How to Prepare for a Behavioral Job Interview
Behavior interviewing is a technique interviewers use to learn about your past behavior in situations that are relevant to the for which job you’re applying. The idea is that responses that describe your past behavior better predict your future behavior than responses to traditional interview questions (such as “Do you like working with customers?”) or questions that pose hypothetical situations (such as “If you had to give your customers bad news, how would you do it?")
By contrast, the behavioral interview format offers a statement that calls for a response, such as “Describe a situation in which you had to give a customer bad news about the status of your project.” Pundits differ on whether behavioral interviewing is really effective. For now, in any case, this approach to interviewing is in the mainstream and is likely to be around for quite a while.
My concern with behavioral interviewing is that some people—often including people who are highly qualified for the position—need time to reflect on each question before responding. This is especially true of many introverts, most certainly including myself. We often can’t come up with responses as quickly as this type of interview calls for. As a result, we feel pressured to say something—anything—to avoid coming across as someone who can’t handle the situation posed.
Therefore, if you’ll be going on an interview, you might want to review behavioral interviewing types of questions. (This isn’t a bad idea even if you excel at on-the-spot thinking.) Start with these typical top ten behavioral interviewing questions. Then, try these 50 sample questions. And if these aren’t enough, don’t worry, because there are plenty more available just for the clicking.
To prepare for a specific interview, review the job description and reflect on the responsibilities and challenges of the job. Picture yourself doing the job. Then identify examples from your first-hand experience that you can cite as evidence that you’ll excel at the job. Identify difficult or special situations you’ve dealt with. Develop stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved problems, exceeded expectations, or performed memorably.
Then think about how you’d structure your responses to incorporate these examples and stories. For example, you might format your responses as problem/response/outcome or situation/tasks/action/results. Having possible structures in mind will make it easier to respond to any question, even if it’s one you haven’t previously thought about.
Finally, practice, practice, practice. Do it out loud. Even if you do no more than practice responding to a few sample behavioral interview questions, you’ll be in better shape to sound sharp and prepared at the interview.