The behavioral interview is currently a popular method for interviewers to assess your suitability for a position based on your behavior in the past. This is because past behavior is often a good indicator of future behavior. Behavioral interviews can also reveal if a candidate has overstated or exaggerated his or her experience. You won’t know ahead of time if your interviewer is going to conduct a behavioral interview, but you can still prepare for it by researching the company, the position and, most importantly, preparing yourself to talk very specifically about past experiences.
Behavioral interview questions are really just prompts for you to tell a detailed story of a particular work experience, how you handled a challenge or what you learned from an experience. For example, if an interviewer wants to ascertain whether you will work well as part of a team, he or she may ask, “Tell me about a time when you experienced the benefits of teamwork.” Your response should take the form of a clearly structured story from your past in which there is a direct connection between your behavior or judgment and the skill or experience the interviewer is asking about. The interviewer will be evaluating your answer based on the behavior and skills that you exhibited in your story.
- Research the organization and position you are pursuing. Familiarize yourself with the organization’s mission statement, history, policies, etc. Find out as much as possible about what tasks and responsibilities the position would entail. Knowing this can help you predict what kind of behavioral questions may be asked. For example, if it is a management position, there will often be questions about your communication skills and leadership abilities.
- Research yourself. This means take some time to reflect on past experiences in which you had to solve problems, lead, face adversity, self-motivate, act ethically, work as part of a team, etc.
- Once you have particular stories in mind that relate to certain skills or characteristics, practice them. Know who was involved, where the situation occurred and what the result was. Interviewers will often ask follow-up questions to acquire more details, such as “How did you react?” so having those details already in your mind will greatly assist you in the interview situation.
- Do NOT fabricate stories.
- Relax and enjoy it! This is your chance to really engage your interviewer and build rapport. Your answers can draw a strong connection between your unique history and your future professional growth. The behavioral interview is not only beneficial to the organization, but also will help you define and strengthen your communication skills and ability to “sell yourself” as a good candidate.
As always after an interview, send the interviewer a thank-you note within two days. This will extend the rapport you established during the interview and reflect well upon you as a candidate.