How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Behavioral interviewing is a commonly used process during formal interviews. It specifically focuses on past performance as an indicator of future performance.

The questions asked during the process of behavioral interviewing are used to look for specific strengths and skills. The questions will be such that they ask for detailed examples of specific employment situations. Instead of asking “how will you behave…” they ask “how did you behave…” Or put another way, “how did you handle…” versus “how would you handle…”

Often times, you can read through a job description and pick out particular skills that are required. These can be a good indicator of past success stories that you will want to be able to share to illustrate your handle of the needed skills. In order to do this, you must review all parts of your employment history and refresh yourself on situations you were put in, how you responded and what the outcome was. Below are the steps required to best prepare yourself for a behavioral interview.

IDENTIFY the skill needed. This is where you will need to do your research. Read through the job description and highlight key words and phrases that describe what the employer is looking for. These can be required or preferred. You can also research the company website and identify language that they continually use when they are describing their current employees. If you cannot find a specific skill, a company is always impressed with strong leadership, communication and conflict resolution.

THINK of a time you displayed that skill. This may be the most difficult part. You will want to think back on your previous employment and situations that you found yourself in, conflicts that you faced, teams that you worked on, projects you completed, successes and failures. You will want to write down as many situations, projects or memories that you can think of in order to choose the one that best illustrates the skill. You will want to have 3-5 strong stories prepared.

WRITE it down. This is the step where you will begin writing out your success story as if you were speaking to your interviewer. You can organize the story using this acronym: SAR. 1. Explain the SITUATION 2. Describe the ACTION you took 3. Explain RESULT of your actions and do your best to be quantifiable. A quantifiable result illustrates a clearer picture in the mind of the interviewer of the impact of your actions. You could explain how your actions improved efficiency, cut costs, or promoted sales. If you are unsure of exact numbers, use percentages, which people are generally more comfortable using.

READ your success story out loud at least 3 times. Cross out words that seem superfluous or that you get caught on. You may find that you need to change a word to something that is more “you”. Be authentic. This is the time where you will want to begin timing yourself reading through your story. You will want it no more than 3 minutes. Be sure your description of the situation and your actions are not too wordy. Your interviewer cares more about how you approached the issue and the outcome of your actions.

RECITE your success story to a mentor or friend to ensure that your thoughts are logical, clear and concise. Be sure that they are able to understand exactly what skill you are trying to portray and that they are able to easily understand the importance of your story. As mentioned previously, be sure you can recite the story, while not rushing, in 3 minutes or less.

PRACTICE practice practice. Come interview time, your nerves may take over. It is essential that you are prepared and practiced at that time. We often talk too much, forget details and ramble in an interview when we become nervous. But if you can practice enough that you can recite your success stories in your sleep, you have nothing to be nervous about in the interview. The more you can recite the success stories out loud, the more natural it will sound in the actual interview.

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