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Behavioral Interviewing

By Natalie Karney / JobwardInterviewingJuly 21st, 2020

If you’ve ever applied for a job, chances are you’re familiar with Behavioral Interviewing. It’s that textbook style of, “Tell me about a time when …” question that can be nerve-wracking if you’re not ready for it. When did I struggle with communication? When did I resolve a conflict with a coworker? When will you ask me about the job I’m applying for??

Look, behavioral interviewing gets a bad wrap but at its core, it’s a method that allows the interviewer to ask questions about specific examples about your past. The idea is to focus on questions that give insight into your unique behaviors and skills. Behavioral interviews can be tough because it forces you to think about real, meaningful experiences - as opposed to demonstrating knowledge or training.

The good news is that if you understand the difference, you can prepare ahead of time. Take a few minutes to write down (yes, write) a story from your work experience that you’re proud of, a moment when you really shone through. Now, try putting them into a simple answer using the STAR format:

Situation: Be specific about the situation you were in and only give enough details that the interviewer understands the scenario. What were you responsible for?

Task: What was the goal? What was on the line? What was the purpose of the project?

Action: What steps did you take and what was your contribution? What did you take ownership of? What was your take on the situation, and how did you turn that into actions?.

Result: What was the outcome? How did your work affect your team, or the business? What changed afterwards? Most importantly, what did you learn? How did you grow from that experience?

The interviewer is probably going to ask follow up questions to try and poke holes in the story, so don’t feel like you have to tell every single detail. The goal is to be clear, succinct, and (most importantly!) genuine. As long as the end result of your story is that you demonstrated responsibility and grew from the experience, you’re answering the question they’re asking.

Need more practice? Try writing your answers to the following common interview questions. Save them in a place where you can review them before your next interview. Keep it short and stay genuine!

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to analyze information and make a recommendation. What kind of thought process did you go through? Was the recommendation accepted? If not, why?
  2. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  3. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
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