Preparing for a behavioral Interview

CvTips.Com Guide To Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing does mean studying behavior. As we've seen earlier, this is part of the idea that your past performance is an indicator of your skills. Your knowledge and abilities also have to be assessed relative to the new job.

So a series of questions is created to explore all these factors.

Using a system which is known as the STAR system, (meaning Situation or Task, Action, Result) you're given a series of questions, each of which is designed to find multiple answers.

This is a simple system.

  • What was the situation?
  • What was done?
  • What was the result?

However: It also includes how things are done, on many levels. That's the behavioral part of the interview. Situations require skills, and a few situations can require many skills. So with a few questions, a lot of skills can be examined.

Preparation: Before we even start:

There's a few things you need to know here, and they're built into the questions in behavioral interviews:

Every question is checking your communications skills, and how you handle giving and receiving information.

  • Do you express yourself clearly and well?
  • Do you answer questions effectively?
  • Do you explain your answers well?

This is absolutely vital to understand:

All jobs are fundamentally based on communication.

A clear, concise, comprehensive answer is what they want.

Your answers really do need to be effective. How you present yourself and your answers is part of getting the job.

There are ways of improving your interview techniques and content:

Evaluate your own performance as a speaker.

If you're not a good speaker, you can even try rehearsing your answers out loud, get a friend to help, or do it yourself.

The important things are:

  • Fluency,
  • Information content,
  • Clarity.

Listen to how you answer a question.

What does it sound like? OK-ish? Lousy? Didn't understand it yourself?

How good is the information in your answer? Everything right, or needs work?

Interviewers use this as a form of quality control. A person who doesn't express themselves well is a potential problem in the workplace.

Some people have great skills, but are terrible communicators who can barely put together a sentence. Some people are just shy, and seize up when talking to others. Lots of people (nearly everybody, at some point) just lack confidence, and that sabotages their interviews. Many aren't too good at comprehension, missing the point of questions. Even their vocabulary might be inadequate.

The common factor is that the communications skills aren't good, and that's definitely not a big incentive to hire anyone.

Some people actually go to speaking classes, learning verbal communication, because they're so bad at it they need to improve their skills drastically. There are workshops, friendly gatherings where people can be taught to be fluent and strong communicators, and present themselves effectively.

That also strengthens other things like confidence, and being able to think clearly in an interview situation. It's extra practice, and like any form of training, you become able to do more as you develop your confidence.

Very important:

If you do have problems with verbal communication, you need to do something about that.

It is strongly recommended that you do some remedial communications studies, before taking on behavioral interviews.

It really is worth doing.


Behavioral interviews are all business.

Each question has a whole series of reasons for being asked, and they're all good ones.


How do you deal with difficult clients? Can you give an example, and tell us what happened?

This is a practical question which applies to every known business on Earth. It's also a potential killer.

This is the analysis of the question:

Situation: Difficult client with problem.

Task: Solve problem

Action: How the problem is solved

Result: Difficulty resolved.

Skills required:

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Issue management
  • Mediation/negotiation skills
  • Knowledge base
  • Skills regarding specific tasks in resolving problem

You're being asked seven questions at once.

You will not be surprised to hear that communications, interpersonal skills, problem solving, mediation and negotiation skills are also part of the essential criteria for the job, which is all about dealing with clients.

The interviewers can also form an opinion of how you explain the situation, and how you dealt with it.

Possible pitfalls:

If you say you've never had a difficult client, the interviewers will ask you which planet you've been living on, and how to get there. But you won't get the job, because they just won't believe you could do the job.

An answer like this will simply convince the interviewers you're unemployable:

Ah... um... I had a customer who wanted a refund, and I wouldn't give him one, so he called the manager and we eventually solved it because he had to go back to work…

The question does deal with your actual information. What you give as your answer will define your skills.

Can you be trusted to handle a difficult client? is the actual job-related question.

You have to prove it, and your behavioral interview answer will tell them if you can, in detail.

How you solved your problem does matter.

Did you do a good job of handling the actual situation?

Did you show all the required skills?

Was your answer well organized, clearly explained the issues, actions, and results, from start to finish?

Remember, these people are the ones hiring you to do a job which is either similar to, or more demanding, than the example you just gave them.

They have their own difficult clients, and they know whether the way you just told them you dealt with one is what they want.

Never underestimate the importance of any question in an interview.

The whole series of questions are all related, and all dealing with essential criteria. The next question may be about teamwork, which also relates to the same skill sets, but on an internal basis.

You can see how this is structured. An applicant giving strong positive answers, repeatedly demonstrating the required skills, is in a much better position than someone giving patchy answers.

Behavioral interviews are designed to get a lot of information, and they do.