What is a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral Interview QuestionsOrganizations, ever more concerned about the cost of bad hires, are applying behavioral interviewing with greater frequency.

What is a behavioral interview? And why do companies, governments and nonprofits use this technique so often? We'll cover it in this article. You will also learn why this method trips up so many job seekers and how you can avoid their mistakes.

A behavioral interview goes beyond a job seeker’s education and work history, and illustrates how that candidate would act in future job situations, based on past performance. Interviewers value this level of detailed information. They get to see past accomplishments and understand how a potential new hire thinks.

For job candidates to be able to communicate these points clearly, they need to do some legwork and practice thoughtful storytelling. They may need to go deep into their memories to deliver a complete response.

And they need to be ready for interviewers to push it deeper. At times, interviewers will actually interrupt a candidate and ask him or her to dive into a very specific aspect of the experience.

Now, what causes people to fail in a behavioral interview boils down to two simple reasons:

  1. Unable to recall a situation
  2. Unable to articulate his/her answers to past experiences

Recognize that a typical behavioral interview is only 4-6 questions. There is very little room to bobble any of the questions you are asked.

To avoid these failures, you should prepare for a variety of behavioral interview questions. You may not know which ones you will be asked during the interview, but you can get a pretty good idea if you study the right way. Here's how:

First, make sure that you a have copy of the job description for this position. Then, carefully review this description in order to understand what skills are needed to do the job and what possible situations you are likely to face. These topics are the basis for what you'll be asked in this interview.

Once you have identified what you are likely to be asked, you can begin developing responses that demonstrate who you are and what you can do for the company. Here is an outline of the steps:

Basics of Answering A Behavioral Question

To answer effectively, follow this simple sequence (and get a more in depth look on how to answer behavioral interview questions here).

1. Situation or Task

Give the general background—just enough details to help the interviewer paint a picture of the situation.

2. Action

Explain what actions you took. What did you do to accomplish the task at hand?

3. Result

What were the outcomes of your actions? How is the situation better because of you? If your actions did not produce the desired outcome, explain what lessons you learned and what you would have done instead to produce a better result. This demonstrate that you are able to learn from your mistakes.

Many candidates botch these questions. They don't invest the time and energy to develop effective response. So if you prepare the right way, you can develop a big edge over your competition.

To show your interview what's what in a behavioral interview remember this: Prepare responses to situations related to the position you are applying for. First, choose experiences that relate to the job. Then craft answers to showcase your skills and strengths. In devising these answers, stay positive—never present a situation in which you will speak negatively of others or place the blame on them. If you encounter a question in which you did not have a desired result, respond by describing the steps you would take to do it better next time.

Final Note:

Most behavioral interview answers require a longer response than what you say in a traditional interview. Still, be mindful of the length of your answers. Give an answer only long enough to show your skills and experience.

Now that you understand what a behavioral interview is, use this knowledge to your advantage. Prepare in depth for your next interview, and impress the interviewer on your way to getting hired.