Guide to Writing Good Behavioral-Based Questions

Guest Contributor:  Jerry Bires


Any filtering mechanism for candidates should include well-crafted behavioral-based questions.  For the sake of expediency and keystroke-savings, let’s call them BBQs.  Unlike a conventional BBQ, ours has nothing to do with a grill, pork or pork by-products.  That said, answers to BBQs are the real meat, the real beef, as it were, in a candidate’s application for a job.

If well written, the answers to these questions are like gold because they effectively tell us so much about a candidate’s logic, ability to communicate and their experience performing tasks, or using skills that a hiring manager has stated were crucial to success in the position being filled.

Now for a candidate’s answer to be like gold, a well-written BBQ must be concrete, not whimsical, fluffy or ethereal. It’s not intended to allow a candidate to conjecture about their ability to do something. Just as there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no conjecture in the BBQ.  It should be written so that the candidate’s answer effectively pays off the experience claimed on a resume. Their answer should demonstrate why they can perform one or more of the key functions required on the job.  On some online applications, the behavioral-based questions will follow an initial set of multiple choice questions.  If so, they can cross check each other.  For example, if a product manager candidate’s answer to a multiple choice question said they’ve created content for mobile devices, but you don’t see that experience on the resume, a BBQ on this subject makes them cite specifics.

If this concept is difficult, then go rent the movie, Jerry Maguire.  Cuba Gooding Jr. could have been talking about the BBQ when he said: “Show me the money!  Show me the money, Jerry.  Show me the money!”  A candidate’s answer to a BBQ should, indeed, show us the money.

Examples of well written BBQs:
“Describe to what extent your work in non-oxide ceramics has involved transition metal diborides.  Were any of them zirconium or titanium based?

“Describe your development of algorithms for use in a very low (<200MHz) power environment with severe memory constraint.  Explain how you accounted for synchronization issues in multi-threaded code.”

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