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Message to Applicants > Interview Tips > Behavioral Interview Tips
 

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 position.

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 FUTURE BEHAVIOR

Using Behavior Eliminates Misunderstandings About Applicant's Past Experiences

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 accurate.

Using Behavior Prevents Personal Impressions from Affecting Evaluation

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 really is.

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 do?

SITUATION, WHY DIFFICULT, ACTION, RESULT

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