How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
April 11, 2022
Have you ever been in an interview and the interviewer asked a question that began with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when you…”?
That is a standard opening to what is called a “behavioral question” and the interviews that use this style of question are known as “behavioral interviews.”
Through these questions, the interviewer is asking about how you’ve behaved in certain circumstances in your past. They ask these questions to get an indication of your knowledge, skills, and even your beliefs, under the premise that your past behavior indicates your future behavior.
It is important that you give the correct responses to these types of questions. To respond correctly, you need to prepare ahead of time. Coming up with examples from your past can be difficult under the pressure of an interview, so going in with your stories already in mind will help you show up confidently.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW
The best way for you to prepare for this type of interview is to break apart the job description and pay close attention to what they are looking for in behaviors.
For example, they might be looking for someone who:
- Manages stress well
- Organizes multiple priorities
- Uses effective communication skills
- Manages difficult customers with calm and grace
- Makes sound decisions in urgent situations
After you’ve identified the behaviors that they are looking for, spend some time identifying examples from your past when you were in a situation that called for this behavior.
From the list above, for example, identify a time when you managed a difficult customer successfully or needed to make important decisions while things were moving quickly. If you can’t think of a work example, consider drawing from your volunteer or professional association work.
HOW TO PRACTICE FOR A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW
After you’ve identified the stories that you want to draw from, you need to practice telling them. It’s a good idea to mimic the interview environment so if it will be face-to-face or via video, set up your practice session in the same way. Invite a trusted friend to have the conversation with you so that you’re talking to a real person.
Answering this type of question isn’t easy if you aren’t used to it, so practice is important. When I do this type of work with my clients, I help them focus on the key points of their stories and make sure they connect their story back to the question.
It is very possible that you won’t get to tell the exact stories you’ve identified during your preparation, and that’s ok. The practice is as much about getting used to drawing from your past and telling those stories as it is identifying the specific scenarios you want to draw from.
You’re developing the skill of answering these types of questions, and that is the whole point. Without a doubt, you need to anticipate that you will be asked these types of questions. It will make an enormous difference if you are prepared. You’ll show up with calm and grace under the pressure of an interview and that will tell a story unto itself.
Where do you want to go in your career?
Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.