The ABCs of Behavioral Interviews

by sysop in Acing the Interview, Looking for a Job

by Liz Thatcher

So you’ve applied for the job and the hiring manager has called you to schedule an in-person interview. You’ve heard through your friend circle that this company tends to use behavioral interviews – what do you do now?

Behavioral interviews sound intimidating and maybe even a little scary, but there are only minor differences between them and traditional interviews. For instance, in a traditional interview you will most likely be asked “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” In a behavioral interview, you might be asked for a specific example from your past work experience that illustrates one of your weaknesses, and how you worked through that to solve a problem.

In my last job hunt, I went to a lot of interviews – some of which were behavioral. It took me a while to figure out the most efficient way to answer the questions, but I finally got the hang of it. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about behavioral interviews.

  1. Be as specific as possible – When an interviewer asks for an example, make sure to be as detailed as possible. Use a specific instance where you got over a problem, not just a general experience. This is the hardest part – when I tell stories I tend to leave out a lot of details, but when it comes to a behavioral interview, you want to bring in as many details as you can to relate your experience to the interviewer.
  2. Don’t whitewash your answers – A big temptation with any interview is to try to turn something that could be perceived as a negative and spin it as a positive. Be honest in your answer! The behavioral interviewer isn’t concerned that you made a mistake, they want to know how you overcame that mistake and what you learned from it. If you’re willing to admit you’ve made mistakes in the past and have learned from them, chances are you’ll be able to learn from a future mistake as well.
  3. Know what you don’t know – This applies to ANY interview, not just a behavioral one. If you’re asked whether you’re familiar with a certain system or program, don’t tell them you are if you have no idea how to use it. This will most likely come back to haunt you in the future. It is better to be honest about what you don’t know than to say you know something and end up with a project (or job) you can’t do.
  4. Plan beforehand – This may seem like common sense, but if you’ve heard rumors that you’re about to enter a behavioral interview, it’s best to take a little time and outline a few stories you can use. Generally, it’s good to have an example of a problem you’ve overcome and your biggest accomplishment. These are the two most common behavioral questions, and I’ve personally been asked for that information on every behavioral interview I’ve been in.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to ace that behavioral interview and maybe even land your dream job!