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Behavioural Interviewing September 8, 2005

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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  • Behavioural interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing
  • Employers such as AT&T and Accenture (the former Andersen Consulting) have been using behavioural interviewing for about 15 years now
  • The premise behind behavioural interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations
  • Behavioural interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behaviour, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive
  • Traditional interview questions ask you general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.”
  • The process of behavioural 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 behavioural interview, however, it’s much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character
  • When you start to tell a behavioural story, the behavioural interviewer typically will pick it apart to try to get at the specific behaviour(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 behavioural interview technique to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviours so they can determine the applicant’s potential for success
  • The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position
  • For example, some of the characteristics that Accenture looks for include:
  • Critical thinking
  • Being a self-starter
  • Willingness to learn
  • Willingness to travel
  • Self-confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Professionalism
  • 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.
  • As a candidate, you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly
  • Obviously, you can prepare better for this type of interview if you know which skills that the employer has predetermined to be necessary for the job you seek.
  • Researching the company and talking to people who work there will enable you to zero in on the kinds of behaviours the company wants
  • 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-A-R
  1. situation (or task, problem),
  2. action,
  3. Result/outcome.
  • It’s difficult to prepare for a behaviour-based interview because of the huge number and variety of possible behavioural questions you might be asked
  • The best way to prepare is to arm yourself with a small arsenal of example stories that can be adapted to many behavioural questions.
  • Use examples from internships, classes and school projects, activities, team participation, community service, hobbies and work experience — anything really — as examples of your past behaviour.
  • Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers always impress employers.
  • Remember that many behavioural questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you’ll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or — better yet, those that had positive outcomes

Preparing for behavioural interview

  • Here’s a good way to prepare for behaviour-based interviews:
  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviours 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 behaviours demonstrated within the last year.
  • Try to describe examples in story form and/or PAR/SAR/STAR.

Typical behaviours

  • Here’s a list of typical behaviours that employers might be trying to get at from job-seekers in a behaviour-based interview.
  • Desired Behaviours:
  1. Adaptability
  2. Communication-Oral
  3. Communication-Written
  4. Control
  5. Analysis
  6. Attention to Detail
  7. Decisiveness
  8. Delegation
  9. Development of Subordinates
  10. Energy
  11. Entrepreneurial
  12. Equipment Operation
  13. Insight
  14. Fact Finding-Oral
  15. Financial Analytical
  16. Flexibility
  17. Impact
  18. Independence
  19. Initiative
  20. Innovation
  21. Integrity
  22. Judgment
  23. Leadership/Influence
  24. Listening
  25. Motivation
  26. Negotiation
  27. Organizational
  28. Participative
  29. Sensitivity
  30. Management
  31. Planning and Organizing
  32. Practical Learning
  33. Presentation Skills
  34. Process Operation
  35. Rapport Building
  36. Resilience
  37. Risk Taking
  38. Safety Awareness
  39. Sales Ability/Persuasiveness
  40. Sensitivity
  41. Strategic Analysis
  42. Teamwork
  43. Technical/Professional Knowledge
  44. Technical/Professional Proficiency
  45. Tenacity
  46. Training
  47. Work Standards

Common behavioural-interview questions

  1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  2. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  3. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  4. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  5. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  6. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  7. Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  8. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  9. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritise your tasks.
  10. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  11. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  12. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  13. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  14. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  15. Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  16. Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  17. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  18. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  19. Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  20. Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  21. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  22. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  23. Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  24. Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).


  • Why did you choose your major and career?
  • At what point did you make this decision?
  • Specifically, what attracts you to this industry as a career?


  • Sometimes it’s easy to get in “over your head”. Describe a situation where you had to request help or assistance on a project or assignment.
  • Give an example of how you applied knowledge from previous coursework to a project in another class


  • Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
  • Describe a situation in which you found that your results were not up to your professor’s or supervisor’s expectations. What happened? What action did you take?
  • Tell of a time when you worked with a colleague who was not completing their share of the work. Who, if anyone, did you tell or talk to about it? Did the manager take any steps to correct your colleague? Did you agree or disagree with the manager’s actions?
  • Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or guide others to a compromise.


  • What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision?
  • We can sometimes identify a small problem and fix it before it becomes a major problem. Give an example(s) of how you have done this.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to collect information by asking many questions of several people.
  • In a supervisory or group leader role, have you ever had to discipline or counsel an employee or group member? What was the nature of the discipline? What steps did you take? How did that make you feel? How did you prepare yourself?
  • Recall a time from your work experience when your manager or supervisor was unavailable and a problem arose. hat was the nature of the problem? How did you handle that situation? How did that make you feel?
  • Recall a time when you were assigned what you considered to be a complex project. Specifically, what steps did you take to prepare for and finish the project? Were you happy with the outcome? What one step would you have done differently if given the chance?
  • What was the most complex assignment you have had? What was your role?


  • How was your transition from high school to college? Did you face any particular problems?
  • Tell of some situations in which you have had to adjust quickly to changes over which you had no control. What was the impact of the change on you?


  • Compare and contrast the times when you did work which was above the standard with times your work was below the standard.
  • Descibe some times when you were not very satisfied or pleased with your performance. What did you do about it?
  • What are your standards of success in school? What have you done to meet these standards?
  • How have you differed from your professors in evaluating your performance? How did you handle the situation?


  • Give examples of your experiences at school or in a job that were satisfying. Give examples of your experiences that were dissatisfying.
  • What kind of supervisor do you work best for? Provide examples


  • Describe some projects or ideas (not necessarily your own) that were implemented, or carried out successfully primarily because of your efforts.
  • Describe a situation that required a number of things to be done at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?
  • Have you found any ways to make school or a job easier or more rewarding?


  • What tricks or techniques have you learned to make school or a job easier, or to make yourself more effective? How did you learn that?


  • How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time? Give examples
  • Describe a time in school when you had many projects or assignments due at the same time. What steps did you take to get them all done?


  • Tell of a time when your active listening skills really paid off for you-maybe a time when other people missed the key idea being expressed.
  • What has been your experience in giving presentations to small or large groups? What has been your most successful experience in speech making?


  • Tell of the most difficult customer service experience that you have ever had to handle-perhaps an angry or irate customer. Be specific and tell what you did and what was the outcome.


  • Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. Why was this person difficult? How did you handle that person?
  • Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn’t like you. How did you handle it?


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