How To Prepare For Behavioral Interviews

What is behavioral interviewing? Behavioral interviewing is interviewing based on discovering how the interviewee acted in specific employment related situations. The logic; how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future, i.e. past performance predicts future performance.

Traditional Interview Questions

In a traditional interview, you will be asked a series of questions which typically have straightforward answers like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?” or “Describe a typical work week.”

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

In a behavioral interview, an employer has decided what skills are needed in the person they hire and will ask questions to find out if the candidate has those skills. Instead of asking how you would behave, they will ask how you did behave. The interviewer will want to know how you handled a situation instead of what you might do in the future.
Behavioral interview questions will be more pointed, more probing and more specific.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • led a project that saved the company time or money.
  • worked effectively under pressure.
  • handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.
  • were creative in solving a problem.
  • missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  • were unable to complete a project on time.
  • persuaded team members to do things your way.
  • wrote a report that was well received.
  • anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • had to make an important decision with limited facts.
  • were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • had to adapt to a difficult situation.
  • were tolerant of an opinion that was different from yours.
  • were disappointed in your behaviour.
  • used your political savvy to push a program through that you really believed in
  • had to deal with an irate customer (or co-worker/boss/subordinate).
  • delegated a project effectively.
  • surmounted a major obstacle.
  • set your sights too high (or too low).
  • prioritized the elements of a complicated project.
  • got bogged down in the details of a project.
  • lost (or won) an important contract.
  • made a bad decision.
  • had to fire a friend.
  • hired (or fired) the wrong person.
  • turned down a good job.
  • used logic to solve a problem.

A sample Interview scenario which includes Behavioral Interview Techniques

  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing that decision.
  • Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?
  • What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handled it.
  • Have you had to convince a team to work on a project they weren’t thrilled about?
  • How did you handle it?
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? How?
  • Tell me about how you’ve worked effectively under pressure.

Follow-up questions will also be detailed. You may be asked what you did, what you said, how you reacted or how you felt.

What’s the best way to prepare? It’s important to remember that you won’t know what type of interview will take place until you are sitting in the interview room. So, prepare answers to traditional interview questions.

Then, since you don’t know exactly what situations you will be asked about if it’s a behavioural interview, refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on.

Gather your workplace success stories. These examples should demonstrate you have the traits necessary to perform in the position. Review the job description. You may be able to get a sense of what skills will be assets from reading the job description and position requirements.

During the interview, if you are not sure how to answer the question, ask for clarification. Then be sure to include these points in your answer:

  • A specific situation
  • The tasks that needed to be done
  • The action you took
  • The results, i.e. what happened – this point is very important. Try to quantify your results with numbers or percentages.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers. The interviewer is simply trying to understand how you behaved in a given situation. How you respond will determine if there is a fit between your skills and the position the company is seeking to fill. So, listen carefully, be clear and detailed when you respond and, most importantly, be honest. If your answers aren’t what the interviewer is looking for, this position may not be the best job for you anyway.