How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

The form of interviewing known as Behavioral Interviewing is a relatively new type of interview in which your behavior in specific situations is analyzed. Many employers believe examining your past performance to be a much more accurate predictor of future performance.

Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions:

  • Give me a specific example of how you handled a particularly stressful situation.
  • Describe a time when you used your logic and problem-solving skills.
  • Tell me about a time when something you tried to accomplish didn't work out.
  • Give me an example of how you deal with conflict.
  • Explain a time when your leadership skills were put to the test.

It is a bit more difficult to prepare for a behavioral interview than a traditional interview, but there are some things you can do to enhance your chances of doing well.

  1. Make a list of past experiences that can demonstrate to an employer how you handle specific situations. You want to focus on behaviors like problem-solving, leadership, good decision-making, teamwork, or any other behaviors that you think the employer might be looking for. For example, you could answer a question about leadership, problem-solving, team building, or handling a difficult employee by detailing how you pulled a challenging associate aside, asked for his input regarding the problem he was challenging you on, utilized some of his ideas, placed him in authority over some aspect of the project, and gave him credit at the managers' meeting, thereby ending his aggression, obtaining his peak performance, and gaining an ally. Your list should contain 5-10 of your most recent experiences, and don't necessarily have to be from previous employment. They can be from volunteer work, school, hobbies, sports, internships, or anything that you can use to detail the specific behavior you are trying to "sell."

    Try to also include situations that may have begun negatively, but which ended positively due to your efforts. Use this list as your quiver, from which you can draw arrows to target various behaviors. One example or situation can be used to demonstrate several different skills, and can therefore be used in more than one behavioral situation. Try to cite recent examples--within the past year if possible. You won't need more than 5-10 such examples to effectively demonstrate your abilities.

  2. As with any interview, do your research. Investigate the company by checking its website, talking to current employees, or reading up on anything published about them. This will help you determine what types of behaviors they are looking for, and will help you tailor your experiences to those needs.
  3. Be specific. When asked how you handled a particular situation, include detailed descriptions of your actions, your thought processes, and the outcomes. The interviewer wants to see you "in the moment" and is trying to discern your actions, reactions, and reasoning.
  4. Review both your resume and your list of experiences prior to the interview, perhaps as you sit in the lobby waiting to be called in. This will bring these experiences to the forefront of your mind, and have them at the ready for the interview.

  5. Role play with a trusted friend of mentor who will give you honest feedback (both positive and negative) regarding your answers. Try to use a list of questions that you haven't already seen, in order to get an accurate view of your ability. Either your friend can make them up (if he is qualified or able), or you can get sample questions from QuintCareers, or other resources (see sidebar). For additional information, consider picking up Terry Fitzwater's book, Preparing for the Behavior-Based Interview: How to Get the Job You Want.


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