Behavioral Interviewing: What It Is and How to Prepare


You may have heard that behavioral interviewing is becoming more of a common practice used by employers to screen potential candidates. But what exactly is behavioral interviewing, and what does this mean for job seekers?

This interview technique is based on the belief that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. In other words, how you handled a situation before in the workplace will determine how you will handle a similar situation at a new job.

Instead of the typical hypothetical questions, the interviewer asks the candidate to discuss his or her actual experiences. Often, the interviewer does not ask questions, but instead uses statements to prompt the candidate's answer. The interviewer may start these statements with, "Tell me about a time you had to ...," "Describe a situation when ...," or "Give me an example of ..." Notice how the interviewer is not asking about what the candidate would do, but what he or she already has done instead.

As you prepare for an interview, this means you will need to think of skills and experiences the employer may want to know about. Review the job description and research the company to help you figure out what they may ask. For example, if you are interviewing for a customer service position, the interviewer may ask you to describe a time you had to handle a difficult customer situation, as well as how you resolved it. If you are interviewing for a job that lists "ability to multitask" as a required skill in the job posting, you might be asked to give the interviewer an example of how you were able to successfully manage multiple tasks at once.

Part of your interview preparation should also be to reflect back on your experiences to come up with some examples to talk about. Examples can come from not only your work experience, but also class projects, volunteer work, and internships. Try to think of examples from the range of experience you have; you don't want to keep talking about the same position or situation over and over again during the interview.

But how do you give a good, solid answer? While you certainly want to be cognizant of the amount of time you are taking to answer a question (you don't want to ramble and lose the interviewer's attention), it is important that your response covers three main areas. First, you will want to describe the general situation or task at hand. Next, specifically talk about what you did, or the action you took. And finally, don't forget to discuss the result. Talking about the action you took will be meaningless to the interviewer unless he or she knows the impact, so it essential that you don't leave this part out of your answer.

It is impossible to predict every question you may be asked, but understanding what behavioral interviewing is and how to anticipate potential questions can help you prepare and give you the confidence you need to ace your next interview!

Interested in more posts on job search-related topics? Check out our Career Development blog.

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