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Behavioral Interviewing

By Jennifer C. Zamecki July 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Have you ever wondered how to suspend personal biases while interviewing someone or being interviewed yourself in order to make the best, nonbiased decision or impression? The behavioral interviewing method, a relatively new mode of job interviewing, may be the answer. Employers such as AT&T have been using behavioral interviewing for 15 years, 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 skill.

Behavior-based interviewing
        Behavioral interviewing focuses on past experiences, behaviors, attitudes, and personal skills and capacities that are job-related. It is based on the belief that past behavior and performance predicts future behavior and performance. Instances from your work experience, outside activities, hobbies, volunteer work, school projects and family life can be used as examples of past behavior. However, it is suggested you focus on job-related performance as much as possible.

Behavioral interviewing questions
        The key to behavioral interviewing questions is to match them with specific personal skills or competencies in your answers. Below is a short list of the top 10 work-related competencies, along with their definitions. Also included are hints to keep in mind for an effective interview and a sample question for each competency.

1. Conflict Management: Addressing and resolving conflict constructively.

  • Show proactive identification and resolution of concerns and issues.
  • Sample question: “Describe the most difficult conflict you’ve ever had to manage.”


2. Interpersonal Skills: Effectively communicating and building rapport with, as well as relating well to, all kinds of people.

  • Show self-awareness, understanding and an ability to communicate effectively with others, regardless of differences.
  • Sample question: “Describe the most difficult working relationship you’ve had with an individual.”


3. Teamwork: Working effectively and productively with others.

  • Show a strong commitment and contributions to team members working toward a specific goal.
  • Sample question: “Give an example of one of the most significant contributions you made as a member of a high-performing team.”


4. Self-Management: Demonstrating self-control and an ability to manage time and priorities.

  • Show composure, assertiveness and emotional stability.
  • Sample question: “Give an example of when you were able to meet the personal and professional demands in your life, yet still maintained a healthy balance.”


5. Planning and Organizing: Utilizing logical, systematic and orderly procedures to meet objectives.

  • Show logical, organized and systematic approaches.
  • Sample question: “Describe the most complex assignment or project you’ve worked on.”


6. Customer Service: Anticipating, meeting and exceeding customer needs, wants and expectations.

  • Show extraordinary efforts in responding to customer needs to ensure satisfaction.
  • Sample question: “Give an example of when you went out of your way for a customer.”


7. Goal Orientation: Energetically focusing efforts on meeting a goal, mission or objective.

  • Show the ability to maintain direction in spite of obstacles.
  • Sample question: “Give an example of the most significant professional goal you have met.”


8. Problem Solving: Anticipating, analyzing, diagnosing and resolving problems.

  • Show an analytical and disciplined approach to solving problems.
  • Sample question: “Describe a situation when you anticipated a problem.”


9. Leadership: Achieving extraordinary business results through people.

  • Show an ability to obtain the trust, commitment and motivation of others in order to achieve goals and objectives.
  • Sample question: “If you have held a leadership position in the past, draw or describe the organizational chart above and below your position to illustrate the scope of your leadership responsibilities.”


10. Decision-Making: Utilizing effective processes to make decisions.

  • Show an ability to make timely decisions under difficult circumstances.
  • Sample question: “Give me an example of when you had to make a quick decision when the risk of making an error was high.”


        Be sure to answer with as many details and specifics as possible, such as names, dates and other verifiable information. Skilled interviewers will also ask candidates for thoughts or feelings about a particular situation in order to gain further insight.

Reversing roles
        Behavioral interviewing is an effective method from an interviewer’s standpoint, and is especially so if the skills and competencies required for the job have been evaluated before the interviewing process begins. A few things to think about in order to prepare for an interview involving behavioral techniques include what would entail success at the particular job and how a person’s own skills would fit into the skill set the job requires.
        First, if the job itself could talk, what would it say it needed? Areas to focus on should be the behaviors of the person doing the job: Will she always be able to deliver superior performance?; the attitudes of the person doing the job: Is it appropriate for the position and the company?; and the attributes or personal skills of the person doing the job: Are they what is needed for superior performance?
        Next, job benchmarking reveals why, how and what an individual can contribute to a job. It identifies a complete hierarchy of competencies or personal skills for the job and allows clarification of any issues regarding the position. It prioritizes and validates the competencies required for the position, so the person doing the job knows what to expect.
        By knowing what the job needs and how a person’s competencies and skills will fit in with into that dynamic, it helps ensure the right traits and qualities are being looked for, as well as aiding in streamlining the application and interviewing process. When the focus of the interview is in the proper place—on the applicants and the job itself—personal biases are less likely to interfere with this important decision.

Making the right decision
        The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55% predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10% predictive. So, if performed properly, this method is one of the best ways to ensure that the right person is truly getting the job.

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