Behavioral Interviews

What is a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral Interviews are designed to assess a candidate’s ability to meet the requirements of the job description based on previous experiences. It’s used as a proxy to predict future behavior and so is used by almost every organization when recruiting candidates to hire. In fact, it’s the single most important part of the job and internship process. Your written resume and cover letter have done their job in securing you an interview, but now you must use your verbal communication skills to show the employer why you’re a good candidate for the role.

Preparing for the Interview

It’s important to thoroughly prepare for an interview and have a strong understanding of the company and position prior to the meeting.

Know Who to Expect

When you’re called to schedule your interview, be sure to ask who will be interviewing you. Get the interviewer’s name and job title, and write it down along with the date, time and location of your interview. Once you have the interviewer’s information, find out what you can about them: search for them on LinkedIn, Google the interviewer’s name and look on the company’s website.

Review the Job Description and Research the Company

Employers expect you to know about their organization and industry. Chances are high that they’ll ask you questions designed to test whether or not you did your homework. 

Identify the Skills, Projects and Characteristics You Want To Communicate

Based on the research above, review your resume to make sure you’re prepared to answer any questions pertaining to its content. To start, you should: 

  • Think about your skills, how they relate to the job you are applying for, and how you can showcase them in an interview
  • Identify which experiences demonstrate the skills you want to feature that align with the job description
  • List at least 6 to 8 stories from your experiences that demonstrate your skills and personal characteristics that align with the job description

Next, you should start thinking about converting those skills and experiences into structured stories that will help you shine in an interview. 

Prepare your Stories

Behavioral interviews require you to share examples of situations you’ve been in and demonstrate your experience with skills related to the job description. The interviewer will want to know how you handled a situation in the past so they can predict how you’d handle a similar situation in the future if they decided to hire you.

To answer behavioral questions, you’ll want to tell a clear, polished story about your past experiences. There’s an art to telling a good story, and the STAR method will guide you as you prepare to tell your story in an interview.

Use this method to organize your stories and examples. The quick video and chart below describe each aspect of the STAR method and how to communicate your skills and experiences to the interviewer.

 Situation   Identify the situation, problem or conflict you encountered. Set the stage and paint a visual picture for the interviewer. Briefly mention the experience you are referencing and give your interviewer any context they will need to understand the story.
Task Explain what you were tasked within the situation. What were your responsibilities and goals?
Action What action did you take based on the task? If it was in a group setting, focus on what YOU did. Describe what you actually did, not what you might do.
Result Give your story an ending by sharing the result of the actions you took. What results did you achieve? What was the outcome? What did you accomplish? Discuss what you learned from the experience.

Story-Telling Tips

  • Use examples from your experiences like: internships, work experience, student organizations and activities, class projects, team projects, research, community service, study abroad and hobbies.
  • Highlight skills you’ve gained like: initiative, innovation, leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, overcoming obstacles, creativity, dealing with ambiguity, and flexibility.
  • If your story doesn’t have the most positive outcome, share what you learned and how you would do things differently in the future.
  • Be specific! Your interviewers should be able to imagine your story in their head as you tell it.
  • Your stories should be around a couple of minutes each.

Practice and Mentally Prepare

Practice will help you reduce interview anxiety, improve your interview skills, and, in many cases, gain important feedback about how you interview. It’ll also help you sharpen your verbal communication skills, which are extremely important. Use the following resources to practice interview questions on your own:


Want More Practice?

Make an Interview Prep or Mock Interview appointment with a CNS Career Coach!

Make an Appointment with a CNS Career Coach