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How to Prepare for a BBI


Wallace Immen, in his January 6, 2012 Globe Careers column “Want better employees?  Ask better questions” says:  “At least 70% of employers still ask lame, predictable questions.  That’s why they often miss clues that a candidate is destined to be a flop as an employee”.

Leadership coach, Mark Murphy, who wrote “Hiring for Attitude” says there are 5 main issues that lead to failure:

  1. Coach-ability:  the employee is unable to accept constructive criticism and change behaviour
  2. Emotional intelligence:  the employee is unable to manage emotions  and assess others’ reactions or expectations
  3. Motivation:  the employee just doesn’t have the drive to excel in the role
  4. Temperament:  the employee’s personality doesn’t suit the role or team
  5. Technical competence:  the employee’s skills aren’t enough to fulfill the essential responsibilities of the role

If past behaviour really is the best predictor of future behaviour, then a behaviourally based interview (BBI) can definitely help an employer select the best fit candidate for a role.  (Don’t forget to follow up a BBI with comprehensive background checks!). 

The first step is to identify the core competencies for the role.

The second step is to draft questions that lead the candidate to tell you about a specific time when she (not her boss or colleague) had to deal with a situation related to one of those competencies.  Encourage her to give you an example from work, family, school or volunteer experiences and outline what actions she took.  Finally, ask what results she achieved;  hopefully she’ll be able to highlight some metrics which back up those results..  

Some sample questions to consider:    

  • Problem Solving:  Tell me about the most challenging decision you have ever had to make.  Why was it so challenging for you?  How did you resolve it?  What did you learn about yourself?
  • Work Habits:  Give me an example of when you have had to be nimble even though you may not have had a lot of information on which to base a decision.  What techniques did you use to make your decision?  Did your decision turn out to be as effective as you’d hoped?   
  • Motivational Factors:  Tell me about a situation when you had to take a risk.  What did you feel most confident about?  What scared you the most?  How successful were you?  What did you learn for next time?     
  • Self Understanding:  Give me an example of when you were more afraid of being successful than you were of failing.  Why do you think you tried to sabotage your success?  How were you able to get back on track?  
  • People Skills:  Tell me about a time when you used humour to defuse a difficult interpersonal situation.  What form of humour did you use?  How was it received?  
  • Coping Strategies:  Give me an example of what undue stress means to you.  What techniques do you use to lessen your anxiety.  
  • Lifestyle Priorities:  Tell me about a time when your work priorities competed with your family, life-long learning and/or community volunteering priorities.  How did you resolve them? 
  • Communication:  Give me an example of a written document you had to prepare in “plain language”.  How did you ensure it was geared to your target audience?  How did you evaluate that your audience really uunderstood the message? 
  • Interpersonal:  Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.  How did you resolve your differences?  How were you able to commit to moving forward? 
  • Innovation:  Give me an example of when you’ve thought out of the box and “built a better mousetrap”.  What inspires to be more creative?

If you’re the candidate being interviewed, how do you answer these behaviourally based interview questions (BBIQ’s)?

Winging it isn’t recommended.  Preparation is key!   

  • Read the recruiting brief or job posting.  Don’t be shy about asking for a copy of the detailed Role and Responsibilities document or Job Description.  Highlight the key competencies (they’re often soft skills!).
  • Think about all your experiences, not just at work but also at school, in your family life and while volunteering in the community.  Being able to give examples from each aspect of your life demonstrates how well rounded you are.
  • Draft an answer for each competency using the STAR model:
    • What Situation or Task did you face?
    • What Action did you take?
    • What Results did you achieve?
  • This is all about you not what you watched your boss or colleagues do, what you’ve read or what you think. 
  • You should have a different example for each competency;  you don’t want to be using the same 2 or 3 examples for every question you’re asked.
  • Practice your answers until you can answer each one crisply and concisely.
  • Take a one page “cheat sheet” into the interview along with your cover letter and resume.  List the key competencies from the posting down the left side of the page.   Beside each competency, list ST, A and R with a few key words as prompts in case you get stuck.    
  • Listen carefully to the question being asked.  You’ll notice a BBIQ can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”!  You’re being asked to give a specific example of when you have had to deal with a situation and what your result was.  If you have metrics to back up your results, so much the better.  This will be a dollar amount or percentage which quantifies how you impacted effectiveness, efficiency or economy.  For instance, I increase sales in my territory by 25% in the first 3 months on the job.  Or I reduced waste by $50,000 over the course of 6 months.  Don’t be afraid to talk about a situation where things didn’t go as planned.  You can tell the interviewer what you learned for next time and show how you’re open to constructive criticism and willing to learn. 
  • Start with high level information.  If the interviewer wants more details, she’ll ask a probing question. 

Behaviourally based interviews are more work for both interviewers and candidates.  But if that means at least a good fit, if not a best fit, in the new role, then it’s a win-win for both.