How to Behave in a Behavior-Based Interview

When Todd Lombardi sits down to interview a job candidate at Kulicke & Soffa Industries Inc., he has a list of very specific questions to ask, and he knows how to follow them up with more probing questions about how the candidate performed in past jobs and projects.

Lombardi, who earned a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology from West Chester University last May, wrote his thesis on behavior-based interviewing. Now he’s a college relations specialist at Kulicke & Soffa Industries Inc., based in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and he says his background has helped him understand an interviewing technique that has become increasingly popular and, according to both his research and popular opinion, more effective than traditional techniques.

“It seemed like the more structure and the more thought that was put into an interview, the better it was,” he says.

Lombardi says behavior-based questions are generally designed to determine if a candidate possesses certain “key competencies.”

“When I start any behavioral interview, I explain the process,” Lombardi says. “I say, ‘I’m going to be asking you for specific examples. I will be asking you for details, including names of people, dates, and outcomes.’ I really like talking to people about lengthy projects they’ve had to do–how their role evolved, how they handled time deadlines, pressures, and unexpected situations, and especially how they handled any adversity…Everyone’s got that kind of experience.”

Lombardi says that the best way for students and new graduates to prepare for a behavior-based interview is to dig up old research papers, to think hard about any difficulties encountered in summer and part-time jobs, and to recount the steps it took to successfully complete school projects and projects that were part of internships or co-ops.

“What I would recommend is for them to just kind of think through situations that have occurred, projects they’ve worked on, specific experiences they’ve had,” he says. “They should be able to talk about that in detail and be very specific. They should reread that term paper…A lot of it is just common sense.”

Following is a list of typical behavior-based questions, courtesy of Lombardi and The Ultimate Job Search Kit by Damir Joseph Stimac. Competencies sought by the interviewer are listed in parentheses:

1. Describe a situation in which you had to use reference materials to write a research paper. What was the topic? What journals did you read? (research/written communication)
2. Give me a specific example of a time when a co-worker or classmate criticized your work in front of others. How did you respond? How has that event shaped the way you communicate with others? (oral communication)

3. Give me a specific example of a time when you sold your supervisor or professor on an idea or concept. How did you proceed? What was the result? (assertiveness)
4. Describe the system you use for keeping track of multiple projects. How do you track your progress so that you can meet deadlines? How do you stay focused? (commitment to task)
5. Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a challenge your company or class was facing. What was the challenge? What role did others play? (creativity and imagination)
6. Describe a specific problem you solved for your employer or professor. How did you approach the problem? What role did others play? What was the outcome? (decision making)
7. Describe a time when you got co-workers or classmates who dislike each other to work together. How did you accomplish this? What was the outcome? (teamwork)
8. Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn? (time management)
9. Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker or classmate understand a task. How did you assist them? What was the result? (flexibility)
10. Describe two specific goals you set for yourself and how successful you were in meeting them. What factors led to your success in meeting your goals? (goal setting)