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What Is Behavioral Interviewing?

More and more, interviewers are turning to behavioral interviewing to grasp which candidate is right for the job. Here's what you need to know to be prepared.

During an interview, the hiring manager or recruiter wants to know more about how you react in tough situations than what classes you completed in school. Studies show that your past behavior is a good indicator of how you will handle situations in the future, so many interviewers are turning to behavioral interviewing to grasp how well candidates can handle on-the-job situations. This shift in interviewing makes it more important that every candidate is prepared for a behavioral interview.

In order to prepare for a behavioral interview, you must first understand what it is and what your potential employer hopes to accomplish during the interview. We've put together all the basic information you need to know about behavioral interviewing to ensure that you nail the interview and get the job.

What Is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing is a type of questioning that is focused on past behavior. Rather than asking traditional questions about your GPA, education, or past work experience, interviewers ask specifically about your behavior in tough situations. Questions are geared to highlight the soft skills you need to get the job, so do your research and come prepared with stories that highlight those skills.

What Do These Questions Show?

Behavioral interviewers believe that your past actions are a good indicator of how you will react in the future to certain situations. For example, if you are faced with a difficult client or team member, how you've handled similar situations in the past has a direct bearing on how you will handle them when you work for their company.

Behavioral interview questions highlight skills such as these:

  • • Professionalism
  • • Teamwork
  • • Self-confidence
  • • Self-motivation
  • • Critical thinking
  • • Conflict resolution
  • • Willingness to learn

In the job description, the hiring manager or recruiter will identify which soft skills are necessary for the job. During the interview, the candidate should have good stories or examples that show knowledge, abilities, behaviors, and experiences that are desirable to the company. In this way, each behavioral interview requires its own type of preparation, because every company will be different.

In most cases the behavioral questions asked during the interview will be designed around the skills listed in the job description. This gives the applicant a little bit of direction when preparing.

How Do I Prepare for This Interview?

Behavioral interviews are very different than traditional interviews and require a different type of preparation. The first step in preparing for a behavioral interview is to read through the job description and come up with a list of skills that the company is looking for. Next, you'll want to recall four or five experiences from your past that highlight these skills.

Think specifically of times when you have resolved conflict, when you've been stressed about a job or situation at work, or when you've dealt with a crisis at work or in your personal life. Gear most of your answers toward your professional life, but it's also appropriate to use examples from personal situations if they are applicable to the job.

Once you've come up with four to five different situations, practice sharing them. Keep your answers to between 60- and 90-seconds, and use the S.T.A.R. method to prepare your responses:

  • • Situation or Task — identify and describe the problem or situation you were dealing with
  • • Action — define the action you took to fix the problem
  • • Result — highlight how your action brought about a positive result to the problem

Most of your examples should have a happy or positive ending, but you can also use an example of failure to highlight your ability to learn from mistakes. However, focus at least half your anecdotes on times when you met goals or completed a project successfully.

Make sure your examples are varied — don't take them all from the same job or area of your life. Use examples from volunteer work, every job you've had, and your personal life when applicable. Use recent examples rather than those far in the past. For example, if you just graduated from college, you wouldn't want to use examples from high school.

Before the interview, read through your submitted resume closely. This will remind you of past experiences that are relevant to the job, and also ensure that you are prepared to answer any questions about your past accurately.

As behavioral interviews become more and more popular, job candidates must be more prepared to handle the unique questions that are thrown their way. You can expect everything from "How do you deal with failure?"Â to "How do you motivate others?"Â As with every other phase of the hiring process, the more you practice and prepare, the more likely you are to succeed and ultimately get the job.

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