Behavioral Interviewing Techniques and Strategies

man and woman having office meeting
••• Thomas Tolstrup / Getty Images

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

The best techniques for handling a behavioral interview include preparing for the interview questions you may be asked, discovering as much as you can about the company and the job, so you have an idea of what skills the employer is seeking, and being ready to include specific points in the responses you give to the interviewer.

Strategies

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

Research the Job and Company

Taking the time to research both the company and the job you are interviewing for will help you prepare for a job interview. That way you'll be prepared both to respond to interview questions and to ask the interviewer questions yourself. You will also be able to find out whether the company and the company culture are a good fit for you. Here's how to research the company, so you're well informed ahead of time.

Techniques

First of all, give yourself a few moments to gather your thoughts. 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. This will buy you some extra time to think about how to answer. Then be sure to include these four points in your answer - situation, task, action, results. 

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

It is the STAR interview response technique, and it's an excellent way to prepare. Do 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.

Follow Up After the Interview

Was there something you wished you had said during the interview but didn't get a chance to? Your subsequent thank you note gives you a chance to mention it. It's also an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the job and the company. Here's how to follow up with a thank you note after an interview:

More Tips and Tricks

In addition to knowing what to expect in a behavioral interview, there are 10 interview skills that are important to practice before you enter the meeting room or Skype session with a hiring committee: preparation, punctuality, thinking before you speak, speaking calmly and cohesively, displaying an assured (but not arrogant) self-confidence, active listening, optimism, expressing your interest in the employer, being able to talk beyond your initial “elevator pitch,” and – perhaps most importantly - expressing your gratitude for the hiring committee’s time both orally at the end of the interview and in writing an immediate follow-up thank-you note.

Still nervous, especially if this is your first interview? No worries – even established professionals feel a few butterflies before an interview. You’ve taken the first step in calming your anxiety by taking the time to review the steps outlined above. Other great techniques to steady your nerves include avoiding negative self-talk, dressing carefully, arriving early to the interview so you can take a few calming breathes beforehand, and avoiding drinking too much caffeine on the day of your meeting.