Although behavioral interviewing is still sometimes considered to be an unfamiliar and relatively new mode of job interviewing, employers such as AT&T and Accenture (the former Andersen Consulting) have been using behavioral interviewing for at least 20 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. Even interviews that are not entirely behavior-based usually feature at least some behavioral questions.
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 10 percent predictive. In their book Results-Oriented Interviewing: Principles, Practices, and Procedures, Schmidt and Conaway assert that behavioral interviewing is up to seven times more accurate than traditional interviewing in predicting future behavior.
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 “Why should we hire you?” 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. And 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.