How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Businesswomen interviewing candidate in office
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Most hiring managers include at least a few behavioral questions in each interview.

In a behavioral question or behavioral job interview, the interviewer asks you about your past work experiences. For example, he or she might say, “Tell me about a time that you had to multitask at work,” or “Give me an example of a conflict you had with an employee. How did you resolve it?”

Employers who use this approach are looking for concrete evidence that proves the candidate has the skills and abilities needed for the job.

The idea behind a behavioral interview question is that past behavior is an indicator of future behavior. Therefore, examples from your past will give the employer an idea of what you will be like in the future, when working for the company.

Read below for more information on the types of behavioral interview questions you might be asked, and how to answer them well.

What You Will Be Asked

Interviewers might pose a variety of behavioral interview questions during an interview. Examples of behavioral interview questions include, "Can you give me an example of how you motivated an underperforming subordinate to increase productivity?" and "Describe a time when you implemented a new program which was successful."

Employers are looking for a detailed explanation of an experience from your past. They want to know what the experience was, and how you deal with it.

Read this list of behavioral interview questions to get a sense of the kinds of questions you will be asked.

How to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

It's impossible for candidates to anticipate all possible behavioral questions prior to an interview. However, by carefully reviewing the job listing and looking at lists of common behavioral interview questions, you can prepare for the most likely questions.

Before going into any interview, take the time identify the qualities of the ideal candidate for that position. Look through the job listing for a list of qualifications, and scan for any keywords that give you a hint as to what the employer is looking for in a job candidate.

In addition to looking for any cues within the job advertisement, if time permits, conduct informational interviews with professional contacts in the field to get input regarding the preferred skills, knowledge bases, and personal qualities of successful employees in that type of job.

Once you get a sense of the questions you might be asked, the next step will be to come up with examples from your past experiences that have helped you develop the skills and qualities needed for a job. Create a list of 7-10 key assets that make you a strong candidate for your target job. For each asset, think of an anecdote or story of how you have used that strength to add value in some situation. You can use anecdotes from your roles as an employee, student, volunteer, or intern.

How to Answer a Behavioral Interview Question

When practicing answers for behavioral interview questions, it can be helpful to follow what is sometimes called the STAR interview response technique.

It is a four-step technique for answering questions about past behaviors at work. Below are the four steps:

  • Situation: Describe the situation, or set the scene. Explain the place you were working for, or the task you were working on.
  • Task: Describe the issue or problem you were confronted with.
  • Action: Describe the action that you took to intervene in the situation or solve the problem. This should introduce the key asset you would like to illustrate.
  • Results: Describe the results that were generated by your action. Explain how you helped solve the problem or helped improve the company in some way.

Imagine an employer asks you the behavioral interview question, “Tell me about a time that you used your organizational skills to improve a situation at work.” Below us a sample answer to this question, using the STAR technique:

When I took on the job as an assistant at Marketing Solutions I soon learned that there was no easily accessible system for retrieving information on past campaigns. Each of the five consultants had their own computer files. I suggested to the director that we set up a shared online filing system with past campaign materials that would be accessed by all staff. I interviewed each of the staff to get input about how to categorize the files and proposed a system which was implemented. The system was a success; it is still in place four years later. My supervisor mentioned this accomplishment as one of the reasons for my raise at my recent performance review.

Read More: How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview | Sample Behavioral Interview Questions | How to Answer Interview Questions Without a Right or Wrong Answer