Behavioral Interviewing Tips and Tricks

When you get the call or email to interview with a company/organization, you are excited and nervous at the same time about the opportunity. At this point, you have passed the eye test and the company is interested in you. The company reviewed and accepted your application packet, so you look good on paper and potentially meet the criteria for the position. Moving forward in the application process, the company reaches out to schedule an interview with you, a potential candidate, to learn more about who you are as an individual and a professional. 

According to the National Association of College and Employers (NACE), it is essential for college graduates to contain specific Career Readiness Competencies in order to be successful in a work environment. Recruiters and interviewers are looking for qualified candidates that embodies and harness the following attributes:
NACE Job Outlook 2017 | Attributes Employers Seek on a Candidate’s Resume

  1.  Ability to work in a team 78.0%
  2.  Problem-solving skills 77.3%
  3. Communication skills (written) 75.0% 
  4. Strong work ethic 72.0%
  5. Communication skills (verbal) 70.5%
  6. Leadership 68.9%
  7. Initiative 65.9%
  8. Analytical/quantitative skills 64.4%
  9. Flexibility/adaptability 63.6%
  10. Detail-oriented 62.1%
  11. Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) 58.3%
  12. Technical skills 56.8%
  13. Computer skills 49.2%
  14. Organizational ability 47.7%
  15. Strategic planning skills 37.9%

Of course you can showcase your attributes via resume, but the interviewer are seeking to learn more about you in the actual interview. The interviewers give you the opportunity to shed light on the top attributes listed above utilizing questions on behavioral interviewing. Behavioral Interviewing is way you can highlight your present/past experiences and performances to focus on your abilities and your attributes. 

Listed below are examples of behavioral type questions:

  1.  Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  2. Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle that?
  3. Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client. What was the situation, and how did you handle it?
  4. Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
  5. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?
  6. Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself. How did you go about ensuring that you would meet your objective?
  7. Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?
  8. Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
  9. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone to see things your way at work.
  10. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across to your team. 

There is a formula is answering these behavioral type questions. The STAR method is critical in answering these type of questions in an interview. It is not about answering the question with the right answer just the right way. 
As the interviewee, you should focus on answering the question using the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You want to set the stage with the Situation and the Task at hand (be direct and to the point when giving the background). 

Once you set the foundation, then you want to move along to the meat of the question and give the interviewer(s) what they want in answering the behavioral questions. The Action and Result is important when responding to behavioral questions. The interviewer wants to know beyond your resume and cover letter what kind of person and professional you are and will be for their organization. 

The interviewer wants to know you your course of Action and the Result of your Action. What was your experience after this particular situation? What did you take away from this situation? What did you learn about yourself in this situation? These are all items the interviewer wants to know in your approximate 2-minute response to a behavioral question. 

The STAR method is simple to remember but requires strong execution in delivering a sound response to a behavioral question. Remember to take the time you recall your experiences and find a way to streamline your story in your response to these behavioral type questions.

The Auburn University Career Center has resources to help with your interviewing skills and preparation. You can check out our website at  to utilize our services and resources to practice your interviewing, such as InterviewStream, The Job Search Guide, and scheduling a mock interview with a career counselor.

Written by Eric J. Hall
Career Counselor

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