How To Succeed In A Behavioral Interview

What is behavioral interviewing?

Quite simply, behavioral interviewing is a method used by an interviewer to
most accurately predict your future performance by understanding your past
performance in similar situations. To adequately analyze your ability to
perform well in a BI, keep in mind that your interviewers will be asking you
questions that probe deeply how well you have dealt with situations and
challenges in the past.

What can you do to prepare?

Solid preparation is essential to a successful BI interview. Follow these

* Find out what skills and attributes are important to the company
conducting the interview. Talk to alumni, read the company’s literature and
website information, and if possible attend company-sponsored events. Once
you have determined key skills and attributes preferred by the company, you
will be able to tailor your answers to focus on your success in those same

* Think of three to four specific examples that you can use to
illustrate your answers to the behavioral interview questions. Think of
situations when you succeeded and didn’t succeed, as your interviewer is
almost certain to ask you to give examples of both instances. It is okay to
discuss mistakes that you have made in the past as long as you can
illustrate what you have learned from them. These examples should be from
past work experiences and you should be prepared to provide significant

* Be comfortable with your resume! Interviewers will often ask you to
provide additional information pertaining to an activity or accomplishment
that you have listed on your resume.

What is the best way to answer a behavioral interview question?

It is very important that your answers be specific and detailed. You should
frame your answers in a three-step process:

* Define the situation
* Explain the action that you took
* Provide the outcome

Listen carefully to the question and ask for clarification, if necessary.
Be sure to answer the question completely, providing names, time frames, and
excerpts of conversations that are applicable.

Remember that the interviewer has been trained to probe for additional
information. This is why it is important to use examples that have
components of the above process and to feel comfortable with the examples
that you have chosen.

Examples of Behavioral Interview questions:

“Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. What
was the problem and how was it resolved?”

“What was the best decision that you ever made? How did you make it?”

“Tell me about a time when you had to convince someone to do something that
you felt strongly about.”

“I assume that you, like most college students, are very busy. Tell me how
you schedule your time during a typical day or week.”

Example of a good answer to a Behavioral Interview question:

Q: “Give me an example of when you had to deal with a difficult customer.
What was the problem and how was it resolved?”

A: “I had worked at a car repair store that was part of a national chain.
One morning while I was at the counter by myself, a very angry customer came
in and demanded that I give her a refund on a brake service that she’d had
done at another store in another state. Even though I was caught off guard
by her rudeness, I offered to check the computer to research what had been
done to her car. I found out that she had had new brakes put on three
separate times at one of our stores in New Jersey in the past year. I began
to sympathize with the customer – of course she was angry! The only problem
was that my manager wasn’t at work yet and I was not authorized to give
refunds without his permission. So I let the customer know that I
understood that she was angry, that I would be happy to give her a refund
but had to get my manager’s permission before doing so. I wrote down her
name and phone number and let her know that I would speak with my manager as
soon as he arrived that day and would call her as soon as I talked to him
about her situation. I also gave her my name and the store phone number
just in case she had any questions before I was able to call her back. She
was very appreciative that I took the time to give her all of that
information and thanked me for being so understanding. As it turned out,
after I explained her situation to my manager that afternoon, I was able to
extend a full refund on her credit card and call her with the news that same

Notice in the above example how the respondent defined the situation,
explained the action they took and the end result. To be successful in a BI,
you need to always include all three components.

Sample probing questions you might get from the above answer:

“How did you feel when the customer was so rude?”
“What do you think it was that made you successful in this situation?”
“Why do you say …..?”
“How did you know when you achieved success?”
“What did you do after you achieved the successful outcome?”
“Why was this interaction difficult or challenging for you?”