Behavioral interviewing is a popular approach to screening job candidates. It is based on a philosophy that assessing a candidate’s past behavior and experiences is a reliable indicator of his/her response to identical situations in the future.
Traditional Interviewing v/s Behavioral Interviewing
Screening candidates gives interviewers a glimpse into an applicant’s characteristics, skills, and experiences to determine their fit for a position. Unlike a traditional interview, which poses hypothetical questions, in behavioral interviews interviewers ask questions intended to elicit concrete examples that reveal whether the candidate demonstrated particular behaviors or skills in the past.
For example, instead of asking a candidate, “How will you deal with a team member who was not pulling his weight on a project?” as in a traditional interview, an interviewer using the behavioral interviewing technique may ask, “Describe a project where one of your teammates was not pulling his weight. What did you do? Did he change?”
Behavioral Interviewing Process
Typically, prior to the interview, an interviewer identifies a set of behavioral traits and characteristics he/she believes is essential for success on a particular assignment. He/she then selects a series of questions structured as follows:
- Describe a time when you had to …. What did you do?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to …?
- Tell me about a situation in the past …
An interviewer may question the candidate’s responses and probe further:
- What was the outcome?
- Did you consider …?
- How did the other person react?
Quite often, an interviewer structures questions such that a candidate cannot note the particular personality trait the interviewer seeks. Instead of allowing the candidate to theorize or generalize about events, the interviewer expects three details of each experience: (1) what was the situation, (2) how did the candidate deal with the situation, and, (3) was what the outcome.
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions
- Describe a situation when your team members disagreed with your ideas or proposal on a project. What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem before anybody else on your team. What was the nature of the problem? How did you handle it? Did you ask for help?
- What has been your most creative solution to a problem?
- Give an example of when you had difficulty getting along with a team member. What made this person difficult to work with? How did you deal with the situation?
- Tell me about a time when you have had to reject a customer’s request. What reasons did you give? How did you communicate?
- What was a constructive criticism you received recently? How did you respond to it? Did your relationship with this person change?
For more questions, see my compilation of job interview questions.
For more on how to impress an interviewer by discussing your credentials and accomplishments in terms of personal success stories, see my article on the STAR technique.