Behavioral Interview Tips: How to Give Interviewers What They Really Want

Behavioral Interview Tips: How to Give Interviewers What They Really Want

Michelle Kruse

A behavioral interview can be one of the more cringe-inducing aspects of the job search process. It's never easy being judged, yet that's what a behavioral interview is all about.

An employer needs to know how a candidate will respond under pressure once they're on the job, thus the worst thing you can do is to enter your interview nervous and fidgety. Start by preparing yourself for the types of questions you may be asked -- and the best possible answers -- and then take a deep breath and walk in confidently.

Why the use of the behavioral interview?

During most interview processes, you start by speaking with a recruiter who will determine if you meet the qualifications for the position.

If they think you could be a good fit, they'll often schedule you for a behavioral interview. This interview is used to determine how you have handled situations in the past and predict how you will handle them in the future, as well as determining how you will fit in with the company's culture.

Conducting this type of interview is a benefit to the organization, as they are able to find the "right fit" faster and reduce turnover rates. A case study conducted by IBM's Smarter Workforce program for Balfour Beatty looked at the importance of behavioral interviews and the potential benefits to the employer, and found that they can lead to a broader diversity among employees—and higher overall quality.

How do interviewers come up with questions?

Researchers have interviewed successful workers and used their responses to determine which traits tend to help individuals thrive in their roles.

For example: Which skills and traits would you see in a successful sales person, or an amazing housekeeper? What makes them the best at what they do? What makes them tick? What do they do outside of work? All of this is taken into consideration when creating the questions for a specific position.

What are some typical questions in behavioral interviews -- and how should you respond?

If an interviewer asks what you like to do outside of work, they're trying to determine if you like to stay busy or if you enjoy leisure time.

A good salesperson typically likes to run a mile a minute, with little to no down time. If they ask what you think about outside of the office, they're trying to assess your dedication to work. Some people are able to go home and shut it off, and while it's not a bad thing, this may suggest that you're better suited to a 9-5 role.

When asked to "tell me about a time...," it's important to be prepared with specific examples.

In my own experience, I went to this type of interview before being hired with a previous employer and was asked these questions for a role I had never done before. I scored very high, because I was honest and it turned out to be a great fit for me and opened many doors. They used my results for future roles and knew what I was capable of doing.

Bottom line: Be honest, and don't just respond to the interviewer in the way you think they want to hear. This will only hurt yourself; if the job is truly a good fit, you already have the right answers. Why fabricate your way to the wrong position?

Here is a list of 50 typical questions to help you prepare.

Emily Dickinson once said, "Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels or believes." Be prepared to show what you have done so that potential employers know what you're able to do for them in the future. Be confident sharing your accomplishments, achievements and goals, and you will land the position if it's truly the right fit.

Do you have any tips for acing a behavioral interview? Please respond in the comments section below.

Michelle Kruse is the Recruitment and Product Manager for, a resume writing and editing service, where she manages a team of over 40 professional resume writers. Michelle's prior experience includes 10+ years as a corporate recruiter.

Career Topics
Job Interviews