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Behavioral Interview:
Experts Share Their Insights

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 08, 2020
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The behavioral interview technique, developed by industrial psychologists in the 1970s, takes a bit of a different approach than the standard “What are your weaknesses?” type questions. In this technique, the interviewer generally uses prompts and questions designed to get interviewees to use real-life examples and past situations to define who they are, their successes and ways in which they handle various circumstances.

“Behavioral interviewing is based on the belief that a person’s past actions and behaviors will be a likely predictor of their future actions and behaviors in the professional setting,” explains Dmitri Oster, career coach and founder/director of One World Counseling.

With many companies utilizing this interview method, you should be more aware of what it is and how to prepare for it. In the following section, we’ll cover some behavioral interview tips that you might find helpful for your next job interview.

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Behavioral Interview Prep: Craft Your Career Stories

For this type of interview, it is particularly helpful to research the company you’ll be interviewing with and closely read the job description for the position you are pursuing. Take particular note of the skills that the employer is looking for. Then, think of occurrences in your professional past in which you employed those skills.

“The best behavioral interviewing applicants are those that have spent a good amount of time thinking about, reflecting on and practicing the skill of putting all their achievements and professional advances into words that become intelligible and revealing stories about themselves,” says Oster. “Successfully preparing for and effectively undergoing a behavioral interview is based primarily on how well you know yourself and how fluidly you can express your experiences, personal qualities, characteristics and skill-sets in words.”

Lori Bumgarner, career specialist and owner of paNASH, adds: “When organizing your story, follow the simple CAR formula: C = Challenge you faced, A= Action you took and R = Result of your action. Share examples that have positive results or that put your action in a positive light.”

That said, you should also be prepared to relate a story that demonstrates a time when you might not have been successful at a particular task or in a certain situation.

“Candidates should absolutely have a story about a failure,” asserts Leila Hock, career strategy coach for Alignment Coaching. “Employers love to ask questions about that, and their failure story should demonstrate what they learned and how they corrected their behavior going forward.”

Following are other points to help ensure that you answer behavior-based interview questions in the best possible way:

  • Provide specific and not general examples.
  • Don’t talk about the successes or achievements of others.
  • Use various examples, from both your personal and professional lives.
  • More recent examples are more effective.
  • If you don’t have a story that matches exactly what the interviewer has presented, ask if you can relate a story in which your behavior would apply in that particular scenario.

Behavior Interview Tips: A Final Word

“The number one thing that job candidates need to have in their back pocket for a behavioral interview is a set of stories that demonstrates their abilities,” Hock says. “I recommend that my clients have three key stories they want to tell, and find a way to get them in.”

These stories should reflect your behavior in at least three different areas. For instance, you might use examples that show times you initiated an event, resolved a conflict and played an important role in the success of a team that could answer many types of behavioral interview questions.

No matter what type of story you’re telling, you should first and foremost display the type of confidence that could make you stand out. “Have faith in yourself, remain calm and confident, and realize that [the company] really does need someone with your skills to help make their team and company better,” says career expert Gregory Serrien.

Jacob Bayer, CEO of Luminext Incorporated, sums it up: “My advice for all: find what makes your services unique and then find those who value your uniqueness.”