Behavioral Interviewing Techniques and Strategies

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When you're job searching, it's important to be prepared to handle what’s known as “behavioral interviewing.” Employers use this type of interview to get insight into how you handle specific situations in the workplace. Their hope is that your answers will reveal not only your skills and qualifications, but your character and behavior on the job.

Unlike traditional job interview questions, behavioral-based questions focus on what you’ve done in previous jobs, not what you would do in hypothetical situations. The idea is that your past behavior will provide insight into your future decisions, should you land the job.

The interviewer will want examples of what happened in a particularly challenging circumstance, what you did, and how you achieved a positive outcome.

To prepare for a behavioral interview, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the interview style, discover as much as you can about the company and the job, and learn a technique for answering behavioral interview questions.

Examples of Behavioral-Based Interviewing Questions

Traditional interview questions include queries like “How do you define success?” and “Why should we hire you?” Behavioral interview questions, on the other hand, focus on specifics of your past performance. Expect questions like:

  • Give me an example of a time when you failed to meet a project deadline.
  • Tell me about the most challenging direct report you’ve ever managed.
  • In your previous role, how did you measure success?

Strategies for Handling Behavioral Interviews 

Before you head out to any job interview, take the time to prepare. You may, or may not, be asked behavioral interview questions, but it's best to be ready in case you are.

  • Review what a behavioral interview is and what companies are looking for during a behavioral interview. Familiarize yourself with common behavioral interview questions.
  • Research the company to learn as much as possible about their goals and needs.
  • Use the STAR interview technique to prepare examples to share during an interview.
  • Follow up after the interview.

Spend Time Researching

Research the company. Learn as much as you can about the employer before the interview. Look at the company website, paying close attention to their mission statement, history, and any other indications of their corporate values. Follow the company on social media, paying attention to the way they present their company culture. Look at their company profile on LinkedIn and read their employees’ reviews on Glassdoor.

Research the job. Analyze the job listing and match your skills and qualifications to the company’s requirements. Pay close attention to the keywords they use to describe their ideal candidate and emphasize those words in your conversations with the hiring team.

Research the interviewer. If you know the hiring manager’s name prior to the meeting, take some time to look at their LinkedIn profile and online presence. The goal is not to force a connection, but to look for similarities in your background, interests, and career goals. This may help you foster conversation during the meeting.

Learn the STAR Interview Response Technique

The STAR Interview Response Technique is a method of answering interview questions that helps you provide examples of times when you demonstrated the skills, qualifications, and experience required for the job.

“STAR” stands for situation, task, action, result:

  • (S) A specific situation
  • (T) The tasks that needed to be done
  • (A) The action you took
  • (R) The results, i.e., what happened

Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers to behavioral interview questions. The interviewer's goal is to understand how you behaved in a given situation. How you respond will determine if there is a match between your skills and the position the company is seeking to fill.

The best behavioral interview strategy includes listening carefully, being clear and detailed when you respond and, most importantly, being honest. If your answers aren't what the interviewer is looking for, this position may not be the best job for you anyway.

It's fine to take a little time to frame your response if you're uncertain about how to respond to the question. If you are not sure how to answer the question, ask for clarification.

Follow Up After the Interview

Sent a thank-you note. The most important step to take after a job interview is to say, “thank you.” Be sure to send a note or email within 24 hours of the job interview. Your thank-you note also gives you a chance to follow up on anything you didn’t get a chance to mention during the interview, such as a relevant skill or work experience.

Follow up the right way. If you don’t hear back within the timeframe stated by the hiring manager—or after two weeks, if they didn’t give a set timeframe—feel free to email or call. If you still don’t hear back, you can follow up one more time after a week or so. But don’t persevere beyond that. Some employers take longer than others to make decisions and by following up too aggressively, you may see yourself cut from contention.