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Behavioral Interviewing

By Jennifer C. Zamecki

Have you ever wondered, while interviewing a candidate, how will you suspend your own personal biases during the interview? Well, if you have, you might want to read on and learn how to do just that.

Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing. Employers such as AT&T and Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) have been using behavioral interviewing for 15 years, and because increasing numbers of employers are using behavior-based methods to screen job candidates, understanding how to excel in this interview environment is becoming a crucial job-hunting skill.

What is Behavior Based Interviewing? Behavior-based interviewing focuses on your past experiences, behaviors, attitudes, personal skills and capacities that are job-related. It is based on the belief that past behavior and performance predicts future behavior and performance. You may use work experience, outsides activities, hobbies, volunteer work, school projects, family life as examples of your past behavior. However we suggest to focus on job related performance as much as possible.

Behavioral Interviewing Questions. This is the key to matching behavioral interviewing questions with specific personal skills or competencies. Below is a short list of the top 10 competencies with their definitions, suggestions for effective interviewing hints and a sample question for each.

1. Conflict Management:  Addressing and resolving conflict constructively.

  • Listen for proactive identification and resolution of concerns and issues.

  • Sample question:  “Describe the most difficult conflict you’ve ever had to manage.”

2. Interpersonal Skills:  Effectively communicating, building rapport and relating well to all kinds of people.

  • Listen for self-awareness, understanding and an ability to communicate effectively with others regardless of differences.

  • Sample question:  “Describe the most difficult working relationship you’ve had with an individual.”

3. Teamwork:  Working effectively and productively with other.

  • Listen for a strong commitment and contributions to team members working towards a specific goal.

  • Sample question:  “Give me an example of one of the most significant contributions you made as a member of a high performing team.”

4. Self-Management: Demonstrating self-control and an ability to manage time and priorities.

  • Listen for composure, assertiveness and emotional stability.

  • Sample question:  “Give me an example of when you were able to meet the personal and professional demands in your life, yet still maintained a healthy balance.”

5. Planning/Organizing:  Utilizing logical, systematic and orderly procedures to meet objectives.

  • Listen for logical, organized and systematic approaches.

  • Sample question: “ Describe the most complex assignment or project you’ve worked on.”

6. Customer Service:  Anticipating, meeting and/or exceeding customer needs, wants and expectations.

  • Listen for extraordinary efforts in responding to customer needs and wants to insure satisfaction.

  • Sample question: “ Give me an example of when you went out of your way for a customer.”

7. Goal Orientation: Energetically focusing efforts on meeting a goal, mission or objective.

  • Listen for the ability to maintain their direction in spite of obstacles in their path.

  • Sample question:  “Give me an example of the most significant professional goal you have met.”

8. Problem Solving:  Anticipating, analyzing, diagnosing and resolving problems.

  • Listen for an analytical and disciplined approach to solving problems.

  • Sample question:  “Describe a situation when you anticipated a problem.”

9. Leadership:  Achieving extraordinary business results through people.

  • Listen for an ability to obtain the trust, commitment and motivation of others to achieve goals and objectives.

  • Sample question:  “If you have held a leadership position in the past, draw the organizational chart above and below your position to illustrate the scope of your leadership responsibilities.”

10. Decision Making Utilizing effective processes to make decisions.

  • Listen for an ability to make timely decisions under difficult circumstances.

  • Sample question: “Give me an example of when you had to make a quick decision when the risk of making an error was high.”

Be sure to probe for as many details and specifics as possible such as names, dates and other verifiable information. Skilled interviewers will also ask candidates for their thoughts or feelings about a situation to gain further insight.


How Do I Prepare For a Behavioral Interview If I Am The Interviewer or Company Hiring?

  • If the job could talk; what would it say? About:

o    The behaviors of the person who will always be able to deliver superior performance?

o    The attitudes of the people doing the job?

o    The attributes or personal skills needed for superior performance?

  • Job Benchmarking reveals why, how and what an individual can contribute to a job.

  • It identifies a complete hierarchy of competencies or personal skills. It allows you to clarify any position issues. It prioritizes and validates the competencies required.

  • This can be done for any:

o    Leadership/Management Exempt position

o    Professional Exempt position

o    Hourly non-exempt position

  • Anytime you need an unbiased opinion about whether someone is right or wrong for the job, the computer will analyze the input of up to ten respondents to identify the importance of the top personal skills competencies.

  • Where can you do this…through the Internet!  Have up to ten respondents identify the importance of the top personal skills competencies and then see how your candidate matches up.

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

Read other articles and learn more about Jennifer Zamecki.

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