How do I Give the Best Behavioral Interview Answers?

H.R. Childress

Behavioral interviewing is based on the theory that past performance is the best indicator of future performance. Companies want you to give behavioral interview answers that demonstrate your competency in a particular skill necessary for the job. The phrases "describe a time...," "give an example of...," or "tell me how..." are some indicators that the interviewer is about to ask a behavioral question. It is difficult to come up with the best behavioral interview answers on the spot, so you will want to prepare some good examples to possible questions ahead of time.

Some job interview questions are behavioral questions.
Some job interview questions are behavioral questions.

The first step to preparing for a behavioral interview is determining what skills the interviewer will be looking for. Read the job description and any other information you may have received about the position for which you are interviewing. Most job descriptions include a list of skills the employee hired for that position should have. Skills such as teamwork, initiative, problem solving, flexibility, and working with deadlines and goals are likely candidates for behavioral interview questions.

Mock interviews may help reduce a job candidate's anxiety during the actual interviewing process.
Mock interviews may help reduce a job candidate's anxiety during the actual interviewing process.

Some job descriptions list tasks for the position instead of or in addition to the necessary skills. If you only have a list of tasks, you can still determine some of the skills the interviewer may be looking for. For example, a job that includes compiling information and writing reports will likely require skills in organization, logic, and communication. Keep in mind also that many companies are looking for teamwork and communication skills regardless of whether the are explicitly mentioned in the job description.

Once you have determined what skills the interviewer will likely be looking for, think about your past work experience — or possibly school experience, if you are a recent graduate — and remember situations where you demonstrated the necessary skills. Create a summary for each situation. Include a brief description of the situation, explain how you handled it, describe the outcome of the situation, and summarize your behavior to demonstrate a particular skill. Add any interesting facts that will make your behavioral interview answers memorable to the interviewer. You may want to write the summaries so you can remember them.

Find someone to practice possible interview questions with and ask them for feedback on your behavioral interview answers. Practice giving well-organized, short but thorough answers that clearly demonstrate your skills. Incorporate the person's feedback and use your own analysis of your answers to revise your descriptions until you feel they are the best behavioral interview answers you can give.

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