Oregon State University

Behavior-based Interviewing

Behavior-based Interviewing

In behavior-based interviews, candidates are asked to recount specific past experiences that predict their probable response to similar situations in the future.  A well-designed behavior interview includes ample time for follow-up questions and dialog related to each performance skill.  Six to eight well-designed questions of this sort—including  good committee follow-up questions—will usually fill  the better part of an hour-long interview.

To prepare for the interview:

  1. Identify the most important performance skills to assess based on the job description
  2. Develop a brief list of open-ended questions, or use this web-based question generator*.
    • tell us about a time when you encountered XYZ type of situation
    • describe the circumstances
    • tell us exactly what you did
    • describe the results
  3. Revise your initial questions as needed so they are as conversational as possible.
  4. Develop follow-up questions (or use those suggested by the web-based question generator*) to help the candidate provide you with relevant and detailed information.  Here are a few examples:
    • Tell us more about the steps you took and what happened
    • How did others react, and what did you do with those reactions?
    • What did you do next?  Why?
    • What was your thinking in that moment—why did you choose that course of action?
    • What did you learn from this experience?
    • Would you do anything differently if faced with that situation again?  If so, what, and why?
    • Can you tell us about another situation that had a different (positive/negative) outcome?

Conduct the interview:

  1. Explain that you will be asking them to recount specific situations and describe how they handled them
  2. Allow silence after asking each question
  3. Ask follow-up questions – probe for details, and encourage dialogue
  4. Ask for positive and negative examples--seek a range of performance examples for each skill  to build a balanced picture of the candidate
  5. Expect to hear about mistakes—mistakes occur when people take risks
  6. Take notes including any questions which are not resolved by follow-up questions

After the interview:

  1. Conduct a structured debrief the interview with the other search committee member
  2. Identify any questions that remain or any new questions that have arisen
  3. Avoid numeric scoring, which runs the risk of obscuring nuanced differences and promoting unconscious cognitive bias

*The web-based question generator recommends a numeric scoring scheme that, if used, would result in a final interview “score” for each candidate.  OEI recommends AGAINST using numeric scores, as they tend to obscure the nuanced differences between candidate answers and can encourage unconscious bias. 

For more information about the entire search process, including developing appropriate interview questions, please see the Office of Human Resources’ Search Excellence guide.

To learn more about equity, inclusion, and diversity in the search and selection process please see the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s Search Advocate program.

Contact Info

Equity and Inclusion 327/330 Snell Hall Corvallis, Oregon 97331 phone: 541-737-3556
fax: 541-737-8232
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