Performance-Based Interviewing (PBI)

In performance-based interviewing (PBI) the interviewer will asks you questions about your knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) that are important for you to do the job. This method is also referred to as competency-based or behavioral interviewing.

This type of interview includes competency-based (“How would you do this…?”) questions. These questions make you tell the interviewer how you would approach, handle, deal with, solve, etc., a particular situation, problem, project or challenge that is relevant to the job. Keep in mind that your interviewers will be asking you questions that probe deeply how well you have dealt with situations and challenges in the past.

Solid preparation is essential to a successful PBI interview. Follow these steps:

  • Find out what skills and attributes are important to the organization conducting the interview. Talk to alumni, read the organization’s literature and website information and, if possible, attend organization-sponsored events. Once you have determined key skills and attributes preferred by the organization, you will be able to tailor your answers to focus on your success in those same skills.
  • Think of three to four specific examples that you can use to illustrate your answers to the behavioral interview questions. Think of situations when you succeeded and didn’t succeed, as your interviewer is almost certain to ask you to give examples of both instances. It is okay to discuss mistakes that you have made in the past as long as you can illustrate what you have learned from them. These examples should be from past work experiences, and you should be prepared to provide significant detail.
  • Be comfortable with your resume! Interviewers will often ask you to provide additional information pertaining to an activity or accomplishment that you have listed on your resume.


It is very important that your answers be specific and detailed. Listen carefully to the question and ask for clarification, if necessary. You should frame your answers in a three-step process:

  • Define the situation
  • Explain the action that you took
  • Provide the outcome

Example of a good answer to a PBI interview question:

Q: “Give me an example of when you had to deal with a difficult customer. What was the problem and how was it resolved?”

A: “I had worked at a car repair store that was part of a national chain. One morning while I was at the counter by myself, a very angry customer came in and demanded that I give her a refund on a brake service that she’d had done at another store in another state. Even though I was caught off guard by her rudeness, I offered to check the computer to research what had been done to her car. I found out that she had had new brakes put on three separate times at one of our stores in New Jersey in the past year. I began to sympathize with the customer – of course she was angry! The only problem was that my manager wasn’t at work yet and I was not authorized to give refunds without his permission. I let the customer know that I understood why she was angry and informed her that I had to get my manager’s permission before giving her a refund. I wrote down her name and phone number and let her know that I would speak with my manager as soon as he arrived that day and would call her as soon as I talked to him about her situation. I also gave her my name and the store phone number just in case she had any questions before I was able to call her back. She was very appreciative that I took the time to give her all of that information and thanked me for being so understanding. As it turned out, after I explained her situation to my manager that afternoon, I was able to extend a full refund on her credit card and call her with the news that same day.”

Notice in the above example how the respondent defined the situation, explained the action she took and the end result. To be successful in a PBI, you always need to include all three components.

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