IT Employment

What is a behavioral interview and how can I ace it?


In traditional interviews, you are asked what your strengths and weaknesses are, what skills you bring to the table, etc. In a behavioral interview, the interviewer wants you to tell her HOW you've demonstrated those capabilities in your career. An interviewer wants to see how you actually handled a specific situation in the past rather than have you tell him how you would handle it in the future. He might ask you to describe a situation in which you felt you were wrongly criticized and how you handled it or how you remedied a near-miss on a deadline.

Here's a site that explains how interviewers use behavioral interviews to evaluate candidates and how best to answer the questions they put forth.

Another site offers an exhaustive (and I do mean exhaustive) list of behavioral interview questions that a hiring manager might ask. Going over them is a good way to prepare for an interview (or send your brain into meltdown, whichever comes first). The questions are divided into skill areas, and run the gamut from your your personal adaptability, to your time management style, to how you handle stress. Check it out here.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

8 comments
enovikoff
enovikoff

Behavior interviewing is a very tricky process: often it says more about the interviewer than the interviewee! As some have said, there are potential employees who are "skilled bullshitters." As an interviewer, are your skills of perception good enough to tell the difference? Ultimately, Behavioral Interviewing is aimed at predicting how a potential employee will behave in your work environment, based on similar past situations. To cut chances of simply providing a forum for someone who is skilled at talking themselves up, or capable of thinking fast on their feet, I've used the following techniques: 1) If possible, put the interviewee in a group of future peers and have them solve a problem together. The best problems are ones that your team is actually working on, so nobody has the "right" answer yet. 2) Know Theyself and Thy Company, and then ask the future employee how they would deal with your own working style or with peccadilloes of your organization, and tell them this is what the question is about. It may be a bit embarrassing, but they're bound to honesty because if they're hired, they'll have to walk their talk, and they'll find out about these things anyway. Moving the pronouns from "him", "her", and "them" to "I", "you", and "us" creates an atmosphere of honesty. 3) If appropriate, ask behavioral questions about referenceable situations - ones that took place with people they list as references. You can always go and ask their references if it really happened that way. 4) Create a "scenario" for behvioral interviewing that involves multiple questions about a particular situation, rather than picking questions one-off at random from a list provided here or elsewhere. 5) Don't try behavioral interviewing if you aren't a people person, capable of observing the behaviors the candidate is talking about. Get HR or someone else to do the interview in this case. You're going to have to assess yourself candidly in this case!

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I thought a behavioral interview was one of those like in Heinlein's "Space Cadet" or Voltaire's "Zadig". Where the interviewee is placed in a situation and his behavioral response is observed. Good list.

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

...to have at least ONE example of when you failed, why you failed and how you handled/learned from the failure. I went through 2 of these types of interviews and both asked that specific question. Fortunately I had done my homework and had an example and details ready. I also wrote one line "headlines" on my notepad that I had open in front of me during the interview to remind me of task or incident. I also practiced a lot when alone, speaking aloud the details, the outcome and experience gained from each. I actually got hired through one of these interviews. I personally think they are a bit easier to go through than the traditional type of interview, but then I'm a chatterbox and LOVE to talk...

Leonard J Rivera Sr.
Leonard J Rivera Sr.

I am newly unemployed after 8 years. I have been working with several outplacement firms and have learned a lot on this topic in a short amount of time. That's not to say I've learned iot all but practice does make perfect. Some short notes to keep in mind (Things I've learned): 1. Have your stories ready ahead of time - Take a look at what you say on your resume and be ready to tell a very short story in regards to your selling points. By short I mean, in a no more than 6 sentences, be prepared to define the situation, what you did to answer the call and what the final results were. 2. Never advertise negativity - think of everything that went wrong and do the same as above but keep it all positive. Make it one of your strength stories as above. 3. Try not to lie or make things up. People remember stories and lying isn't as natural as being truthful. The story maybe cross examined at any time and being inconsistent (not just with the story but in y0our actions) can hurt your credibility. I can go on and on however, I think it better to go and visit the links mentioned in this post. It's not just good for interviews, it's good for all situations and really builds you up as being more professional than you already are.

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

This kind of interview is OK for people who are good at communicating and for people who can think on their feet in a stress situation. A better method is to put the candidate at ease and create situations so that you can discover their thought processes. Questions like What was your best sucess / failure and where do you see yourself in five years leave you open to a skilled bullshitter and may intimidate a good candidate.

lbibill
lbibill

Truth be told, a good interview script will have a question like... Tell us about a time when you missed a (deadline, target, goal). What did you do and how did you handle it. When I am on the interview panel...I am looking for an answer that indicates a high degree of commmunications of project progress and keeping project/program leads/direct superiors informed of what is happening. Also some indication of the negotiation of new goals in the light of a dynamic situation if that is within the scope of work. Bill

lbibill
lbibill

Basically, a behaviorial interview is a structured interview where you will be asked how you dealt with certain issues in the past. Generally. My training has been in this direction and the BIs I have gone through have all followed the same pattern... Example...(and since I have no idea what your background is, I will assume you are a JAVA server-side programmer) a behavioral question might be something along these lines... Tell us about a time when you had to develop and API and the client side programmer had really not done a good job of setting up the program for the interface. How did you handle the issue and what was the outcome? OR Tell us about a time you had to develop a process or interface. What steps did you take and why were those steps important? OR You might be put in front of the interview panel (which could be two to five people, depending on your skill level and the level of position for which you are interviewing and asked how you would approach the design of a STAR DB architecture for a 4-DB array using 2 keys per DB. The idea behind a behavioral interview is to ascertain how you did deal with "stuff" NOT how you THINK you MIGHT deal with stuff... Hope that helps. Feel free to call me at 609 489 6265 and I will be more than happy to talk to you one on one about the process... Bill