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