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Critical Behavior Interview®

The Critical Behavior Interview® is Cambria’s version of the critical incident technique developed in 1954 by the psychologist John Flanagan to differentiate effective versus ineffective work behaviors in key situations. It was subsequently adapted by Harvard Professor David McClelland to discover key competencies and personal characteristics of high performers and further refined by Cambria for use in competency modeling, hiring, and executive assessment.


When used for selecting or assessing a person for a particular job or role, the Critical Behavior Interview®  is designed to probe a prior job situation or experience that is related to the required attributes and competencies. The interviewer’s goal is to get the interviewee to recount his/her story in rich detail by guiding them through a chronological retelling of the situation and by asking a few key questions that push the story along and provide clarity on the candidate’s thoughts, feelings, conversations, decisions, and actions.


This type of interview helps the interviewer determine whether the person has the capabilities and personal characteristics that enable him/her to perform effectively. To meet this objective, we look for clear evidence that the person demonstrated these capabilities in past situations. And we do this by asking about situations where outstanding performance is needed rather than asking leading questions about whether the person has the competencies or attributes needed in the role.


This technique is an essential component of our Competency Modeling and Role Profiling consulting services, where through the Critical Behavior Interview®, we identify the most important competencies and behaviors for use in selection, development and promotion in the context of the organization’s business strategy, challenges, values, and culture. We study an organization’s best performers, draw on decades of our own empirical research into the competencies that make the biggest difference, and project the organization’s future competency requirements.


The Critical Behavior Interview® technique is taught in our Selecting for Success™ training program. In this workshop, recruiters, HR staff, and hiring managers learn to profile the job requirements, observe effective interviewing, and receive intensive practice and coaching on the Critical Behavior Interview technique.