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Behavioral Interviewing

“Behavioral” interviews began to appear in the Chicago labor market in the mid-1990s. Employers in the financial services industry were the first to begin using this form of interviewing. Medical employers were next to adopt it. Today, it can be found in all industries and at all levels of the job market.

The behavioral interview is supposed to be more scientific and address the candidate’s past behavior in detail. A human resource manager at a major hospital chain told me she began using this type of interview after she hired an individual who went on to appear in the news as a mass murderer. She said the person she hired only lasted one shift, but she was shocked when the person showed up on the TV news.

Behavioral interviews can last two hours. They consist of closed-ended questions related to how you “behaved” in a specific, past situation – in other words what was your behavior. They don’t ask speculative or philosophical questions like “What’s the best kind of inventory control?” or “What do you think about just in time manufacturing?” Obviously, if you don’t have much experience, this kind of interview is going to discriminate against you.

 Multiple people ask you identical questions – you must frame the answer the same each time. You can’t skip any questions. And, have no doubt, if you are getting this kind of sophisticated interview, they have carefully orchestrated the questions. Finally, they take lots of notes – to the point where the interviewer may not be making much eye contact with you!

It’s very difficult to coach students and alumni on these types of interviews, but here are a few ideas:

  • Go over sets of behavioral questions in your mind. You don’t have to have a memorized answer, just acquaint your mind with some of the possible questions.
  • Have a “mini-story” ready for the obvious ones you are going to be asked. For instance, give a concrete, specific example when you provided someone with world class customer service.
  • Keep the answers the same each time you get asked the same question.
  • Don’t let a lack of eye contact bother you, just be sure that you keep making eye contact.
  • If you get the questions in the mail ahead of time – guess what? You’re going to go through a behavioral interview.
  • You can usually “reverse engineer” what the questions will be based on the job description.
  • You can find practice behavioral questions all over the Internet.

 Who should look out for behavioral interviews? Everybody. However, high probability cases include HIT and Business graduates.