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How to Ace Behavioral Interviews

How to Ace Behavioral Interviews

By Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck
National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling CoachesSM


Have you ever been asked, "Give me an example of..." or "Tell me about a time when...."? These are examples of typical questions in a behavioral interview. In a behavioral interview you will be asked to demonstrate your knowledge and abilities by giving specific examples of your past experiences. The interviewer is seeking to determine if you can do this job based on what you have done in previous jobs. The assumption of behavioral interviews is that your past performance is a good indicator of your future performance.

Three Preparation Tips

1. Anticipate the questions. Use the job description to identify desired skills, experience and knowledge areas. Also, research the company to find out what is valued. (For example, look to see if the company values qualities such as innovation or customer service or community service.) Make a list of each skill, knowledge area or quality you think the employer would want in the person who is hired.

2. Brainstorm what you have done that fits what they are looking for. By each item on your life, jot down any examples you can think of (from either paid or volunteer positions) that demonstrate how your past experiences fit their current requirements.

3. Write and practice explaining your best examples. Don't depend on your ability to make examples up "on the fly." Do your homework; invest time crafting statements that showcase your skills and experience beforethe interview. In each example, (a) give enough detail about the situation so that the interviewer can understand the context; (b) tell what you did; (c) describe the results. In your example, help the interviewer to see how what you have done previously will help you to perform well in this new position.

Once you have written out your examples, practice saying the statements until they sound natural, not memorized. Enlist a friend to be the interviewer who asks you to "give an example of ______________" or "tell about a time when you ________."

Here's an example:

Interviewer: "Think of a problem person you had to deal with, describe the situation and tell me how you handled it."

Job applicant: "In my last position, I initially had some problems with the president's executive assistant. As the special event planner, I had to coordinate many event details with her. In planning the first two events at the company that involved her office, she seemed very critical of what I was doing and how I was going about it. I also would have to ask her repeatedly for the information I needed in preparing for the event. Her behavior was frustrating, particularly because I couldn't understand why she was acting this way.

In dealing with her, I tried to be objective about her criticism, looking to see if there was anything to learn from what she said and trying to overlook how she had said it. Regarding the information flow, I tried to be cordial, but firm, letting her know that if I didn't get the information I needed from her in a timely manner, the success of the event would be affected and would reflect negatively on her office.

Slowly, she began to act better towards me, and eventually we had a good working relationship. After I'd been at the company a while, I learned that I had replaced one of her best friends who had been fired from the position, and she resented me for it. This experience was a good lesson for me in the value of treating others courteously regardless of how they initially treat me. If I had reciprocated her bad behavior, I don't believe we would have been able to work effectively together."

Preparation Pays Off

You will find that you feel more confident and relaxed when you have done your best to prepare for an interview. In addition, good examples stick in an employer's mind, and will help you to stand out from the competition. You will find that doing your "homework" will be time that is well spent.


If you would like professional assistance preparing for interviews resume writing or other aspects of your job search, we invite you to look into our career coaching services. After reading about our services, you can schedule a free consultation session to discuss which career services would best meet your needs.


© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.