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Behavioral Interviewing is an interviewing technique that is increasingly being used by more and more organizations. This specific interviewing approach has gained wide acceptance because of well-documented proof that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Behavioral Interviewing was developed as an effective alternative to traditional interviewing methods.

What Is the Behavioral Interviewing Process?

The Behavioral Interviewing process first identifies essential skills for the position, and then questions are developed so that the interviewer can assess and compare a candidate's responses to the position requirements. Many employers now use Behavioral Interviewing during preliminary phone screening. During an on-site interview, a candidate may meet with more than one interviewer at a time, and at least one person will take notes. A true Behavioral Interview can take two to four hours.

Since Behavioral Interviewing is based on the concept that a candidate's past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, the interviewer will be listening for positive examples of past experiences, or success factors. These factors may include technical or job specific skills, abilities related to the position (for example, communication, customer focus, planning, leadership, teamwork) and more specific competencies (such as initiative, accountability for results, strategic thinking, risk taking, managing conflicts or ambiguity, etc.).

The interviewer will request the candidate to answer behavioral questions by providing descriptions of a specific situation, the actions taken, and the outcome. A well-prepared candidate has a great opportunity to describe how their actions achieved results.

Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions

Examples of a Behavioral Interview question to assess "organizing" would be:

  • Tell me about the most disorganized situation you ever encountered that you were responsible to resolve and how you resolved it.

An example of a Behavioral Interview question to assess "problem-solving" would be:

  • Tell me about the most difficult business problem you were responsible to solve. What actions did you take and what were the outcomes?

An example of a Behavioral Interview question to assess "negotiating" would be:

  • Describe a situation in which you had to negotiate with others to arrive at a compromise or guide others to a compromise. What actions did you take and what were the outcomes?

The interviewer might use probing questions to obtain additional information about a variety of situations. Examples of probing questions include:

  • What was the situation?
  • What did you actually do?
  • What did you actually say?
  • How did the other people respond?
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • What were the end results?

Here are some additional typical Behavioral Interview questions:

  • Describe a time when you improved a work process. What was it, how did you go about it, and what was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when you displayed excellent customer service. What were your actions and the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to step beyond company procedures to accommodate a client. What was the situation and how did you resolve it?
  • Describe an innovative idea that you introduced which led to a significant project success.
  • Describe your most challenging, demanding goal that you stuck through to completion, despite obstacles.
  • Tell me about a time when a member of your work team wasn't carrying his/her weight, and what you did about it.
  • Describe a project that did not turn out the way you had expected. What did you do?
  • Describe a situation where you were responsible for influencing a major decision and it wasn't going right. What actions did you take and what was the outcome?