What is Behavior Based Interviewing?

Behavior based interviewing focuses on experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities that are job related. It is based on the belief that past behavior and performance predicts future behavior and performance. You may use work experience, activities, hobbies, volunteer work, school projects, family life – anything really – as examples of your past behavior. Current employment literature indicates that there is a strong trend towards this type of interviewing. In addition to questions found in many current resources, you should also consider the following in your interview preparations.

Human resource departments and hiring managers ask job applicants detailed questions about their skills and past behavior. This approach, known as “Competency-Based Behavioral Interviewing” (CBBI), provides a clear picture of what candidates actually did in their previous jobs. This strategy is based on the fact that if candidates succeeded at certain tasks before, they will repeat their success in their new jobs.

What Do Employers Evaluate in A Behavioral Interview?

Employers are looking for 3 types of skills: Content Skills, Functional – also called Transferable Skills, and Adaptive – also called Self Management Skills.

Content Skills — Knowledge that is work specific such as computer programming, accounting, welding, etc. expressed as nouns.

Functional or Transferable Skills — Used with people, information or things such as organizing, managing, developing, communicating, etc. expressed as verbs.

Adaptive or Self-Management Skills — personal characteristics such as dependable, team player, self directed, punctual, etc. expressed as adjectives.

How Are Behavioral Questions Different from Other Types of Interviewing Questions?

There are 3 types of questions typically found in interviews:

  1. Theoretical questions — Questions that place you in a hypothetical situation. These questions are more likely to test your skill at answering questions rather than in doing a good job. Example: How would you organize your friends to help you move into a new apartment?
  2. Leading questions — Questions that hint at the answer the interviewer is seeking by the way they are phrased. Example: Working on your own doesn¹t bother you does it?
  3. Behavioral questions — Questions that seek demonstrated examples of behavior from your past experience and concentrate on job related functions. They may include:
    1. Open-ended questions — these require more than a yes of no response. They often begin with “Tell me…”, “Describe…”, “When…”.
      Example: Describe a time you had to be flexible in planning a work load.
    2. Close-ended questions — Used mostly to verify or confirm information.
      Example: You have a degree in psychology, is that correct?
    3. Why questions — Used to reveal rationale for decisions you have made or to determine your level of motivation.
      Example: Why did you decide to major in this program at UM rather than at a small private college or larger university?

How Can I Best Answer Behavior-Based Questions?

Think of “PAR for the Course”. A complete answer to a behavior-based question must explain the task or problem for which you were responsible, the specific action you took, and the results of your actions. Your answer must contain all of these components to be a PAR answer. Tell the interviewer a “story” (with a beginning, a middle, and an end) about how you used a practical skill.

Problem (P) — Advertising revenue was falling off for the Daily News and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.

Action (A) — I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of DN circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a College of Business professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.

Result (R) — We signed contracts with fifteen former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by twenty percent (quantities are always good) over the same period last year.

Can You Give Me An Example of A Complete PAR Story?

Right before Thanksgiving break, most of the guys had gone home for the weekend break. Our fraternity president and vice president had already left for home when we got a call that one of our brothers had been involved in a car accident. I volunteered to go to the hospital to be with him and then called his parents. I also made arrangements for them to stay at a nearby hotel when they got there. They were pleased I had taken time from my own weekend to help them. Our chapter advisor congratulated me for keeping a cool head and handling the situation. I¹ve since decided to run for chapter office.

More Interview Articles

Check out our Job Interview page with more information and tips on what to expect at the interview.
Take a look at Common Interview Questions that follow the Behavior-Based model.
Appearance tips and advice – How to dress for an interview.
How about the toughest Interview Question of all: What salary are you looking for?


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