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A guest post: You Get What You Interview For…

You Get What You Interview For…A Case for Behavioral Based Interviewing.

If you’re interested in learning a relatively easy way to select the strongest candidates for your open positions, read further. 

Your answer lies in behavioral based interviewing! 

Simply put, the premise of behavioral based interviewing is that past behavior predicts future behavior.  In other words, this kind of interview format allows you, as the hiring manager, to solicit specific evidence of the candidate’s past performance to gauge his/her ability to effectively perform the job for which you’re hiring.

Let’s look at a specific example. 

Imagine you’re the owner of a restaurant and you’re hiring a hostess.  For this job, you’ve identified customer service, problem solving, and attention to detail as critical hostess competencies.  Examples of behavioral-based hostess interviewing questions include:

  • Could you tell me about a time when you had a difficult customer in the restaurant and your stellar customer service made the difference in his/her experience?
  • Attention to detail is critical in our restaurant.  Can you provide a specific example for me about when you needed to use a lot of attention to detail to do your job well?
  • In restaurants like ours, unanticipated problems arise all the time.  Tell me about a situation when you successfully used your problem solving skills to respond to an unexpected restaurant “crisis?”

It’s important to note that as the interviewer, you are always looking for the candidate’s response to include a description of the specific situation, his/her actions, and the result.   If the candidate can’t answer your questions with this level of specificity, then you don’t have sufficient data to know that he/she can meet your job’s behavioral requirements.    

A person’s ability to learn and develop on the job is also important.  As such, candidate’s response does not always reveal a “positive” outcome.    Here’s an example of a question, with this kind of “twist:”

  • Mishaps happen in restaurants all the time and no one is perfect.  Can you describe a situation when you tried unsuccessfully to resolve a restaurant patron’s problem?  What happened?  What did you learn to do differently in the future? 

In summary, behavioral based interviewing facilitates the selection of the best candidates for your business.  If you’re interested in pursuing this interview format, follow these important steps:

  • First, consider the job for which you’re hiring and identify the job competencies or behaviors that are critical.  Above, we identified customer service, attention to detail, and problem solving.  Some other examples include project management, communication, teamwork, adaptability/flexibility, resilience under pressure, and innovation/creativity. 
  • Second, draft a job description as well as job postings that highlight these competencies. 
  • Develop a set of possible questions – at least a few for each behavior or competency you’ve identified.    Among the members of your interview team, assign the questions ahead of time and discuss “optimal” responses. 
  • When inviting candidates to interview, explain the process to them including details on the types of interview questions they should expect and how they can prepare.   Remember the ideal response is specific and highlights a situation, actions, and outcomes. 


Mimi Darmstadter is the founder of "My Life's Work" a coaching and consulting company in Bethesda, MD. She holds a dual BA from the University of Michigan in Psychology and Creative Writing and a Master’s Degree in Social Service Administration (e.g. social work) from the University of Chicago. She completed Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching program and is certified coach through the International Coach Federation (ICF). She also has over 20 years of managerial and leadership experience in Human Resources (recruitment, learning and performance), spanning non-profit and corporate environments. 

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