Most organizations today conduct behavioral
interviews. In order to help you prepare for your upcoming
interview, here is some information on behavioral interviews and
examples of possible questions they may ask.
Managers recognize the importance of evaluating an individual's
past behavior when making personnel decisions. Deciding who can
handle a problem today is a matter of recalling who was successful
in solving a similar problem last week, last month, or time and time
again during the past few years. Managers conclude that the
individual who solved the problem or carried out the work assignment
well in the past can do it again. They are using past behavior to
predict future behavior. They may not always be right, but the odds
are certainly in their favor!
Finding out in the interview what an applicant has done in the
past is the heart of the behavioral interview. Once the interviewer
knows what an applicant has done on the job, he or she can
accurately predict behaviors, skills, and decisions the applicant
will probably repeat in the future. With this information, the
applicant with the best chance of being successful can be offered
The term "behavior" is used to describe a person's past actions
and accomplishments as well as his or her reactions during the
behavioral interview. A complete description of behavior includes
the situation under which an action occurred, the action itself, and
the result of that action.
ADVANTAGES OF BEHAVIORAL
INTERVIEWS ADVANTAGES OF USING PAST APPLICANT BEHAVIOR TO PREDICT
Using Behavior Eliminates Misunderstandings About Applicant's
Many interviewers try to be amateur psychologists when they
interpret data about applicants. Sometimes they are right, but many
times their interpretations are wrong. An interviewer who spends
half the interview discussing an applicant's early childhood to get
some clues as to his motivation is playing psychologist. So is the
interviewer who asks an applicant to give three words that describe
herself, or to name three strengths and weaknesses.
In behavioral interviews, interviewers are trained to use what
they can understand best about applicants - their behaviors,
actions, accomplishments, and past experiences. As a result,
predicting what an applicant will do on the job becomes more
Using Behavior Prevents Personal Impressions from Affecting
It's easy to "misread" people when an interviewer uses personal
feelings, opinions, or attitudes as a background to interpret their
past actions. For example, an interviewer should not assume that an
applicant is highly motivated to do the job just because he or she
got good grades in school. Maybe the applicant took easy courses or
was very bright. The same applies to the applicant who received some
special award or citation. Perhaps there were few competitors. Maybe
it was just a chance happening. Interviewers who are highly
motivated and strive to achieve success tend to see these
characteristics in others. They may interpret facts gained in the
interview in terms of what these characteristics mean to them,
rather than what they mean to the applicant.
An applicant's past behavior is fully investigated in a
behavioral interview. The applicant is asked to describe past
actions, the situation surrounding those actions, and their results.
As a result, interviewers replace evaluations based on personal
opinion and belief with evaluations based on facts. In this way,
applicants are evaluated on their own merits.
Using Behavior Reduces Applicant "Faking"
All applicants try to put their best foot forward and make a good
impression on the interviewer. They all hope to "win" the job by
talking about what they would do if hired, the problems they could
solve, or the skills they would develop. Applicants might even
describe the knowledge, skills, or abilities they would put to use
on the job. This positive-sounding information may lead the
interviewer to believe the applicant is more skilled than he or she
Applicant "faking" is greatly reduced in behavioral interviews.
Applicants are pinned down to exactly what they did, not what they
know about, would like to do, or say they would do in the future. An
applicant talks "facts" in a behavioral interview!
Because behavioral interviews are discussions of behavior, an
applicant quickly learns he or she will be asked to give specific
examples of past actions. This makes applicants reluctant to make up
or "shade" information because they fear being discovered as the
interviewer probes and questions to pin down exactly what they did.
SAMPLE BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Give me an example of when you brought revenue to the company.
IDEA, APPROACH, RESULT
2. What lessons have you learned about keeping the customer
satisfied? How did you learn them? Give me an example that
illustrates how you have used that lesson.
LESSON, HOW LEARNED, EXAMPLE, RESULT
3. Think of a major sales presentation that you made. What was
your approach? Explain how the sale developed.
DESCRIBE, APPROACH, PRESENTATION, RESULT
4. What have you learned about sales in the last _____ years?
Give some examples of how you have used this knowledge.
SITUATION, WHAT LEARNED, HOW USED KNOWLEDGE, RESULT
5. What information have you been required to analyze? Describe
one of your most difficult analyses.
INFORMATION, WHY DIFFICULT, HOW ANALYZED, CONCLUSION
6. Describe some tough or tricky situations in which you had to
talk to people to obtain information you needed to make an important
decision or recommendation.
SITUATION/INFO NEEDED, ACTION/HOW INFO OBTAINED, RESULT
7. Tell me about a time when you had to review detailed reports
or documents to identify a problem.
SITUATION/REPORT(S), ACTION/HOW REVIEWED, CONCLUSION
8.Tell me about a time when you persuaded someone to do
something. What was the situation? How did you persuade the person?
SITUATION, HOW PERSUADED, RESULT
9. Walk me through a situation in which you had to obtain
information by asking a lot of questions of several people. How did
you know what to ask?
SITUATION, WHY THOSE QUESTIONS, RESULTS
10. Tell me about a difficult customer (internal or external)
with whom you had to deal. Why was he/she difficult? What did you
SITUATION, WHY DIFFICULT, ACTION, RESULT
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