Tips on Behavioral Interviewing
In recent years, employers have been using "behavior based" interviewing
techniques to more accurately select employees. Behavioral based
interviewing is a structured series of questions designed to examine
a person's past behavior in situations similar to those on the
job. Behavioral interviewing is based on the assumption that the
best predictor of future behavior or performance is past behavior
or performance in similar circumstances. It provides a more objective
set of facts to make employment decisions than other interviewing
methods. Traditional interview questions ask you general questions,
such as; "Tell me about yourself." The process of behavioral
interviewing is much more probing and works very differently.
- Employers predetermine which skills are necessary for each
vacant position. They then ask very pointed questions to determine
if the candidate possesses these skills.
- In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed;
tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question,
not a general one. Briefly tell them the situation, what you
did specifically, and the positive result or outcome.
Frame it in a three step process:
- Result or Outcome
- The interviewee tells a story for a few minutes. Typically,
the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the
specific behavior(s). The interviewer can probe further for more
depth or detail, such as; "What were you thinking at that
point?" or "Tell me more about your meeting with that
person," or "Lead me through your decision process."
- Always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification
if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely.
- Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering these
questions. Refresh your memory regarding your achievements in
the past couple of years. Be prepared to provide examples of
when results didn't turn out as you planned. What did you do
- Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions,
especially involving course work, work experience, leadership,
teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.
- Prepare short descriptions of each situation. Be ready to give
details if asked.
- Be sure each story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, i.e.,
be ready to describe the situation, your action, and the outcome
- Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even
if the result itself was not favorable).
- Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story. The
interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
- Be specific. Don't generalize about several events; give a
detailed account of one event.
These are often difficult questions to answer on the fly. Jot
down examples of stories in your past that you would use to answer
these questions. Careful preparation is the key to an effective
behavioral interview. Make sure that you are thoroughly prepared
well in advance.
- Give me a specific example of a time when a co-worker criticized
your work in front of others. How did you respond? How has that
event shaped the way you communicate with others?
- How do you ensure that someone understands what you are saying?
- Tell me about a time when you had to present complex information.
- Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication
skills in order to get across an important point.
- Give me an example of a time you had to make a difficult decision.
- Describe a specific problem you solved for your employer. How
did you approach the problem? What role did others play? What
was the outcome?
- Give me an example of when taking your time to make a decision
- What did you do to prepare for this interview?
- Give me an example of a situation that could not have happened
successfully without you being there.
- Describe a situation when you had many projects due at the
same time. What steps did you take to get them all done?
- How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time? Give
me an example.
- Describe a time where you were faced with problems or stresses
that tested your coping skills.
- Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker
understand a task. How did you assist them? What was the result?
- Tell me about a time when you influenced the outcome of a project
by taking a leadership role.
- Give me an example of when you involved others in making a
- Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What
things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What
did you learn?
- Tell me about a time when you were particularly effective on
prioritizing tasks and completing a project on schedule.