Why Behavioral Interviews Are Best & How to Get Started

According to  businessdictionary.com ,   behavioral interviewing   is a "job interviewing technique whereby the applicant is asked to describe past behavior in order to determine whether she is suitable for a position. For example, an interviewer may ask 'Tell me about a time when you dealt with a disruptive customer'. Responses are expected to give an indication of an applicant's professional conduct."

According to businessdictionary.com, behavioral interviewing is a "job interviewing technique whereby the applicant is asked to describe past behavior in order to determine whether she is suitable for a position. For example, an interviewer may ask 'Tell me about a time when you dealt with a disruptive customer'. Responses are expected to give an indication of an applicant's professional conduct."

Perhaps you’ve heard about behavioral interviews and have wondered just how to approach this interview method. That is what this article will attempt to answer for you.

We will provide you with 8 excellent benefits of the behavioral interview approach and then explain 4 ways in which you need to think and plan differently as you prepare for interviews with promising candidates.

Finally, we will conclude with a few brief tips on how to word or “style” your chosen questions, then highlight the results of behavioral interviews and offer a little guidance on how to get started.

thumbs up from man in suit

8 Impressive Benefits of the Behavioral Interview

1. An excellent way to get past the easy, standard, and rehearsed interview responses.

2. Avoid much of the disappointment and frustration caused by poor hiring decisions, wasted time, and candidate replacement costs.

3. It provides each candidate with ample opportunity to showcase his/her communication skills and expertise – or lack thereof. And you will be afforded the opportunity to listen critically, to discern wisely, and to ask important follow up questions to the candidates’ responses.

4. You will better understand the rationale behind candidates’ most relevant behaviors and decisions in the workplace. This, in turn, will help you more accurately know what to expect regarding their future reasoning and corresponding actions.

2 puzzle pieces being connected by 2 hands

5. You can learn how to discern a truly good fit by engaging in questions which provide you with a greater understanding of an applicant’s actions and attitudes. Delving into their past experiences and outcomes will give you valuable insight into what you can probably expect from the candidate.

6. Avoid the biases and instinctive preferences given to candidates who make a great first impression and who possess that WOW factor but may later blindside you with unsuspected flaws and shortcomings.

7. You will be able to confirm the rightness or wrongness of your gut instincts as you learn how to ask the most appropriate and relevant behavioral questions.

8. Gain insight as to how the candidate might respond to specific, albeit hypothetical, future situations which you present to them during the interview.

4 Considerations When Approaching a Behavioral Interview

behavioral skills - competence - experience - responsibility

1. What types of questions will you ask?

It will depend upon what your priorities are, but here are a few lines of questioning you may wish to pursue:

  • Questions related to the most challenging aspects of the job

  • Questions related to the primary company and/or departmental objectives

  • Questions related to the vision of the organization

  • Questions related to the candidate’s interpersonal relationships

Your goal is to get a core understanding of how a candidate’s mind works and how that way of thinking and responding has played out in their past workplace experiences as well as how that might play out in the future.

There are numerous websites which can provide you with various examples of behavioral questions, but you must be the one to prioritize the skills, experiences, attitudes, goals and behaviors which are most important to your job and to the company you represent. These priorities should be a guide to the types of behavioral questions you choose to ask and explore with your candidates.

2. What types of questions should be asked to get beyond both positive and negative generalizations, stereotypes, strong egos, verbose individuals, boring, pat answers, and even personal biases?

Experience - woman working at laptop

As a hiring manager, you know that there exists every type of candidate imaginable: introverts, those with moody, dark dispositions, nervous and stressed out individuals, socially awkward people, and thousands of other types!

If you obtain a few good professional references, you may think you have all the proof you need that a candidate really is a low risk hire and sufficiently qualified for the job at hand. However, it is highly recommended that relevant behavioral questions be asked before the person is hired to further ensure the applicant’s ability to be successful in the job for which he or she is being hired.

Moreover, regarding any observable concerns, go with your instincts and address them as needed. Here are a few examples:

a) I notice you really enjoy talking. Has this caused you any trouble in the past? How do you intentionally control the amount of time you spend talking to others during work hours? Please elaborate.

b) I don’t mean to misunderstand, but it seems like you are not that interested in this job. Is that an accurate or inaccurate assessment? Would you mind sharing with us why this job is desirable to you? Will your references confirm the sincerity of your interest in doing this type of work? If not, what will they say?

c) It is obvious that you are very confident in yourself and in your abilities. Has your ego ever prevented you from being successful in a past job? If so, please elaborate. Explain what you learned or how you changed as a result of that insight.

3. What types of questions can be asked as you explore candidates’ core motivations, personal interests, attitudes and values?

In spite of the fact that personalities can be categorized, you will never meet two people who are exactly alike. We all have our reasons for making certain choices. Each of us are uniquely motivated and inspired. Most of our values stem from those with whom we have been most closely associated – family, friends, church members, etc. And for better or worse, the attitudes we display are our own – a resounding reflection of all that we are, believe, want, and don’t yet have.


As hiring manager, you can apply your intuition, hopes and assumptions about an interviewee OR you can seek to validate these things by conducting a behavioral analysis of your top candidates.

