Behavioural-descriptive interviewing is an approach that looks at past behaviour as a predictor of future performance. The goal of the interview process is to predict future job performance based on a candidates responses from previous specific behaviours, which illustrate desired competencies through careful probing.

Interviewers look for behaviours in situations similar to those to be encountered in the new job. By relating a candidate’s answers from past experience, you develop indicators of how the individual will likely act in the future.

Behavioral questions ensure more spontaneity than traditional questions since candidates can’t practice as easily for them in advance.

Here are a number of examples of behaviour-based interview questions

Organizational, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills:
  • Describe a situation that you have encountered (or how you would handle such a situation if you have not been faced with one) when you had responsibility for the operations of a unit. You determined that staff was not being used in a way that helped meet goals, but many of them were very resistant to change. What options did you explore to handle the situation? What did you do to overcome the resistance? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about an accomplishment in a work setting that makes you feel good to remember and why you are proud of it.
  • Describe a problem you confronted without success. If you could go back in time, how would you handle it differently?
  • Give an example of the most significant problem you have faced and solved at work. Describe the process you used to find a solution.
  • Tell me about the most difficult co-worker with whom you have ever had to work. What actions did you take that proved helpful? What did you find made things worse? What would you do differently if you were faced with a similar situation in the future?
Initiative and flexibility:
  • Describe your vision of an ideal supervisor. Now tell me about the worst supervisor you have ever had.
  • Tell me about a project that you undertook that was your idea and that you had to persuade others to let you do.
  • What new skills have you learned in the past 12 months? What would you like to learn in the next year?
  • Describe a significant change in your job responsibilities and the steps you took to manage the transition smoothly.
  • Tell me about a situation when you abruptly had to change what you were doing.
  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project that did not turn out well. How did you handle that?
  • When you take on a new project do you like to have lots of guidance and feedback up front, or do you prefer to try your own approach?
  • How do you measure your own success?
Teamwork, sensitivity to the needs of others, ability to work well with others:
  • Describe a sensitive situation in which you were able to guide your actions by your understanding of others individual needs or values.
  • Describe a time when you felt it necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of another person.
  • What kinds of people do you not enjoy working with?
  • Tell me about a work situation that bugged you.
Creativity:
  • Describe the most creative, work-related project you have done.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had an unusual idea that worked well.
  • When was the last time you “broke” the rules and what did you do?
  • What is the most interesting thing you have done in the past year?
Managing priorities:
  • Describe a situation when you were asked to meet two different deadlines given to you by two different managers and you could not do both. How did you handle this?
  • Describe how you handled a request to take on an exciting new project that you really wanted to do at a time when you already had more to do than you could do well.
Honesty, integrity and judgement:
  • Have you ever experienced a personal loss from doing what is right?
  • In what business situations do you feel honesty would be inappropriate?
  • Describe a situation when you were faced with making a decision that involved important conflicting needs between an individual and your employer and explain how you handled it.
Ability to influence others:
  • Describe a project or idea that initially met resistance but that you were able to “sell” to others and implement.
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with the others in a group about something important but were able to work with them to reach a consensus that you felt was a good one.
  • How have you handled a situation when you needed to “correct” your boss?