The premise for Behavioral Interviewing is based on a proven theory that "a person's past behavior is the best predictor of their future performance in similar circumstances." In other words, a candidate's actual behavior and choices in situations faced in the past will give a good indication of behavior and choices they likely will make in the future.

Behavioral interviewing is…

  • A process to identify a candidate's actual behaviors and choices
  • A strategy to uncover behavioral indicators in important situations
  • A means to access a candidate's competencies and skills against job-related qualifications

Here are a few examples of legally-defensible behavioral interview questions that will assist in uncovering core competencies in an interview.

  1. What has been a particularly demanding goal for you to achieve? What were the obstacles you faced and how did you get through those hurdles? (This question taps into the candidate's achievement orientation.)
  2. Can you think of a situation in which an innovative course of action was needed? What did you do in this situation? (This question taps into the candidate's ability to uncover creative and novel solutions to problems.)
  3. What are the typical customer interactions you have in your present position? Can you think of a recent example of one of these? (This questions taps into the candidate's customer service orientation.)
  4. In your present position, what standards have you set for doing a good job? How did you determine them? (This questions taps into the candidate's high work standards.)
  5. Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to take on new tasks or roles? Describe this situation and what you did. (This question taps into the candidate's degree of flexibility.)
  6. Have you done things in your job beyond what has been required? Tell me about some things which you've done that exceed requirements. (This question taps into the candidate's initiative.)
  7. Can you tell me about a situation in which you attempted to raise an individual's (or group's) level of performance? Describe for me the situation and your specific actions in this process. (This questions taps into the candidate's people management skills.)
  8. Virtually all jobs have stresses associated with them. What kinds of pressures or stresses have you faced in your present position? How did you deal with these situations? (This question taps into the candidate's stability and ability to deal with stress.)
  9. We all have had to work with people who see things differently from us. Can you think of a person or group you have worked with who saw things quite differently from you? Give me an example of when they didn't agree with what you were doing. How did this make you feel and what was the end result of the situation? (This question taps into the candidate's degree of sensitivity.)
  10. Describe for me the best boss you ever worked for. Describe for me the worse boss you ever worked for. (This question taps into the best management style for the candidate)

In addition to the behavioral interview questions above, it's important to use "probes" in follow up to your questions to dig deeper in uncovering the "big picture" of the situation, circumstances etc. involved. Following are some primary and secondary probes you can use to perfect your behavioral interviewing technique.

Primary Probes:

  • What was your role?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What were you feeling?

Secondary Probes:

  • Who was involved?
  • Expand on the part in which you played a significant role.
  • How did you first get involved?
  • What stands out most in your mind?
  • What was the outcome?
Mike Poskey

Mike Poskey is the President of ZERORISK HR, a Dallas-based human resources risk management firm and exclusive provider of the ZERORISK Hiring System. ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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