The behavioral job interview is based on the theory that past performance is the best indicator of future behavior, and uses questions that probe specific past behaviors, such as: “tell me about a time where you confronted an unexpected problem,” “tell me about an experience when you failed to achieve a goal,” and “give me a specific example of a time when you managed several projects at once.” Job-seekers need to prepare for these interviews by recalling scenarios that fit the various types of behavioral interviewing questions. Expect interviewers to have several follow-up questions and probe for details that explore all aspects of a given situation or experience. 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 employer analyzes what makes individuals successful in its organization and identifies job-related experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities that are desirable in a particular position. Once the employer has identified the skills and behaviors needed for the position, the employer then structures very pointed questions to elicit detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics. For example, an employer looking to hire sales representatives sought candidates with “ego drive,” which is reflected in a person’s desire to be highly successful and his or her need to be a significant person according to his or her own goals. A sample question designed to identify ego drive was, “Describe a past event that gave you a great sense of personal accomplishment.” The interviewer would look for responses that indicate the candidate’s drive, need for recognition, and need for success.
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. As a candidate, you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly. Chapter 2 tells you more about the skills and behaviors employers seek in these interviews and how to identify the specific skills an employer may be targeting in a given job.
The specific preparation required for behavioral interviews will help you with any kind of interview. As career expert Andrea Dine note, “the real beauty of learning how to respond behaviorally is that even if the question is not a behavior-based question, it can still be answered with a real-life example. This approach helps give the candidates credibility and allows them to separate themselves from everyone else, leaving an imprint of them on the interviewer’s mind.”
How do you know whether an interview you have scheduled will be behavior-based or not? Sometimes the employer will tell you when setting up the appointment. If not, there is nothing wrong with asking what type of interview to expect.