Recruit and Hire Interns

Hiring Techniques: Using Behavioral Interviewing

What Is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a technique in which interviewers ask potential candidates for specific examples of previous experiences.

With behavioral interviewing, instead of simply asking interviewees what they did in past positions or school projects, interviewers request descriptive details: why the candidate did something, how they did it, and what was the resulting accomplishment. Essentially, a three-part answer is requested, one that includes the situation, the candidate's action, and the result (referred to as "SAR").

Before the behavioral interview technique, interviewers tended to ask more task- and list-oriented questions, like, "What were your responsibilities as  marketing intern?" Or, they focused on hypothetical questions, such as, "What would you do if your supervisor asked you to do something against company policy?"

The problem, interviewers realized, was that it's easy to spout off a list of actions that one did or did not truly take part in. And, they presumed, most interviewees are going to give the "right" response to hypothetical inquiries.

But what one would ideally do in a situation and what they actually did do when faced with a formidable challenge can be two totally different things. We want to know the reality, employers concluded.

In line with this, the theory behind behavioral interviewing is that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Furthermore, it's much harder to paint a well-colored picture of artificial accomplishments than it is to crank out quick, canned responses.

So behavioral interviewers often ask questions beginning with, "Give me a specific example of a time when you...," "Describe a situation in which you were able to...," or "Tell me about a recent challenge that you..." Questions like these require an in-depth description to support statements made in the interview or on a resume.

Introduced more than 30 years ago, and still a gold standard at many industry-leading organizations, behavioral interviewing is a time-tested and empirically validated evaluation technique. Applicable for assessing fulltime team members and intern candidates alike, behavioral interviewing can help you identify and select the interns and staff members most suitable to your organization.