In a typical interview, you may be asked, "What would you do?" in a situation. The behavioral interview takes it a step further by asking, "What did you do?" In this type of interview, also referred to as a situational interview, the interviewer wants to know how you behaved and reacted to real-life scenarios, and what you did to produce actual results.
Go into it with the right preparation and, even without a lot of real-world experience, you can nail the behavioral interview.
What is a behavioral interview?
The definition of a behavioral interview is one that focuses on past thought processes, reactions to conflicts, and resolutions of challenges. By learning how you behaved in the past, interviewers can assess whether you and your style are the right fit for them.
Behavioral interviews are useful methods for interviewers to make sure you're a good fit and the perfect platform for you to showcase your achievements and experience.
Preparing for a behavioral interview
Once you've scored an interview, ask who you'll be meeting with and what style of interview they'll be conducting.
If they mention either behavioral or situational interview, you know where you need to focus. You'll want to practice answering a variety of situational questions.
To get you started, here are a few sample behavioral interview questions:
- What is the most challenging problem you've had to solve?
- What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
- When did you take on a leadership role, and what were the results?
- When was the last time you learned a new skill? Tell us about that process.
Coming up with answers to direct questions like these on the spot won't be easy if you go in unprepared. Start by assessing your resume. Our Resume Templates can ensure your resume is as polished, professional and organized as possible, and that it tells the story of you and your accomplishments. Use your resume as a starting point to prompt answers to these questions.
Study the job description again. What are the primary skills required? Think about your own experiences and how they relate to those skills. It's also useful to look at the company's website, particularly pages on corporate culture and behaviors. You'll gain valuable insight into what information about yourself you'll want to share.
Even if you're not sure what type of interview you're walking into, we highly recommend you practice answering behavioral questions. Many interviews throw in situational questions, so make sure you're ready to handle these curve balls.
Use the STAR technique
The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique is particularly helpful in answering situational interview questions. This method lets you break down a problem:
- Situation: Describe the situation you were presented. Give your listener context. Be specific and include details from a previous job or volunteer experience.
- Task: What were you trying to accomplish?
- Action: What was your role in the steps taken? What decisions did you make? How did you impact the outcome? Make sure to use the word "I" instead of "we" when describing your actions.
- Result: What was the final result? How did your actions make a positive impact? What did you learn? Take credit for your efforts. Here's where you show your potential employer how well you performed in a real-world situation.
Let's put the STAR technique to use with this question: "Tell me about a time you resolved a problem for your previous employer."
- Situation: At my last internship, my employer wanted to get more people to read their digital newsletter. They put a lot of work into it, but the open rate was low.
- Task: As the marketing intern, it was my job to figure out what we could do to increase the open rate.
- Action: First, I researched e-newsletters, learning best practices on when to send them, and how to create compelling subject lines. I discovered our company was sending the newsletters sporadically, once a month or every other month. I created consistency in the frequency and tone to increase readership.
- Result: After presenting my research, we decided to send the newsletter every other week, using A/B testing on the subject lines. After six weeks, we noticed a 5 percent boost to the open rate.
It's time to ace the interview
As with any job interview, bring along copies of your updated resume. When answering problem-solving interview questions, keep your answers to about two minutes. If using the STAR technique, think of your answer as a mini-story–with a beginning, middle and end.
The conversational nature of a behavioral interview offers an excellent opportunity to get to know your future employer. It indicates the behaviors they'll expect from you, and the types of situations you'll be asked to resolve. These insights will help you decide if the job is a good fit, and are useful when you send out your thank-you note. Throw in an anecdote such as, "I was happy to hear you're looking for someone with newsletter experience. I enjoyed writing newsletters in my internship and hope to bring that experience to this position." This added touch may seal the deal that you are the right fit for their team.