Behavioral Based Interviews


What are Behavioral Based Interviews?

The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.

Behavioral-based interviewing is touted as providing 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.

In a traditional job-interview, you can usually get away with telling the interviewer what he or she wants to hear, even if you are fudging a bit on the truth. Even if you are asked situational questions that start out “How would you handle XYZ situation?” you have minimal accountability. How does the interviewer know, after all, if you would really react in a given situation the way you say you would? In a behavioral interview, however, it’s much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character. When you start to tell a behavioral story, the behavioral interviewer typically will pick it apart to try to get at the specific behavior(s). The interviewer will 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.” If you’ve told a story that’s anything but totally honest, your response will not hold up through the barrage of probing questions.

Employers use the behavioral interview technique to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors so they can determine the applicant’s potential for success. The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position.

The employer then structures very pointed questions to elicit detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics. Questions (often not even framed as a question) typically start out: “Tell about a time…” or “Describe a situation…” Many employers use a rating system to evaluate selected criteria during the interview.

In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed. Candidates who tell the interviewer about particular situations that relate to each question will be far more effective and successful than those who respond in general terms.

Ideally, you should briefly describe the situation, what specific action you took to have an effect on the situation, and the positive result or outcome. Frame it in a three-step process, usually called a

S (situation)-A (action)-R (result):

How to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
  • Half your examples should be totally positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.
  • Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples. If you’re a college student, examples from high school may be too long ago. Accenture, in fact, specifies that candidates give examples of behaviors demonstrated within the last year.
  • Try to describe examples in story form and S-A-R.

To cram for a behavioral interview right before you’re interviewed, review your resume. Seeing your achievements in print will jog your memory.

During the interview, listen carefully to each question, and pull an example out of your past experiences that provides an appropriate description of how you demonstrated the desired behavior. With practice, you can learn to tailor a relatively small set of examples to respond to a number of different behavioral questions. Once you’ve snagged the job, keep a record of achievements and accomplishments so you’ll be ready with more great examples the next time you go on a behavior interview.