How to Ace the Behavioral Interview

By Lana Johnson on July 17, 2015

Behavioral-Interview-FeatureLet’s say you’re in an interview. You’ve made the small talk, you’re settling into the conversation, and the interviewer starts asking you questions that begin with phrases like “tell me about a time when …” or “give me an example of a situation when…”

You, my friend, are now in a behavioral interview. The theory behind behavioral interviewing is that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.” Behavioral interviewing emphasizes past performance and behaviors. The questions are designed to go beyond what a candidate says they will do to give a candidate the chance to explain real life examples of what they have done in their past that made them successful on the job.

You can take several steps to prepare for behavioral interviews so that you can use them to your advantage:

1. Prepare - There are plenty of resources online that will give you some of the most common behavioral interviewing questions (like this one!). Also, think about the job you're interviewing for and review the job description to anticipate the behavioral questions your interviewer might ask.

2. Craft Some Responses - The best way to answer a behavioral interviewing question is to use the STAR technique:


For example:

Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you took the lead on a difficult project?”

Your Response: “I volunteered for (and was nominated the head of) a committee of 4 people tasked with investigating poor customer reviews (SITUATION). I analyzed reviews and discovered that customer wait times were the largest contributor to negative reviews (TASK). I then lead brainstorming situations with my team to find a solution. This solution was a change in workflow for mechanics (ACTION). After implementing my suggestion, wait times dropped 18% (RESULT)." (source:

3. Be specific - When you are asked a behavioral question, the interviewer is looking for a specific story about something you did. Never, ever give a general answer. A general answer to our sample question above might look like this:

Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you took the lead on a difficult project?”

Your General Response: “I think it’s really important to step up and take on difficult projects to show that you have initiative. Challenging projects give you a chance to grow and learn new things, and I would definitely raise my hand if I had the chance.”

When you give a general response, the message it sends to the interviewer is “this candidate has never been in this situation before.” It also makes the interviewer feel that perhaps you are not listening to what they are asking. Both scenarios will hurt your chances of landing the job. If you're asked a behavioral question and you have never been in that specific situation, say something like "Actually I have never found myself in that situation, but if I did, what I would do is ...."

With preparation and thought, you can nail behavioral questions and use them to your advantage to shine in an interview. Want more tips for interviewing success? Be sure to attend Advanced Resources’ upcoming Job Seeker Webinar: “Ace the Interview, Land the Job” at 12:00pm on Thursday, August 6th. The webinar is free and it’s open to anyone who wants to achieve job search success. Click here to register!

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