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The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the Behavioral Interview

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Do behavioral interviews freak you out?

Don’t stress; many job seekers struggle to convey their skills and competencies in these interviews, and you’re not the only one who fears they’ll blank out mid-interview.

Behavioral interviewing is the go-to approach for many hiring managers across all industries. So, you’ll want to give it your best shot and jet-pack your way up the corporate ladder.

This guide covers everything you need to know about behavioral interviews.

What Is a Behavioral Interview?

A behavioral interview is a common interview type that uses open-ended questions. It assesses how you measure up to the job requirements based on your past experiences.

As a job seeker, this is a fantastic time to showcase your soft skills. This can include how you approach problems, stress, and conflicts.

What Is the Goal of a Behavioral Interview?

Many hiring managers prefer this format over the traditional interview for several reasons.

A behavioral interview focuses on your past experience to predict your future behavior.

It’s the best way to determine how you might handle a similar situation in the role you’re applying for. It also seeks to uncover your personality traits, habits, and thought processes.

Plus, it aims to elicit specific examples instead of canned answers. Its ultimate goal is to pick the top talents for a role.

What Are the Benefits of Behavioral Interviewing?

Check out why behavioral interviewing is central to the hiring process:

  • Allows You to Get to Know a Candidate Quickly: A behavioral interview revolves around real-life situations. It can reveal tons about your personality, values, and work style from the get-go.
  • Allows the Candidate to Reflect on Their Behavior: A behavioral interview lets you analyze your past actions and behavior at work. For example, how did you deal with a difficult colleague? Did you address the issue or avoid the conflict? You might find yourself rethinking how you’d approach a similar situation in the future.
  • Makes for a Smoother Interviewing Process: Behavioral interview questions target soft skills that are relevant to the job. It helps the interviewer ask the most valuable questions. It also offers a glimpse into the type of questions you may face. As such, you can contemplate your answers ahead of time.
  • Goes More Into Detail Than Other Types of Interviewing: A traditional interview follows a more general format. It’s harder to gain insight into a candidate’s skills and experiences this way. Meanwhile, a behavioral interview looks for specific details about your past performance.

How Do You Prepare for a Behavioral Interview?

A behavioral interview can be intimidating, but it’s nothing you can’t tackle with some prepping.

Research the Company and Interviewer

Look up the company online. Gather everything you can about the company culture and what they’re looking for in an employee.

Next, review the job description. What specific competencies does the job entail? What are the expectations?

Then, search for the interviewer on LinkedIn or the company website. Learn about their interests and professional background.

Figure Out Your Key Abilities, Accomplishments, and Qualities

Do an honest assessment of yourself and identify your strengths.

What do you believe are your best qualities? What do you consider your most stellar accomplishments?

List and Go Over Your Past Experiences

Start by reviewing your resume.

Think about specific experiences from your previous jobs that match the role.

It can also help to write down your thoughts on a notepad to remember them better.

Focus on Both the Good and Bad of Your Past

It can be tempting to recall only the positive experiences and forget all the unpleasant ones.

Keep in mind that mistakes provide opportunities for learning and growth.

Also, count on getting asked about one you made in a past job and how you handled it.

Practice Answering Questions

List down behavioral interview questions and recall experiences related to these topics.

Practice answering these questions aloud, either by yourself or with a friend.

Look Over Past Performance Reviews

Refresh your memory about performance reviews in your past roles. Recall feedback you’ve received about your abilities.

What areas did you excel in? What needed improvement?

Be ready to discuss them and share specific examples.

How Do You Introduce Yourself in a Behavioral Interview?

An essential part of interview etiquette is introducing yourself to the interviewer.

A firm handshake and a smile can set a good first impression. Look your interviewer in the eye and offer a warm greeting, mentioning their name.

Then, state your name and say thank you. After introducing yourself, wait for the interviewer’s signal to get seated.

How Many Questions Are in a Behavioral Interview?

The number of questions in a behavioral interview depends on the position. The hiring manager can also control how many behavioral interview questions to ask.

The average number is 10–15 questions, spread across the skill set.

For example, a role seeks a candidate who’s a leader, critical thinker, and problem-solver. So, prepare to answer 3–5 questions for each competency.

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interview questions cover a broad range of soft skills, including the following:

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Leadership skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills

Common Behavioral Questions

Here are the most common behavioral interview questions:

  • Describe an error you made that jeopardized your team or derailed a project. How did you fix it?
  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a peer. How did you navigate it?
  • Explain a time when you had to juggle several projects at a time.
  • Give me an example of when you had to display your leadership skills.
  • Discuss a time when you had to make an unpopular choice.

Behavioral Interview Questions for Freshers

You may have a thin work file to draw upon as a fresher. Instead, use your background in volunteering and school projects to answer these questions:

  • Recount a time when you had to learn a new skill for a task.
  • Describe a team project where you played a key role.
  • Share a time when you handled a stressful situation.
  • Recall a time when you were most excited to go to work.
  • Describe a time when you were overwhelmed with responsibilities.

