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Behavioral Interview Etiquette Best Practices

Learning the unwritten rules of behavioral interview etiquette can determine whether or not you get the job.

At this point in the hiring process, you've submitted a stellar cover letter and resume, and you may have even had a phone or video interview. Although these steps are vital to getting the job, once you get to the behavioral interview stage, the unwritten rules of etiquette can make or break your chances. In order to help you better prepare for a behavioral interview, we've put together a behavioral interview etiquette guide so you know how to put your best foot forward.

These simple tips can go a long way towards proving that not only do you have the skills and experience to do the job right, but also that you know how to act in professional situations when manners and common courtesy are essential.

9 Behavioral Interview Etiquette Best Practices

1. Turn Your Cellphone Off

During a behavioral interview, you want to do more than turn off the ringer. It's incredibly distracting when you are in the middle of answering a question to hear your phone vibrate. Not only is it distracting, but it may also make you seem disinterested and unprofessional — not the messages you want to send during an interview. Silence your phone, or better yet leave it in the car.

2. Actively Listen

When you're asked a question, it's easy to jump ahead and be ready with an answer before the interviewer is finished speaking. Practice active listening, and take a few seconds once the question is asked before you answer. You can appear arrogant and self-absorbed if you are more focused on what you want to say than what the interviewer is asking.

3. Sit Up Straight

Even if you feel comfortable during your interview, don't let your posture suffer. If you are too relaxed and laid back, you may appear lazy and uninterested in the job. Sit up straight throughout the entire interview, and lean slightly forward to show interest in what the interviewer is saying.

4. Stay Professional

How you act before, during, and after a behavioral interview gives good insight into how you will act on the job. In fact, behavioral interviews often focus on past behavior to predict future behavior. From the time you park your car or get off the bus to the time you are headed home, stay professional. Be kind and courteous to everyone you meet, and avoid bad habits like smoking on the property. You never know who is watching even after you've left the building.

5. Give Solid, Straightforward Answers

Behavioral interviews are geared towards how you have acted during difficult situations in previous jobs. You may be asked more abstract questions like these:

  • How do you motivate others? Give me an example.
  • How do you deal with conflict? Give me an example.
  • What experience have you had dealing with different personalities?

When answering these questions, it's important to be confident and prepared. Give concrete examples of times in past jobs when you have overcome a problem or dealt with something difficult. Use the S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to identify the problem, show which actions you took to correct it, and clarify the results. Interviewers want to see how your behavior will be beneficial to the company or organization.

6. Table the Salary Talk

A behavioral interview is a time for the interviewer to get to know more about how you act in tough situations — not a negotiating session for your future salary and benefits. Avoid talk of money until you actually have an offer, unless it is brought up by the interviewer. Rather, focus your energy and attention on answering the questions correctly.

7. Watch Your Body Language

Bad body language can make or break you. Always make eye contact with whoever you are speaking to, and give solid handshakes when you are introduced. Don't fidget during your interview, and never chew gum during an interview.

8. Keep a Smile on Your Face

You may be nervous and overwhelmed, but you definitely don't want the interviewer to know that. Keep a smile on your face as you maintain eye contact with everyone in the room. Make it natural and comfortable, but remember that you look more excited and invested in the job when your face looks happy.

9. Come Equipped

You've submitted your resume to the company, but you should always come prepared with your own copy, along with any notes or questions you want to discuss during the interview. Don't read directly from your notes, but feel free to refer to them to make sure you have all your questions answered — and that you seem genuinely interested in the job.

These behavioral interview etiquette tips can ensure that you are following all the unwritten rules of these meetings. You'll stand out in a good way when you follow these tips during your next behavioral interview.

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