Behavioral-based interviewing

In an effort to find the perfect employee, recruiters utilize behavioral style interview questions. Behavioral-based interviews allow candidates to reflect on their past experiences which commonly indicates future performance. 

During behavioral style interviews, recruiters will probe for specific details and ask you to recall successes and/or failures in your experiences so they can easily assess your hands-on knowledge. 

Step one: Understanding what behavioral-based interviews measure

Behavioral-based interviews are designed to assess general core competencies such as problem-solving, decision-making ability, and conflict resolution and competencies that are specific to your industry.

For example, if you are a customer service representative, core competencies that recruiters will be interested in include customer retention, account management, and customer satisfaction.

Step two: Study job descriptions

Most companies spell out exactly what they want in the job description. You will find that the postings usually have a balance between general and industry-specific competencies. Take note of the recurring themes, and prepare for behavioral interviews based on the information you gathered.

For example, if the job description states the company is seeking a team player, you may expect the following type of questions during a behavioral interview:

  • What was your role in your department's most recent success?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague's working style in order to complete a project successfully.
  • Describe a situation when working with others produced more successful results than if you had completed the project on your own.

Step three: Prepare S.T.A.R. examples

For each competency that you have identified, prepare an example from your experiences to support each one. Utilize the S.T.A.R. method to ensure you answer the questions completely. 

  • Share a Situation or Task in which you were involved.
  • Explain the Action that you took to resolve the situation.
  • Provide the end Result.

Focus your examples on more professional experiences like college classes, work experience, campus involvements, and study abroad. If you have studied abroad, review this handout for information on how to highlight it during your interview.


Question: "Describe your role in your department's most recent success." 


(Situation/Task) "At my current employer, The Widget Center, the sales and customer service departments work collaboratively to win and retain accounts. My role as a Customer Service Manager is to ensure the customer is satisfied with their purchase and handle any glitches that may arise. In one particular case, I resolved a potentially damaging situation with a key client when the $1.5 million database system they had purchased began faltering a week after it was installed. Needless to say the customer was not pleased and demanded that all the monies be refunded. "

(Action and Result) "After I listened to the customer's concern, I immediately dispatched technical support and the problem was resolved within one business day with little loss of productivity on the part of the client. In the end, the customer upgraded all the database systems in all four locations."