“The most accurate way of predicting the future performance of an individual is by looking at the past performance under a similar situation.”

This is a phrase that gave rise to behavioral interviewing, an interview technique developed by industrial psychologists in the 1970s. The following overview on behavioral interview will help shed more light on this.

What is a behavioral interview?

The behavioral interview can be best described as a technique used by employers to learn about the past behavior of an individual in a particular situation. Behavioral questions are usually asked in the second phase of interviewing and as a norm; employers try to find out how you behaved in a particular situation in the past so as to get clues on how you would behave in the same situation if working for them in future.

Traditional interview techniques called upon an individual to state their qualifications through a series of questions such as, tell us about yourself? Why do you want to work for this organization? What are your strength and weaknesses? In stark contrast to conventional interviewing techniques, behavioral interviews usually require an individual to relate stories on how they handled a challenge: in relation to a particular skill set a company might desire for that position

For instance, if a job requires an individual to have strong team-building and communication skills, a candidate might be asked by the interviewer to recount previous experiences in which they were able to explain new plans to a team that helped bring a team together. As a norm, behavioral interview questions usually start with phrases such as, tell us about a time… describe a situation where…Or even give me an example of…

So how does one prepare for a behavioral interview?

While your experience and skill set might be a perfect match to the job in question, you can lose out if you are not able to back them up with a deserving anecdote.

When preparing for a behavioral interview, you should ensure that you cover all possible scenarios from which a behavioral interview question might originate.

How do you go about doing this? For starters, put yourself in the shoes of an employer and try to create a picture of an ideal candidate for that particular position. What qualities would you desire from that candidate and what are the possible scenarios that would help bring out those qualities?

The second technique is to review the job description and while at it, also carry out a thorough research about a company and its culture. Pay particular interests to the skill set the company is interested in and also specific qualities a company might be interested in

After identifying the skill set, try and imagine some behavioral interview questions you might be asked for that particular skill set.

For example, if the skill set is in decision-making and problem-solving, you might be asked behavioral interview questions such as: describe a situation in which used logic and good judgment to solve a problem or give me an example of a time you had to be quick in making a decision. This kind of behavioral interview questions is most common in the technical field.

For those in the education sector, employers usually ask behavioral questions on skill sets such as motivation. Some of the questions related to motivation that is usually asked include: give us an example of a time in which you positively influenced the action of others or tell us about a time you went above and beyond the call of duty.

How do you answer behavioral interview questions?

As a rule, you need to be calm and composed when answering the question. The answer you provide should also be structured, clear and concise.

Giving a structured answer can be quite difficult during an interview. However, by using the S.T.A.R. technique, you can be able to provide a structured answer.

Here’s what S.T.A.R stands for:

S: for situation – start with a brief description of the situation and context of the scenario: who, where, what, why.

T: for Task – explain the task that you had to complete highlighting the challenges and constraints.

A: for Action – describe specific actions you took to complete the task: You should highlight the traits being looked for in this section.

R: for Results – close with the results you achieved. In this part, figures are very important.

By putting the above overview into practice, you are assured of facing your behavioral interview.


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