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Career 411: What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviews are a style of interview that focuses on your past behavior in a previous employment or scholastic setting.  The questions are asking how you behaved in the past, not how will you behave in the future.  The employers are hoping that past behavior will predict future action. Traditional interview questions tend to be more general in nature, such as “tell me your greatest strength” or ” why do you want to practice criminal law” or focuses on how you would handle a future situation.

You may feel a sense of panic when asked on the spot to recall a time when you have either faced a problem in the past and how you moved beyond it or performed a task efficiently.  When you prepare for your interviews, you should be prepared to answer not only traditional interview questions, but also behavioral interview questions, because you may not know what type of interview will be conducted until the interviewer begins asking questions.   You should be aware that a question is a behavioral question if you are asked to give a concrete example from your past regarding a particular skill or situation.

One of the best ways to prepare for a behavioral interview is to first review the job posting to get a list of characteristics and skills desired in the employer’s ideal candidate.  Second, you should recall specific times in your past when you have either faced adversity in the workplace or scholastic setting and how you successfully overcame it, or to recall times where you performed a task beyond the call of duty.  By taking time prior to the interview to outline stories from your past that you can use to emphasize the skills and qualities desired in their employees, you won’t find yourself with a deer in the headlights look during the interview.

Being prepared with stories will help with both traditional and behavioral interviewing.  If the interviewer asks, “what is your biggest strength?”, you can respond, “My biggest strength is my leadership ability, for instance, when I was the President of the student organization, I …” and then tell a story that showcases that strength.   If the interviewer asks, “tell me about a time when you used your leadership skills effectively?”,  you can use the same story to answer the question.

You may be asked to recall or describe a time when you either missed a deadline, faced adversity, or had a negative experience.  First, do not spend all your time discussing your negative qualities or telling them about what you think is your biggest failure.  You need to focus on what actions you took to overcome or solve the problem.  Showcase your good qualities.

Remember, when answering behavioral interview questions that you need to be detailed and provide specific examples of how you successfully handled a particular situation and the result that was achieved.  If you would like to practice behavioral interviewing techniques, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with any of us in 103.  Good luck with your interviews!




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