Piedmont Group
Executive Search Firm

Behavioral-Based Interviewing: Are You Ready?

What is Behavioral Interviewing

In recent years, employers have been using "behavior based" interviewing techniques to more accurately select employees. Behavioral based interviewing is a structured series of questions designed to examine a person's past behavior in situations similar to those on the job. Behavioral interviewing is based on the assumption that the best predictor of future behavior or performance is past behavior or performance in similar circumstances. It provides a more objective set of facts to make employment 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.

Important Points About Behavioral Interviewing

Employers predetermine which skills are necessary for each vacant position. They then ask very pointed questions to determine if the candidate possesses these skills.
In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed; tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly tell them the situation, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome.

Frame it in a three step process:

  •      Situation
  •      Action
  •      Result or Outcome

The interviewee tells a story for a few minutes. Typically, the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behavior(s). The interviewer can 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."
Always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely.
Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering these questions. Refresh your memory regarding your achievements in the past couple of years. Be prepared to provide examples of when results didn't turn out as you planned. What did you do then?

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions, especially involving course work, work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.
Prepare short descriptions of each situation. Be ready to give details if asked.
Be sure each story has a beginning, middle, and an end, i.e., be ready to describe the situation, your action, and the outcome or result.
Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
Be specific. Don't generalize about several events; give a detailed account of one event.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

These are often difficult questions to answer on the fly. Jot down examples of stories in your past that you would use to answer these questions. Careful preparation is the key to an effective behavioral interview. Make sure that you are thoroughly prepared well in advance.


Give me a specific example of a time when a co-worker criticized your work in front of others. How did you respond? How has that event shaped the way you communicate with others?
How do you ensure that someone understands what you are saying?
Tell me about a time when you had to present complex information.
Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get across an important point.

Decision Making

Give me an example of a time you had to make a difficult decision.
Describe a specific problem you solved for your employer. How did you approach the problem? What role did others play? What was the outcome?
Give me an example of when taking your time to make a decision paid off.


What did you do to prepare for this interview?
Give me an example of a situation that could not have happened successfully without you being there.
Planning and Organization
Describe a situation when you had many projects due at the same time. What steps did you take to get them all done?
How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time? Give me an example.
Describe a time where you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker understand a task. How did you assist them? What was the result?


Tell me about a time when you influenced the outcome of a project by taking a leadership role.
Give me an example of when you involved others in making a decision.

Time Management

Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn?
Tell me about a time when you were particularly effective on prioritizing tasks and completing a project on schedule.