Preparing for a Behavioral Interview

Global Employability

Through the years organizations have devised new, and more effective techniques to select the right people for various job profiles. Today, behavioral interviews have become a popular and effective interviewing approach for top companies. In this fast changing employment landscape and increasing competition in the job market, aspirants must understand the intricacies of behavioral interviews and prepare themselves to deal with them successfully.

What's a behavioral interview?

Developed by industrial psychologists, behavioral interview is a structured interviewing technique, which begins with the assumption that a candidates’ past behavior indicates their future behavior, and therefore performance. A behavioral interview begins by asking candidates open-ended questions about particular situations that they have dealt with in the past, further descriptions and explanations of the previous situation are sought to gain a clear response from the candidate.

Traditional versus behavioral interviews

Behavioral interviewing technique differs from a traditional one in many ways. A traditional interview is conducted by asking candidates a series of general, nonspecific questions. Often the questions are about experiences and skills listed by candidates’ in their resume, and at times line of inquiries touch upon how candidates would behave in hypothetical situations.

However to assess interviewees in a behavioral interview, interviewers enquire about past situations that the candidate has dealt with. Rather than asking how the candidate would behave in a supposed situation, interviewersprobe how the job seeker behaved and handled a situation in their past. Such interview questions do not deal with descriptions of previous roles or qualifications, but look for actual examples where the candidate used his or her skills and experience. This enables the employers to go beyonda candidate’s recommendations, resume or application.

Common behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions often begin with statements like, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give mean example…” These questions are premeditated and are designed to understand how a candidate solves problems, and responds to specific workplace situations by gaining an understandingof their experience, skills, and knowledge. While there are many behavioral interview questions that an interviewee can be asked, the major themes of such questions fall in the categories below:

Teamwork and conflict

To identify skills and qualities related to candidates’ teamwork and conflict resolution capabilities, questions can be framed around this theme. Such questions could be—“Tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone within the organization?”, “Do you prefer to work alone or in a team?” or “Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was different from yours.”

Adaptability and leadership

Companies often look for the ability to adapt and lead among candidates. To ascertain if job seekers possess theseabilities, the interviewers could frame the question like, “Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some change. How did that effect you, and how did you adapt?”, “Tell me about a time you took a leadership role. What was the role and what was the result?”, “Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?”

Challenges and values

Employersfrequently want to know about candidates’ resilience when facing challenges, as well as their motivations, and values that guide them. To assess such qualities, questions are framed like, “Tell me about a time you worked on a challenging team project?”, “What is the most difficult problem you had to solve? How did you deal with it?”, “Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment?”, “Tell me about a time you were not satisfied about your work. How did you improve it?”.

Preparing for behavioral interviews

There are numerous behavioral questions that an interviewer can ask, which makes its preparation difficult. While understanding this interviewing technique is essential to prepare for it, there are other tips that a job aspirant can keep in mind to excel at a behavioral interview.

Opportunities and organization details

Studying the job description as well as company details would help a candidate in preparing for the interview. Similar to traditional interviews, finding out more about the company’s policies, performance as well as general background of the employees they hire, would aid in understanding the potential employer’s needs and expectations from candidates.

Capabilities and skills

Before the interview, it is important that the candidate delves into his or her own capabilities and understands them perfectly. Unlike traditional interviews, behavioral interviews give candidates a chance to move beyond their resume and describe their talent and performance in detail. Thinking about how their own capabilities align with those that the company is seeking in its future employees, would help in bringing lucidity and clarity of thought when answering questions.

Experience and achievements

Since behavioral interviewquestions deal with real life examples, it is important that the candidatekeeps in mindspecific examples and anecdotes from their past experience as well as remember their achievements coherently. Challenging instances or situations that the candidate encountered in the past as well as success stories that show problem-solving skills and other qualities should be well noted. Questions about improving or handling situations differently could also come up, so such prospective discussions should be prepared for.

STAR method

Following the STAR approach, which calls for assessing the Situation or Task handled, the Actions taken, and the Results received, can be fruitful. Using the past experience, the candidate can answer questions by providing interviewers details of specific situations faced at a previous job, volunteer experience, or on another relevant occasion.

Finally, the best preparation would be to remainmentally alert and ready for both—traditional and behavioral interviews, as companies are increasingly using blended interviewing techniques.

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Global Employability


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