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Home > Consultation and Training > Trieschman Center for Consultation & Training > Workforce Development Initiative


2001 Finding Better Ways Conference Presentation Recap

Life is a Stage: Playacting Results for the Best Hire

Martha Rothman and Susie Huhn
Child and Family Resources
Tucson, AZ

Most hiring managers realize that creating a good match between a job and an applicant involves not only determining the applicant's knowledge and skill related to the job, but also whether the person is a good fit with the industry and the organizational culture.

Interviewing is an inexact art because judging the talents and abilities of people is a very subjective process. What we do know is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. This paper describes the development of a behavior based interview process designed to assist employers in hiring workers who possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to both perform their job functions and to fit well within the agency's culture.

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavior-based interviewing has been defined by business professor Herbert G. Heneman III of the University of Wisconsin as a" thorough, planned systematic way to gather and evaluate information about what candidates have done in the past to show how they would handle future situations." The complete process includes three steps--preparing, conducting, and evaluating.

Preparing requires a careful analysis of the actual requirements of the position. When we are clear about the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a position requires, we are in a better position to ask for information from the interviewee that will help us predict effective job performance and organizational fit. To Conduct a successful interview, it is essential to get the information you need to make the best selection. Key elements of this phase include building rapport, practicing diverse questioning techniques, following legal guidelines, and controlling the pace of the interview. Evaluating requires developing procedures for integrating the data to achieve a balanced hiring decision. Data integration involves compiling, analyzing, and comparing interviewer impressions of an applicant's strengths, weaknesses and fit with the organization.

The remainder of this paper will focus on conducting a position analysis and then using that analysis to develop targeted interview questions.

Conducting the Position Analysis

The position analysis is an essential step in determining what is needed for successful performance. Begin by focusing on gathering specific, behavior-based information from the people most knowledgeable about the job. Seek specific behavioral descriptions of key qualifications, such as the following:
  • What does excellent performance look like?
  • What would an employee be doing or saying to perform at a high level?
  • What do initiative, leadership or motivation look like for this position?
Be sure to analyze both the requirements for the position and for the organization.

Use the following questions to help you determine the requirements for performance and candidate selection criteria:

Technical Skills

  • What are specific functional skills, knowledge, abilities needed to perform successfully?
  • What education, training, licensing is needed to fulfill requirements?

Interpersonal Skills

  • What communication skills are needed?
  • Describe team interaction for this position. What teaming skills are required?
  • What skills are key to customer service and relationship building?


  • What leadership characteristics does the position require? (Vision, coaching, decision-making, problem-solving).

  • What's the level of independence, initiative, and motivation?

  • What self management traits are key?( flexibility, dependability, time management)

  • What work ethic does the organization expect?

It's All in the Questions

Behavioral interviewing is designed to elicit examples of past experiences as the strongest predictor of future behavior. Once you have analyzed the position's requirements, you are ready to develop questions that will enable you to assess the extent to which candidates possess those requirements. The SAVE questioning structure is designed to help you formulate behavior-based questions and SAVE you the headache of hiring the wrong person.

Situation: Identifies the specific skill in an identified area and the circumstance, or situation, where they were applied.

Action: Identifies exactly what the applicant did in this situation--how well they performed.

Value: Identifies the value and result of the action taken.

Evaluation: Clarifies the applicant's assessment of what happened. What worked well? What would they change? What was the reason for choosing a particular action? What lessons were learned?

Sample Questions

  • Tell me about a recent oral presentation you made.

  • Describe a project you completed at your former workplace and how you worked with team members to accomplish the goals.

  • Tell me about a difficult parenting situation you have been in.

  • What's a telephone interaction that you are most proud of?

  • Tell me how you build rapport with families on the phone?

  • Describe a situation where you gained the support and cooperation of others.

  • Tell me about a conflict you managed well/poorly.

  • Give an example of a time you were able to build rapport with someone at work, even when the situation was difficult.

  • Tell me about a time when you were able to think like another person in order to discover his or her unique perspective.
  • Tell me about a situation where you took on a leadership role.

  • Describe a goal you've set and how you accomplished it.

  • Describe a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a problem.

  • When have you felt like giving up on a project? Tell me about it.

  • Tell me about a time when you demonstrated integrity.

  • What was a particularly rewarding/challenging coaching experience?

  • What obstacles have you encountered in your current job?

  • Describe a difficult organizational change that you have experienced.

  • Describe a time when you confronted a negative attitude successfully with the result of building teamwork and morale.


After analysis and question development you are ready to hold the interview. Sometimes after the initial interview process you end up with 2-3 excellent applicants and are not ready to make a decision. You can then take the concept of behavioral interviewing a step further and ask each applicant to perform a task or skill they will need to use in the job. Give each applicant time to prepare for such assignments. Examples might include giving a public presentation asking for donations, creating a brochure, engaging a family, or presenting a class to a group of youth. Think of scenarios relevant to the actual performance of the job. This process can be fun and often separates those applicants who can talk-the-talk but cannot walk-the-walk.


Falcon, P. (1997). 96 great interview questions to ask before you hire. New York: American Management Association.

Excellent websites are: Society for Human Resource Management

Contact Information

Susie Huhn
Associate Director of Administration
Child and Family Resources
2800 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85716
Phone: 520.881.8940

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