The Behavioural-Based Interview

Most large organizations employ the Behavioural Based Interviewing approach to select new employees. A Behavioural Based question is designed to examine the applicant’s past behaviour in situations similar to those that comprise the prospective job duties. Employers assess three key performance predictors in the interviewee’s answers: technical ability, behaviour or performance skills, and personal preferences.

A Behavioural Based response requires you to provide specific examples of past events that demonstrate your skills and abilities. You must also provide accurate references to names, dates, numbers, times and locations. This approach allows employers to obtain information that is authentic; in addition, the employer gains insight into your probable future performance.

Key Performance Skill Areas

Employers consider at least seven key performance skill areas when conducting a Behavioural Based interview:

  • ability to influence others;
  • interpersonal skills and competence;
  • ability to grow and adapt;
  • communication skills;
  • level of commitment and motivation;
  • organizational ability; and
  • problem solving and decision making

Behavioural Based Question Examples

Your ability to influence others: Tell me about a time when you were able to overcome resistance to your ideas. Describe the situation. Who was involved? What was the outcome?

Interpersonal skills: Tell me about the most frustrating person with whom you have worked. What made this experience difficult? How did you resolve the situation with this person?

Ability to grow and adapt: Tell me about the last time you were criticized by a supervisor/professor? How did you respond to the criticism? Do you feel the criticism
was valid? What did you learn from the situation?

Communication skills: Tell me about a time when you had to work hard in order to fully understand what another person was saying to you. What was the situation? What was the outcome?

Level of commitment and motivation: Describe a time when you faced obstacles in reaching your objectives. What were the obstacle you encountered? What did you do to go around or remove them?

Organizational ability: What do you do to ensure that you meet project deadlines? How do you monitor and track your progress? How satisfied are you with your system of controls?

Problem solving and decision making: Tell me about the most difficult problem or decision you have faced at work. What was the situation? How did you decide what action to take? What was the outcome?

Building a Behavioural Based Question

An employer will go through these steps when developing a Behavioural Based Interviewing question:

  1. Skill analysis: employer analyzes skill sets necessary for position described.
  2. Listing of critical skills: skill set is evaluated and ranked in order of importance.
  3. Behaviour analysis: behavioural characteristics required of the position are noted.
  4. Conclusion: question is developed around the skills and behaviours required of the job.

Preparing for a Behavioural Based Interview

The key to a successful Behavioural Based Interview is preparation. Thorough preparation requires you to complete several tasks:

  • Research the company;
  • Analyze the job description for which you are applying;
  • Break the job description down into skill areas;
  • Rank the skills in order of importance;
  • Prepare ten Behavioural Based questions; try to anticipate what the employer may ask, based on the skill set described in the job description; and
  • Prepare concise answers that include examples. Rehearse your answers aloud.
  • Use examples from work experience; school; University; volunteer work; sports and extra curricular activities.

Employers evaluate your behavioural based answers throughout the interview and upon completion of the process. Different scales are used; however, employers generally rank responses from “high” to “low” in order to assist them in choosing the right candidate for the position.

The following source was consulted during the writing of this section:
“Behavioral Based Interviewing – Critical Skills for Employers and Educators” CEA/CCEA Joint Conference, San Diego, CA April 6, 1997. Presented by: Sharon Cobb, North Dakota Stae University, Fargo ND; Randy Dostal, Hutchinson Technology, Hutchinson, MN; Mark Van Beusekom, McGladrey & Pullen, LLP, Minneapolis, MN.

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