How to Master Behavioral Interview Questions

Learn how to master behavioral interview questions using these tips:

Inject Required Skills for the Position Into Descriptions of Past Experiences

Highlight the competencies the company is looking for while describing your work experiences. Explain how these experiences shaped those skills.

If the position requires solid leadership, discuss how you led a team to complete a goal. If communication skills are necessary, recall how you presented a project to stakeholders.

Connecting relevant experiences to the role can make you a more attractive candidate.

Use the STAR Method

The STAR method is a framework for answering behavioral interview questions. It can help you structure your answer in a clear and organized way.

Let’s break down the acronym:

  • Situation: State a specific situation you encountered in a previous job.
  • Task: Explain your plan to address the situation.
  • Action: Describe how you completed the task.
  • Result: Discuss the outcome of your actions. Include how your efforts resolved the situation.

Here’s an example of answering a behavioral interview question using the STAR method:

  • Situation: “I was working on a project with a tight deadline when we encountered an issue that could derail the entire project.”
  • Task: “I had to figure out a solution fast and make sure we could deliver on time.”
  • Action: “I gathered my team to brainstorm ideas. We tested different solutions until we found one that worked.”
  • Result: “Thanks to our hard work, we were able to meet the deadline. Our client couldn’t get more thrilled with the outcome.”

Now, this is a general outline, and you can provide the specifics to make it more authentic.

Back Up Your Responses With Data

Data can amplify the value and impact of your actions. It can also help you stand out in the candidate pool.

Use specific metrics to quantify your response. One way to do this is by adding dollar amounts or percentages to measure results.

You can also reference industry data or trends to support your answer. This can show you’re knowledgeable about your field.

Be Honest and Open About Past Situations

Be truthful in your answers, and don’t exaggerate your achievements. Seasoned interviewers can tell when you’re being insincere.

You can open up about past mistakes, but focus on what you learned from the experience.

What Should You Not Say in a Behavioral Interview?

You should avoid these negative responses at all costs:

I Can’t Think of Any

Saying “I can’t think of any” is a red flag that shows your lack of experience for the job.

Instead, gather your thoughts and think of an experience, even an indirect one.

Then, try to draw a connection and explain how it applies to the situation.

Or, you can ask the interviewer if you can return to the question later after you’ve had time to think.

Anything Made Up

Do not fabricate stories. They can lead to you getting caught in a lie and hurting your credibility.

Focus on your real-life experiences, even if they’re not perfect for the situation.

Anything Irrelevant

Stay on topic at all times.

Providing an irrelevant answer might reflect that you’re not paying attention. It can also show you don’t have enough experience for the job.

For example, the interview question is about conflict resolution.

Cite a situation that shows how you settled a workplace dispute. And don’t harp on your work ethic, creativity, or other irrelevant information.

Any Anecdote That Doesn’t Reflect Well on You

Avoid sharing stories that can highlight your weaknesses, poor judgment, or negative temperament.

Let’s say the interviewer asks you to share an example of how you handled an upset customer.

Do not recount that one time when you lost your cool. Instead, talk about a situation when you were calm and respectful.

How to Conduct a Behavioral Interview

If you’re wondering how to be an interviewer, consider this quick guide:

1. Come Up With a List of Questions

First, prepare a well-crafted set of behavioral questions.

These questions should cover job-specific competencies. They should also envision whether the candidate will thrive in the company.

This step can help you steer the interview process in the right direction.

2. Use Follow-Up Questions

Skilled interviewers ask follow-up questions all the time. You can use them to seek clarification or open up new conversations.

3. Ask Thorough Questions That Dig Deep

You want to pick the candidate’s brain to get a complete picture of their abilities. So, ask in-depth questions that encourage descriptive answers and put the pieces together.

You can look into their thought process without being intrusive. The key is sticking to the details of their experiences.  

4. Look for Repeated Evidence

Does a candidate swear to have exceptional communication skills? You can ask for more information to confirm their claim. Using this example, you might ask for specific examples of how they used this skill in the past.

Or, you can probe how they adapted their communication style to different audiences. Repeated evidence can clear confusion and guide your hiring decision.

5. Ask What the Candidate Learned From Their Past Experiences

Lessons are valuable for personal and professional growth. So, ask the candidate what they learned from the challenges they encountered at work. It can be a powerful predictor of their potential success in the position.

Wrapping Up

A behavioral interview isn’t only about sharing your work experiences; it’s also about showing your ability to handle difficult situations.

For interviewers, it’s a tool to screen candidates who’ll best fit the role and company culture. Make a list, ask follow-up questions, and dig into evidence.

Plus, you may already know what you should or shouldn’t say in behavioral interviews. With this knowledge, we hope you’re ready to tackle any curveball question that comes your way. Good luck!

Do you have more questions about behavioral interviews? Let us know in the comments below!

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