MacGyver, the 1980’s television icon played by Richard Dean Anderson, was a secret agent who never carried a weapon. Instead, MacGyver relied on improvisation and a sound working knowledge of scientific principals, his Swiss Army knife, some duct tape and the occasional paper clip to finagle his way out of just about any predicament.
But ol’ Mac never had to sit through an interview with Barbara Walters, who famously asked Katharine Hepburn “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”
Barbara’s inquiry falls into the category (however obliquely) of the vaunted behavioral interview question, increasingly employed not only by TV journalists, but also by Human Resources departments and a great many hiring managers.
MacGyver’s improvisation skills would undoubtedly come in handy during a behavioral interview. But why?
Behavioral interview questions are meant to show either how you think on your feet (as Google’s famous questions like “Why are manhole covers round?” might) and/or to determine how you have actually responded to real world situations and challenges (as in “Tell me about a time a supervisor challenged your behavior; how did you handle it?”). Of course, there are also honest self-assessments that simultaneously gauge tact (“What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career?” – which we’d guess Mac might answer with “My choice in barbershops”).
Once dreaded but rare in frequency, today more and more interviewers are using the advanced strategy of behavioral questioning to delve deeply into a candidate’s psyche. And while my colleagues and I at Rockwood won’t be able to help you stop the flow of sulfuric acid with some chocolate the way Mac did in the pilot episode (later confirmed on Mythbusters), we can help by providing you with the top 10 most popular behavioral interview questions from About.com, this article from JobInterviewQuestions.com covering behavioral question strategy and the exhaustive “Complete List of Behavioral Interview Questions” from Emurse.com.
Lastly -- this is for those of you who'd like some real-life answers to the question, "What Would MacGyver Do?"