Behavioral Interviewing – what it means to you

by Michael Pollock

This article first appeared in Cynopsis Digital Advantage

I love that people give things names. I guess it helps the search engines. So there is an interview practice called Behavioral Interviewing. It posits that you can tell most about how someone will perform by finding out how they performed in similar situations in the past. We have all probably asked, or responded to, interview questions that tip the hat to this thinking.

Interviewers decide what skills and aptitudes are needed for a particular position: problem solving, leadership, communication, team building and so on. Then they will ask candidates to recount how they have behaved in the past in situations that will demonstrate past performance at these.

Here are some behavioral interview questions developed by The College at Brockport of SUNY:

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to keep from speaking or making a decision because you did not have enough information.
  • Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?
  • Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your co-workers or group? How did you do it? Did they “buy” it?
  • Describe a recent unpopular decision you made and what the result was.
  • Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.

This style is a simple and effective discovery format for interviewers and provides candidates with the perfect platform for using their pre-prepared career-success anecdotes to best advantage.

The SUNY report also tells me the following:

  • Candidates who prepare for behavioral interviews are better prepared – even for traditional interviews.
  • Using behavioral answers works well with inexperienced interviewers.
  • Companies that invest the time and energy in developing behavioral interviews often attract top candidates. Top candidates make the company a more desirable place to work.

You should in any case have developed a whole slew of anecdotes that illustrate your past performance (see my columns passim). Make them totally specific, with as many details as you can to make them vivid and powerful.

Do your due diligence on the job you are going after. Make some smart guesses as to what they are going to be needing  there will be clues in the job ad and also in any conversations you have had with them. Think about each of your stories and what it exemplifies about your experience and your approach to situations. This will give you the ammunition you need to impress at any interview, behavioral or traditional.

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( ). He is an Executive Coach and Consultant to Creative and Media professionals. He works with people in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success.