3 Must-Ask Behavioral Interview Questions, According to a Behavior Analyst

Rose Street Spectrum, a multidisciplinary center for individuals with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger’s Disorder and their families, employs a variety of experienced, licensed and certified staff members to provide diagnosis, assessment, treatment and follow-up services. Because of the unique and high level of expertise, rigor, compassion and support required of employees at Rose Street, hiring the right person for each role is crucial.

Emily Redding, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at Rose Street’s Lawton, OK, clinic, walks us through several of the questions that she typically asks when interviewing candidates, which have applications in a broad variety of fields beyond healthcare.

Question #1: Do you hold grudges?

The “forgive and forget” expression underpins the day-to-day at Redding’s office. In this continuously high-stress environment, the likelihood that inciting behaviors will occur is high. But even in the typical office setting, infighting and politics are bound to come up. Therefore, it is important to rule out job candidates who have a proclivity to exacerbate the situation by holding grudges.

Why It Works: Describes Redding, “We work in a high-stress environment within close proximity of coworkers as well as clients. If there is a disagreement between coworkers, we (as employers) need to know that coworkers are able to communicate effectively to get their voice heard in an appropriate manner and ‘let it go’ once they are heard.”

“We are all human and make mistakes, so we need to be able to ‘forgive’ effectively and have a fresh start the next day,” continues Redding.

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Question #2: Tell me a time that you were able to react quickly and appropriately in a situation that you have been trained for.

This multilayered question is designed to reenact for the interviewer a candidate’s specific experience under duress. The candidate’s ability to fluidly walk through the situation from the moment the situation started through to a deescalated outcome is important for many reasons, both in Redding’s workplace where employees are tasked with guarding the emotional and physical safety of both workers and clients, and typical corporate positions where employees must deal with urgent issues as they arise.

Why It Works: “Each client that we work with has a ‘plan’ in place of what to do if ‘X, Y or Z’ were to occur,” explains Redding. “In many of these instances, the therapist won’t have a chance to ‘pause’ maladaptive behavior and look back on the behavior plan in place. So, this means the therapist will have to have a pretty good understanding of what is a possibility to happen and what to do in each situation. It is pertinent that the therapist keeps a level head, not panic and deescalate the situation before the behavior escalates even more.”

Question #3: How willing are you to ask/take help from others?

Self-awareness is another critical trait of candidates. At Redding’s workplace, therapists without it may find themselves overextending their stay within untenable situations — but nearly every employee across all fields can relate to the challenge of being asked to do too many things. This question identifies candidates who get the importance of knowing when to “say when.”

Why It Works: “If the therapist is not able to deescalate the situation and they have dealt with behavior for longer than a few minutes, another coworker will likely come and check-in to see if they need to ‘switch’ out for a few minutes. As the therapist, you need to know when to ‘tap out’ and know when to ask for help and take the help that is given when you need it,” concludes Redding.

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