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Interview Tips - Behavior Based Interviewing

By Bruce Dwyer

The author of this article lives and works in Melbourne, Australia in a major IT Recruitment Company, ADAPS. This article was borne out of necessity from issues that our Client Managers are experiencing with candidates who exhibit great technical skills but present poorly on paper (resumes) and in interview situations.

This article accompanies another article on About.com, Living and Working in Australia. In that article I describe the brilliant living conditions of Australia and my company’s willingness to sponsor VISA’s and pay upfront LAFHA allowances for highly skilled IT Professionals interested in moving to Australia for high paying contracts.

While this article is directed at IT Professionals, it obviously has relevance to ANY candidate using resumes and interviews. In particular our Client Managers found that poor interview technique would waste our Client Managers time, and would make them loathe to place a candidate in front of our Clients.

Behavioral Interviewing - Tips for Candidates

Behavioral interviewing (or behavioral event interviewing, BEI) is a standardized method of interviewing designed to measure how you will perform on the job. The principle behind the technique is the belief that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.

The Traditional Interview

In a traditional job interview, the interviewer will run through the applicant's resume using open-ended questions to gain more information. Many of the questions a job applicant will be asked can be anticipated in their own mind beforehand. For example:

  • Tell me more about your last job?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Why are you interested in this job?
Behavioral Interviewing

During a behavioral interview, you will be asked a series of standardized questions designed to get you to talk about how you handled or responded to certain situations in the past. With each answer, you'll be expected to describe situations from your past and your feelings and observations about them. The interviewer will use this information to assess your proficiency in one or more job-related areas, which may include anything from adaptability to leadership to problem solving.

Behavioral questions may be 'dropped' into a 'chatty interview' or you may be formally required to answer a set list. You can expect interviewers to have several follow up questions and probe for details that explore all aspects of a given situation or experience.

What are the questions like?

Behavioral questions usually begin with a statement like: 'Tell me about a time when...' or 'Can you a describe a situation where...'.

The following are some examples of typical behavioral questions and the competencies they demonstrate:

  • Describe a difficult problem that you tried to solve. How did you identify the problem? How did you go about trying to solve it? (Demonstrates problem solving)
  • Describe a time when you tried to persuade another person to do something that they were not very willing to do. (Demonstrates leadership)
  • Describe a time when you decided on your own that something needed to be done, and you took on the task to get it done. (Demonstrates initiative)
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