Behavior Interviewing

Research has shown that behavioral interviewing is the best predicator of future job performance.

The premise is that past performance is the best predictor of future performance.  A behavioral interview provides a more objective set of facts to use in making hiring decisions.  The process of behavioral-based interviewing is much more probing than traditional interview questions. 

The key is asking questions aimed at getting the candidates to describe past behaviors to give the search committee clues about how the candidates respond to challenges. 

The types of behavioral interviewing questions usually cover three dimensions. 


    questions are used to pin down a situation and the candidate’s behavior in that situation. For example, this could include specific questions related to problem solving or addressing a situation; what the candidates did and how did they do it.  Or these questions could focus on the challenges facing a particular position or situations against which the candidates will be evaluated.



    questions seek information about outcomes, intended to gain a sense of the candidate’s judgment and problem solving skills.



    questions ask candidates to reflect on previous experiences. For example, how did the candidates grow from this experience?  How are they applying this knowledge in their current jobs?  How candidates answer these questions demonstrates openness to self-introspection and motivation to learn and grow.


Some sample behavioral questions 

About Saint Mary’s College:  

Tell me how you would contribute to the Catholic, Lasallian and Liberal Arts traditions of the College. 

Alertness: Identify a time when you were able to avoid a problem using your ability to pay close attention to detail.

Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.

Goal setting: In a demanding environment like higher education, it is often necessary to prioritize goals to be sure that effort is allocated appropriately.  Tell me about the most important time in your career when you prioritized your goals successfully.  What were the outcomes?  How about a time when your goal setting priorities were not successful?  What did you learn?

Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.

Interaction-Motivation-Interpersonal skills: Building rapport with [students-faculty-staff-others] is sometimes a very challenging thing to do; particularly when dealing with difficult learning situations.  Give an example of a time when you were able to build rapport with a student, even when the situation was a difficult one and the odds were against you.  Tell me exactly what happened. 

Describe a time when you were able to be personally supportive and reassuring to a colleague who needed a friend.  Tell me about a time that was hard for you to give your support.  Why and what was the outcome?

What have you done in the past to contribute toward a collegial environment?

Describe a recent unpopular decision you made and what the result was.

By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.

Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond what was expected of you.

Describe a situation when you were able to have a positive influence on the action of others.

Decision-making and problem solving: Even though you may be dealing with a complex problem, it is often important to use a common sense approach in making decisions, not all analytical solutions will be practical.  Tell me about a time when your common sense approach paid off for you.

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.

Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision.

Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment in solving a problem.

Describe a time in which you were faced with problems or stressors that tested your coping skills.

Leadership: Sometimes while the use of authority in a leadership role is not always popular, it is necessary in some situations.  Give a specific example of a situation when you used your authority to influence others.  What was the outcome? 

Being able to change another person’s behavior in both skill and responsibility can be challenging.  Describe a time when you were successful in this area.

What is the toughest group of students or others that you have had to get cooperation from?

Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?

Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to which you did not agree.  What did you do?  What skills did you use?  How did you handle the situation?

Organization and planning: Give me an example from your work history that demonstrates your ability to organize and maintain a system of records to facilitate your work. 

Organizational planning is an important and at times necessary function in creating a productive and meaningful environment.  Review your own experiences that illustrate your organizational planning abilities. 

How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?

What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give an example.

Describe the most significant or creative presentation you had to complete.  What was the outcome?


Tell me about a situation when you had to speak up in order to get a point across that was important to you.

Have you ever had to "sell" an idea to your colleagues? How did you do it? Did they "buy" it?

Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you.

Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across to others.


Describe what you believe are the educational benefits of diversity?

Tell me about your experiences working in a multi-cultural or diverse environment.  What did you learn?

Tell me what you think are the most significant challenges to diversity [at Saint Mary’s College] [in higher education] or [Catholic higher education].

More Questions for Faculty

How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

What are the more significant differences between the educational philosophy of community colleges and that of a four year institution?

Tell me what you can bring to our department that is uniquely yours?

What kinds of teaching techniques have you discovered to be most effective?

How do you plan your teaching objectives and assignments?  Please take us through your planning process.

How would you describe your grading philosophy and what criteria do you follow?

What have you done to familiarize yourself with the College, our students and academic requirements?

How would you describe your relationship with your students?

What would your students tell us about you?

Tell us what you do to keep you current in your field?

Tell us about your research.

During the last year, what have you done to develop professionally [scholarly and intellectually]?

How would you describe your philosophy of the relationship between the faculty and administration?