Behavioral assessments can help you understand not only how a person can be expected to behave in the workplace but will also provide you with an understanding of why the person can be predicted to behave in a certain manner.

For minimal costs, behavioral assessments can supply you with insights which will REALLY help you to know the right behavioral questions to pose to your top candidates.

For example, what if you knew (by way of behavioral assessment) that your top candidate needs a tolerant boss because his tendency is to be a little too social around the office? If the potential boss is normally intolerant of behavior like this, you would want to explore this topic more thoroughly with the candidate and ask an appropriate behavioral question to predict how these two differing personalities might be able to work together successfully . . . or not.

recruit and select the best

Talent acquisition is not simply about a candidate's experience; companies want to hire people who are also a good fit with their established culture and current staff.

For more information on TTISI's® behavioral assessments, contact Brannon Professionals, a local, authorized provided of TTI Success Insights® assessments for more than 15 years.

  • DISC (4 Styles of Behaviors: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Compliance)

  • PIAV (Personal Interests, Attitudes and Values)

  • 12 Driving Forces® (Motivators)

4. What types of questions will help you move beyond what you already love and believe about a candidate and his or her resume?

Hiring managers must seek to recognize, expose, and explore any contradictions in their candidates. Ask the “Do they really…..?” types of questions, and then follow up with a behavioral style question.

question mark on puzzle with missing pieces

a) Do they really love a challenge? Do they thrive on solving problems and working through conflicts? If so, have them describe a time they experienced the thrill of working through a serious problem toward its subsequent resolution. 

b) Do they really embrace change, diversity, and modern methods, or not? Ask the candidate to elaborate on how they felt about and worked through a major change in the workplace.

c) How truly motivated, driven, or competitive is the candidate? Ask for an example of how their drive has resulted in success – and for a time when it has not.

d) Does the applicant really enjoy helping others? To the point that even when exhausted, making sure the customer is satisfied remains a priority? Ask them to provide a detailed example of their superior level of commitment to customer satisfaction.

e) Do tedious, detailed tasks really bring them personal satisfaction? Ask them to give an account of a time that they successfully performed such tasks on a repetitive basis.

How to Appropriately Word a Behavioral Interview Question

Regardless of the specifics of your questions, there are certain ways you want to pose the questions. Do not ask yes or no questions without following up by asking for a further demonstration of the subject at hand.

active listening

Questions are to be probing and open-ended. They should allow the candidate to communicate a complete response regarding a past or potential situation.

As you listen to applicants’ answers, you may desire to pose even more extensive questions, especially as you discover the value of applicants who really know their business and possess the sort of experience you strongly desire.

Here’s a brief guide . . .

  • Explain in detail how you managed a high-pressure situation . . .

  • Describe a time that you utilized your skills of persuasion to move a sale forward . . .

  • Detail one of your most creative successes . . .

  • Describe a time when you learned by doing, risking, perhaps even failing . . .

  • Explain your style of teaching . . .

  • Give a detailed example . . .

  • Describe (in step-by-step format) your problem-solving approach for . . .

  • Elaborate on a time when you found it appropriate to bend the rules a bit and show your flexibility . . .

  • How would you respond to this potential crisis . . .

  • Detail your method for staying organized, on task and on time . . .

  • Describe a time when you worked through a complicated situation with an angry client . . .

The Results of Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral questioning leads to greater discovery regarding what various applicants may bring to the table if they are hired.

Behavioral questioning leads to greater discovery regarding what various applicants may bring to the table if they are hired.

Even if you are new at interviewing in this manner, asking just one or two well-planned behavioral questions can provide you with insight which you might have otherwise missed out on. It may even lead you to make a better immediate decision on who the best candidate really is.

Example: Perhaps you have two qualified office manager candidates: You must choose between a lady with a thoughtful and serious personality and the happy-go-lucky disposition of your favorite candidate, but you realize during the interview that your need for a truly thoughtful candidate far outweighs your original preference for the more outgoing personality.

You come to this decision after asking these two thought-provoking, behavioral interview questions:

yes yes yes
  1. Describe a typical day as Office Manager in your previous job.

  2. Describe your most stressful experience as an Office Manager and explain how you worked through that stress.

After hearing the responses of both candidates, your decision became clear and certain. Your personal biases/preferences were no longer relevant once you heard the honest responses of both candidates. You realized that the wisest choice - the candidate who really deserved to hear your "Yes" - had actually been your second choice prior to asking the behavioral questions.

How to Move Forward

figure scratching his head standing next to question mark

You must start immediately to explore the types of questions to ask potential candidates -- without asking every question in the book. Review the 4 considerations mentioned above. Establish priorities – both for the company and the individual jobs for which you hire. Then begin forming your behavioral questions. Work with managers to ascertain the most relevant questions to ask. Do the research.

Several sources of good information are listed below. Just follow the links:

success held in one's hand

As you continue to research and study the behavioral interview approach, we wish you much success in all your efforts.

If you are in the Memphis metro area and Brannon Professionals can serve you in any way, please contact us at 901-759-9622 or 662-349-9194. Whether you need professional staffing assistance, a business consultant, or would simply like more information about behavioral assessments, we look forward to hearing from you.