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How to Behave in A Behavioral Interview

interview tips interviewing job interview tips Jun 13, 2023
nervous candidate in a bad job interview

Often regarded as the toughest interview, the behavioral interview requires a candidate to discuss a past situation in-depth. In other words, any interview that requires you to dredge up a real-world experience is a behavioral interview.


Why They Exist

Behavioral interviews were created to challenge job seekers to think of a real-world situation related to the job. The theory is that your past performance will indicate your future behavior. Plus, it is a pretty good test for how well you can think on your feet and formulate a comprehensive answer to a highly complex question.


Tell-Tale Signs of a Behavioral Question

Not sure of what denotes a behavioral question? There are clues!

 If any question starts with phrases like, "Tell me about a time…" or "Describe a situation…" or "Give me an example..." or similar language, it is a behavioral question.


How To "Behave" In the Interview

If you find yourself in the midst of a behavioral interview, follow these tips to get your brain in gear: 

  1. Don't forget to breathe.

Behavioral interviews are stressful. Try to remain calm and focused on your breath the help overcome the anxiety.


  1. Repeat part of the question.

While you don't want to sound like a parrot, even repeating part of the question will help your brain solidify your answer. For example:

 Interviewer: "Tell me about a time you dealt with a conflict at work?"

Candidate: (Acting thoughtful) "A time I dealt with a conflict… Well, that reminds me of when one of the other project managers and I had difficulty reaching a consensus on how to approach a new project…"


  1. Don't answer a behavioral question with a hypothetical response.

If you honestly haven't faced a particular situation, don't fake it. Instead, preface your answer with the acknowledgment that while your experience is limited in that area, you have a strategy for dealing with it. For example:

 Interviewer: Tell me about a time you led a team that failed."

Candidate: "While I have managed teams, we usually accomplished our goals. However, should we be faced with a situation that doesn't turn out so well, I would analyze why we failed at the given task. Was it a performance issue or one that was more based on our procedures? Then we can find a solution for when the problem arises again."


  1. Always come to a clear result at the end of your answer.

The final result is the most important part of the answer. However, most people cut it short because they feel they have been speaking too long! By their very nature, behavioral questions demand long answers. Always get to the quantifiable result before moving on.


  1. If you feel like you spoke too long, ask the interviewer, "Would you like to hear more?"

True, sometimes candidates can take an answer to the extreme. If you feel you are losing your audience, ask them if they want more details. It allows the interviewer to move on to another subject or dive deeper into what you already said.


  1. Don't use the same situation for multiple questions.

It's a common trap for candidates to keep returning to the same story, especially if they have used it successfully. Unfortunately, the more you repeat the same stories, it comes across as limited experience in real-world situations. Plus, it can be boring for the interviewer.

 During your interview preparation, write down several answers related to the job description. We usually recommend having at least one scenario directly related to every responsibility or duty within the job description. That way, you already have many relevant situations, especially if you can tie them back to quantifiable results.


Want to know more?

Join us at the Brown Bag Job Search Group on on June 21, 2023, to learn all about how to "Behave in a Behavioral Interview."

 Can't make the meeting? Contact us to learn how to access all our presentations through our new Membership program launching in 2023.

Wondering how effective your job search is? Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our career coaches, Donna Shannon or Dia Kline

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