Interviewing for Behavior

Many interviewers get caught up in what a person has been doing in their most recent position and never move beyond that.  They rule someone in or out based on assuming that person can’t, or won’t, be able to do something you need them to do because they aren’t doing it now, or the company they work for is structured much differently than yours.  In reality, the company they work for now may not want them doing it, or a previous company they worked for could be a company more similar to yours.

The best interviewers recognize that a candidate’s skillset, behavior and emotional intelligence is built much like a building, foundation first, then they either have built a solid structure on top, they are upgrading or maintaining, or they have some leaks that they are covering up. The best candidates can tell you how they have processed and fixed, or are currently fixing, their leaks. A candidate that has never had a leak is most likely one you don’t want to hire unless he/she is an intern.  They are either in denial or they worked in too safe of a world, so you will be the test to how they react to not being the superstar.

How do you discover their behavioral traits?  Ask open-ended behavioral questions that require them to give examples and discuss process and result.  Here are a few:

Project Manager

Walk me through the big picture steps of a (design-build, negotiated, hard-bid, etc.) project from receipt of plans to close-out.  What are you typically responsible for and what do you prefer to have assistance with?


Walk me through a complete bid process for a (office build out, ground up office building etc.) What are you typically hands-on responsible for and what do you prefer to have assistance with?

General Behavioral Questions:  (select questions based on level you are hiring for)

  • Give an example of how you set goals.
  • How do you organize your day?
  • What do you do if you disagree with your superior at work? Do you have an example?
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split-second decision.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish failed.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures.
  • Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).
  • If a co-worker is misappropriating funds, how would you address?
  • If someone is doing something wrong on a jobsite, how do you address?

Behavioral Skills List: (select top 10 required for each position)


  • Accountability
  • Accurate Listening
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Answering a Complaint
  • Apologizing
  • Arranging Problems by Importance
  • Assertiveness
  • Asking for Help
  • Asking Permission
  • Asking Questions
  • Attention to Detail
  • Avoiding Trouble with Others
  • Being a Good Sport
  • Commitment
  • Communication
  • Concentration
  • Conceptual Thinking
  • Conversing
  • Convincing
  • Creative Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Customer Focus
  • Dealing with Emotions
  • Delegation
  • Diplomacy
  • Decision Making
  • Directing
  • Empathy
  • Expressing Affection
  • Expressing Feeling
  • Eye Contact
  • Flexibility
  • Following Directions
  • Following Instruction
  • Gathering Information
  • Gestures
  • Giving Compliments
  • Giving Instruction
  • Goal Setting
  • Helping Others
  • Honesty
  • Improvisation
  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Interaction with People
  • Interpersonal
  • Introducing Others
  • Introducing Yourself
  • Interviewing
  • Joining In on Events
  • Keeping out of Fights
  • Leadership
  • Listening
  • Logical Thinking
  • Management
  • Making Decisions
  • Monitoring
  • Motivation
  • Negotiation
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Numeracy
  • Organizational
  • Recognizing Feelings
  • Patience
  • People Skills
  • Persistence
  • Persuasion
  • Planning
  • Politics
  • Problem Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Relating to Others
  • Respect
  • Sales
  • Self Esteem
  • Self- Improvement
  • Self- Management
  • Sensitivity
  • Speaking
  • Strategic Management
  • Strategic Perspective
  • Strategic Planning
  • Stress Maintenance
  • Stress Management
  • Tact
  • Teaching
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management
  • Tension Reduction
  • Training
  • Trust
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

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