We are here to support your program.

What is behavioral interviewing?

There are many different ways to evaluate a job candidate’s competencies, skills, and experience. iMentor uses a behavioral style of interviewing, and we want to make sure that all staff who may participate in the interview process know why we use this method, and how to use it effectively.  

Behavioral interview questions essentially ask candidates to explain, in detail, how they’ve handled situations in the past. The specific situations we ask candidates to share with us are chosen because they represent the most important scenarios in which candidates will need to be successful if hired for the job, or because they represent an opportunity to demonstrate specific skills or competencies that will be necessary in the role. Without leading them to the “right” answer, we are looking for candidates to show us that they have successfully navigated past challenges in the way that we hope they would at iMentor.  

Why do we use behavioral interview questions?

Because we believe that past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior. By learning how a candidate has done something before, we learn how they might handle a similar challenge at iMentor. Often a candidate will tell us that they learned something from a past experience and would now handle the situation differently. We love candidates who can learn from and articulate their mistakes; that’s growth mindset at work.

Behavioral interview questions often begin with the phrase: Tell me about a time when… 

We are looking for:

  • Specific examples from the candidate’s past experience.
  • Lots of detail about the scenario: what was the problem, what did the candidate do to address it, and what was the result?
  • Which skills or competencies the candidate applied in navigating the situation. (That does not mean that we expect the candidate to tell us “I demonstrated flexibility here.” We are the ones trying to identify whether the candidate used the competency we’re searching for in this particular question).
  • Mistakes the candidate made in navigating the scenario (and whether they learned from them).

We are not looking for:

  • Broad generalizations.
  • A candidate’s best guess at how someone might best handle a hypothetical situation.
  • Answers that begin with:
    • “I would probably…”
    • “Usually…”
    • “Sometimes…”

Examples of behavioral interview questions

When we select interview questions for a particular role, we are choosing them based on what we’re seeking in the Ideal Candidate Profile. Usually, a question is tied to one or more specific competencies. Here are some examples along with the competencies they assess:

Accountability Tell us about a time when you took responsibility for an error and were held personally accountable.
Flexibility/Adaptability Give me an example of a situation when you put a strategy into place and later determined it wasn’t working and had to quickly change your approach.
Staff Management Walk me through a situation in which you helped an under-performing staff member accept significant feedback and make the necessary adjustments to move forward.
Initiative Tell me about a time when you identified a need and developed a tool to fill that need and got people to adopt that tool.
Relationship Management / Interpersonal Skills Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively "read" another person and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values.

If you find yourself conducting an interview with a candidate with a script full of behavioral interview questions, we urge you to stick to the script as much as possible. Using the same baseline questions ensures our commitment to an unbiased assessment process and gives each candidate a fair opportunity to demonstrate what they bring to the table. That said, please feel free to ask follow up questions that draw out more specific information on each scenario. Asking rich follow up questions can be the key to determining whether or not a candidate has what it takes to succeed in this role at iMentor.  Please make sure you write down the questions you ask as follow-ups - we want to be sure there is a record of whatever questions are asked!

Examples of follow up questions:

  • Why were you chosen (to perform that task/project/etc.)?
  • Who else did you work with on that?
  • How long did it take?
  • How did you determine…(that something wasn’t working, that a new tool was needed, etc.)
  • How did you manage the people/steps involved in the project?
  • How did you get buy-in from others?
  • What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently?
  • What did you enjoy most about that?
  • What results were achieved?

What if the candidate isn’t giving me specific examples?

Some candidates have been coached in how to answer behavioral interview questions in great detail, and others may be unfamiliar with the technique. If a candidate is not providing the level of detail that you are seeking or is answering questions generally, don’t assume that the candidate cannot perform well in the role. Do your best to use follow up questions to dig further for the answers you need. Don’t be afraid to coach a candidate by saying “I’d love to hear very specific examples from your past work, so if you could tell me about a specific experience, that would be helpful.” We want to set candidates up for success, and this small piece of information (which has no impact on whether or not a candidate has the right skills and competencies) may be the difference between a weak and a strong interview.