Licensee Badge
Submitted by ted.rosner on


Hi guys,

I'm totally sold on behavioral-style interview questions and I am implementing them for interviews in my organisation. However, I get some resistance from people who are used to asking questions in the "what would you do in [x situation]?” style. In the podcast “how to evaluate answers to the weakness question", Mark describes this style of question as “ludicrous…people do that all the time and it's dumb dumb dumb”. But he doesn't really elaborate on precisely why they are so “dumb” and so I'm not entirely sure how to rebut those who wish to continue using them.
Does anyone know why MT advises against these questions so strongly?

jrb3's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I tend to avoid "what would you do in [situation x]" (not a behavioral question) because I have "tell me about a time you dealt with [situation x]" (a behavioral question) in my tool-box.  The latter question spreads the field of candidates, if dealing with [situation x] is actually relevant to doing the job being interviewed on.

And if it's not relevant, why not ask a question that *is* relevant instead?

Chris Zeller's picture
Licensee Badge

Hi Ted,

I've been doing behavioral interviews for the last 10 years or so and I've had success by explaining their value like this:

1. Behaviors drive productivity.

2. The underlying principle is that past behavior is indicative of future behavior. So good past behaviors indicate good future performance.

3. Asking interview questions in the hypothetical removes the ability to make that comparison.

4. Moreover, the answers to a hypothetical question are devoid of real-world constraints like time, money, systematic functionality, people literally screaming in your face, etc. that so often create friction and conflict.

Using a behavioral format forces the interviewee to provide context, focus on their individual behaviors, and, importantly, the effects of those behaviors on the people involved and the organization.

In addtion to telling a coherent story, you're looking for the interviewee to demonstrate particular thought-processes and behaviors in their answers.

Based on their ability to do so, you can score their answers and, assuming that all candidates get the same questions, make apples-to-apples comparisons. This grounds the interview process in reality, makes it more science than art, forces people to justify their hire/no-hire decision, and requires specific examples rather than genralizations to support the recommendation.


ted.rosner's picture
Licensee Badge

Hi Chris - thank you for such a considered and full answer. I have lifted parts of this directly into my company's interviewing guidance. Cheers!