Vetting Your Prospect Using Behavioral Interview Techniques

Jul 29, 2012

The work we do with our clients begins with a focus on defining, in quantitative and qualitative terms, what constitutes success in the position. The result is the finalization of the position’s critical performance outcomes (usually somewhere between four and ten). This step must be properly accomplished before you can establish job-related, performance-based selection criteria. Once these have been established, you can move forward with the candidate assessment process.

For accurate assessment, properly constructed, behaviorally-based selection techniques may require you to use a combination of various interviewing approaches and questioning styles that will allow you and your client to evaluate not only the candidate’s skills and abilities but also the characteristics listed in the chart, and most importantly, Motivations.

Properly developed and utilized, behaviorally-based selection techniques will provide you with honest, accurate, and timely information on which to predict behavior and assess the candidate’s “can do,” “will do,” and “fit” for the position and for the organization.


The best indicator of future success is past performance. Although it is not the only indicator, as a predictive tool, past performance demonstrates the strongest correlation to future success.

Probing past performance behaviorally

Therefore, the most effective selection techniques tend to be anchored on an exploration, in behavioral terms, of the candidate’s past performance.

Evolving from this approach is the most efficient assessment technique: the structured, behaviorally-based, evaluation interview. It combines many different questioning techniques to accomplish its predictive objective. It is a flexible approach that must be adapted to each individual situation. However, in order to take full advantage of this dynamic approach, you must develop the appropriate skill sets for properly using various styles for framing, sequencing, and layering questions, and for interpreting and evaluating the responses against the predetermined job-related performance-based selection criteria.

The behaviorally-based questions must be individually designed to uncover the candidate’s experience in solving problems, handling challenges, and producing results. The answers must demonstrate their willingness and capability to meet or surpass the critical performance outcomes that have been previously identified for your client’s position. Herein lies the heart of the assessment process.

In no particular order and not necessarily related to any specific position, the following questions will provide you with examples of this assessment technique. Remember, the questions you develop must be directly related to the position you are trying to fill and the critical performance outcomes that must be reached in order to achieve success in the position.

Example 1: Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a particularly difficult obstacle in order to achieve results.

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • Why did you choose that approach?
  • What were the results?
  • How did you feel about that?
  • It you had to do it all over again, what if anything would you do differently or what would you change?

Example 2: Tell me about a time when you went beyond what was expected of you on your job.

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • What prompted you to do this?
  • What were the results?
  • How did you feel about it?

Example 3: Give me an example of a recent conflict you had with a coworker (manager, customer, vendor).

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • What were the causes of the conflict?
  • What specifically did you do to handle it?
  • What was the outcome?
  • How did that make you feel?

Example 4: You have just provided me with a listing of your strengths. How did you develop those strengths?

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • In specific terms, how do you use each of these strengths in your present job?
  • What value or benefit does this bring to your company (job)?

Example 5: From a business perspective, tell me about the last time you or one of your ideas or suggestions was rejected?

Layered and sequenced follow-up questions:

  • How did that make you feel?
  • What role did emotion play in how you handled it?
  • What were the results?
  • Did you consider alternative approaches?
  • If you had to do over again, what if anything would you have done differently?

The above questions illustrate various examples of behaviorally-based assessment techniques. In order to be effective, questions of this nature must be individually tailored for each client and position. Otherwise, it will be difficult to interpret and evaluate the answers against the previously determined selection criteria.

Sound like a lot of work? Indeed it is. However, as you develop your skills with this assessment technique, you will greatly increase your ability to identify, qualify, interest, and deliver to your clients employees who will achieve the critical performance outcomes required for success. More importantly, they will be enhancing the performance capacity of your client’s organization. Ultimately, this will define the measure of value your client places on the services you provide.


If 70% to 90% of a manager’s ability to succeed in their position is determined by the processes they use to hire their staff, anything you can do to improve that process will provide confirmation of your worth to their organization.

By developing your skills and abilities with behaviorally-based assessment techniques you will gain the single greatest advantage over the competition (particularly technologically-based competition). Additionally, having the capability to deliver this form of service will increase your effectiveness in both developing clients and recruiting candidates. In this manner you can secure your future as a true professional in our industry.

As always if you have questions, comments, or would like more information on how to become an expert in utilizing these assessment techniques, just let me know. Your calls and emails are most welcome.

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