interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing. Employers
such as AT&T and Accenture
(the former Andersen Consulting) have been using behavioral interviewing
for about 15 years now, 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
The premise behind
behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future
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
interviewing is touted as providing a more objective set of facts to
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
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. For example, some of the
characteristics that Accenture looks for include:
- Being a self-starter
- Willingness to learn
- Willingness to travel
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
As a candidate,
you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly. Obviously,
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
behaviors the company wants.
(Click here to see a list of
behaviors that employers might be trying to get at in a
In the interview,
your response needs to be specific and detailed. Candidates who tell the
about particular situations that relate to each question will be far
more effective and successful than
those who respond in general terms.
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
usually called a S-A-R, P-A-R, or S-T-A-R statement:
1. situation (or
Click here for a
It's also helpful to think of your
responses as stories. Become a great storyteller in your interviews, but
be careful not to ramble.
See also, STAR
for more information.
It's difficult to
prepare for a behavior-based interview because of the huge number and
variety of possible behavioral 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 behavioral
Turner offers more details on how to develop these stories in his
Interviews: A Great Showcase for You, But You Must Prepare Now.
Despite the many
possible behavioral questions, you can get some idea of what to
expect by looking at Web sites that feature behavioral questions,
Knowing what kinds
of questions might be asked will help you prepare an effective
selection of examples.
Use examples from
internships, classes and school projects, activities, team
service, hobbies and work experience -- anything really -- as examples
of your past behavior. In
addition, you may use examples of special accomplishments, whether
personal or professional,
such as scoring the winning touchdown, being elected president of your
Greek organization, winning a
prize for your artwork, surfing a big wave, or raising money for
charity. Wherever possible, quantify
your results. Numbers always impress employers.
Remember that many
behavioral 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
Here's a good way
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
- 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/or PAR/SAR/STAR.
To cram for a
behavioral interview right before you're interviewed, review your
Seeing your achievements in print will jog your memory.
In the interview,
listen carefully to each question, and pull an example out of your bag
tricks 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.
snagged the job, keep a record of achievements and accomplishments so
be ready with more great examples the next time you go on a behavior
about behavioral Interviewing:
Quintessential Guide to Behavioral Interviewing, 2008.
Quintessential Careers Press.
Byham, William C.,
Ph.D., with Debra Pickett,
the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Job Interview of Your Life,
1999: Three Rivers Press.
some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information
(definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search
terms by going to our Job-Seeker's
Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate
publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author,
and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers,
an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling
in the job search at A
Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior
from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic
Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door:
Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed
as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with
Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your
Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide
to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her
or reach her by e-mail at
ZZ from http://www.quintcareers.com/behavioral_interviewing.html