A behavioral interview consists of questions that ask the applicant to describe a specific challenge they faced in their career. Typically, employers use it to determine whether the applicant has the necessary abilities to succeed in the job. In this guide, we will look at what exactly a behavioral interview is, the most common questions, and how to prepare the perfect answers.
What is a behavioral interview?
For most competency-based companies, a behavioral interview is the primary interviewing style. A behavioral interview is based on the belief that past behavior can reflect future behavior. In other words, past behavior can be the stepping stone to future success. In general, interviewers will try to find out how an applicant behaved in the past to decide whether he can be successful on the job.
Some companies make use of a structured behavioral interview during which the applicant can choose from a list of questions relating to each key competency of the position.
Traditional vs. behavioral interview
Traditional interview methods are advantageous for some candidates. They offer the chance to demonstrate strong communication and presentation skills and are great for proving your industry knowledge. But talking in generalizations is one thing, and offering concrete examples is another.
More traditional interviews typically consist of personality-based, hypothetical and cognitive questions, for example:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why should we hire you?
- Why do you want this job?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your long-term career objectives?
- Why do you want to leave (or have you left) your job?
- Where do you see yourself in the next five (ten) years?
- What qualifications do you have that make you successful in this career?
- What would you do if someone asked you to overlook a problem with your project?
Behavioral questions primarily focus on the candidate’s past work performance. The foundation of behavioral interviews is that the best way to predict an employee’s future performance is to look at past behaviors in similar roles.
Using the structured behavioral interview model, it’s not “Do you know how to do it?” but rather “Tell me how you’ve done it and the result that you achieved.”
There are many fundamental differences between traditional and behavioral interviews. Here are some of the key ones that you should keep in mind. During behavioral interviews:
- Candidates are not given hypothetical questions about what they would do. Instead, they are asked about what they have done in particular situations in the past.
- Follow-up questions are very common. Much like in traditional interviews, these are used to ensure the answers are honest and accurate.
- The interviewers take notes. Unlike in other interview formats, it is common for interviewers to write things down throughout the interview to create a comprehensive candidate profile.
How can you prepare for a behavioral interview?
- Review the requirements for the position in the job description. Get an accurate understanding of what the company is seeking.
- Tailor your resume. Here, pay attention to the accomplishments section. These should reflect on how your competencies match what the company is looking for. Also, know which accomplishment or past job responsibility corresponds with which key competency of the position.
- Have detailed answers about each accomplishment ready. Review the specifics about older projects and get to know the details. This will make you come across as credible and allow you to talk about the results of the project in great detail. Furthermore, think about the positive impact the project has had on the company.
- Identify accomplishments that correspond with the list of requirements for the position. Ideally, you should have at least one example for each required competency.
- Practice answering out loud to ensure each example is concise and coherent. Also, practicing out loud will help you be more confident and relaxed during your interview.
Strong behavioral interview answers with the PAR technique
The best way to come up with strong answers to behavioral interview questions is by using the PAR technique (Problem- Action – Result). The key idea is to provide a detailed example of a time you have performed exceptionally well in your past job. By doing this, you will demonstrate your abilities and prove your value to the employer.
When answering a behavioral question, take these steps:
Problem - Describe the Problem or situation you faced. Action - Describe what Action you took to overcome the problem and change the situation. Result - Talk about the Result you achieved through your actions.
The following example shows how you might use the PAR technique to answer this interview question
Tell me about a time you had to go to beyond the call of duty to get the job done.
- Problem – I was working as a marketing assistant at a marketing agency. The team I was working with had an important presentation for a new client coming up. This was something we’ve been working on for weeks, as the client had the potential to bring over $1 million to the company. But the night before the presentation, the account manager decided to make several changes to the meeting time, location, and presentation.
- Action – That night, I stayed in the office along with some of the team members almost until midnight. We made all the necessary changed and reviewed everything to make sure the presentation was flawless. Then, we had to double-check that everyone invited to the meeting was informed about the change of time and venue. The next day, I arrived early to ensure everything ran smoothly.
- Result – The presentation was successful, and the client was impressed with the team’s work. In the end, our company ended up signing the client. The team has thanked me for my time and dedication and let me know they couldn’t have managed to finish everything on time without me. I’m happy to know that our joint effort led to great success for the whole company.
What are the most common behavioral interview questions?
A behavioral interview question will demand specific examples of what you have done about a problem in the past.
- Explain the steps you took to manage and complete this project.
- Describe the most difficult work decision you’ve had to make.
- Tell me about a time you had to strategically prioritize tasks to meet all your goals.
- Describe a time when you were under a lot of pressure. What was happening, and how did you overcome it?
- Tell me about a situation where you had to make a hard decision based on your values.
- Describe the most successful presentation you’ve given. Why do you think it was a success?
- Tell me about a time you managed multiple responsibilities and how you handled them.
- Give me an example of a time you worked efficiently under pressure.
- Tell me about a conflict you faced while working in a team and how you handled it.
- Give me an example of a project you worked on where you had to search for information and be resourceful.
- Describe a time you were unhappy with your work. What could have made the situation better?
Behavioral interview questions are constructed to get you to share specific examples of your competencies and how well you can use them. The main difference between a behavioral interview and a standard interview is that you are expected to share stories rather than short answers. For a strong answer, use the PAR technique. That is, describe the problem, the action you took, and the results your action yielded. Most importantly, remember that there is no wrong answer. Be truthful and confident in your answer, and don’t stress over being wrong.