How to Handle Behavioral Interview Questions

Westminster College graduates boast a 96% success rate, and our Center for Career Development supports students as they prepare for their futures.  In this article, Center for Career Development Director Meg Langland offers advice on how to answer behavioral interview questions.

With a tighter job market, the ability to perform well in a “behavioral interview” has become increasingly important in acing a job interview. Some employers have replaced their traditional questions with behavior-based questions geared towards finding out HOW a candidate demonstrated the particular competencies they are seeking. This interview style is based on the belief that past behavior is the best way to predict future success.

Here are a few tips to answer behaviorally- based interview questions:

  • Determine your past experiences that show favorable behaviors or skills that relate to the specific position to which you are applying.
  • Be able to describe relevant work, internship, volunteer or student group experience.
  • Be as specific as possible and do not generalize or theorize. The interviewer is looking for a description of a specific past experience.
  • Indicate your role in the process.

To be successful with answering these questions, consider using the SAR method to show a logical thinking and problem solving process:

  • Situation: Describe the situation you were in.
  • Action: Describe the action you took to accomplish the task.
  • Result: Explain the result you achieved and how it resolved the problem.

Sample Behavioral Questions:

  • Explain a situation where you were assertive in resolving an issue.
  • Tell me about a mistake you made or an experience that you wish you could change.
  • Tell me about a time when you went the ‘extra mile’ to do something because it needed to be done, even though it was not your responsibility.

Sample Behavioral Question & Answer

  • Question: “Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was not doing their part as a team member.
  • Answer:  SITUATION:  “Last year, I was a member of Campus Activities Board and was in charge of coordinating a student event. One of the students on my committee was not pulling his weight and needed to have better follow-through.  ACTION:  The student and I met to discuss the situation and I learned that he was overloaded with academic work and needed to concentrate on his studies. We arranged for him to take on a major responsibility for another project later in the semester and distributed his work to others on the committee, which they were willing to do.  RESULT: He did a stellar job of coordinating the project later in the semester and ended up increasing attendance at that event by 20%!  Through this experience, I learned that being a leader means being a good listener and being flexible, as well as working toward the achievement of goals.”

The best way to prepare for a behavioral interview is to research the organization and/or field so you know what competencies they are looking for. Think of your own experience and how you have demonstrated those traits in different ways. Then make up behavioral questions that relate to those traits and practice, practice and practice!

Campus Life - Career ServicesServicesMeg Langland, M.Ed., LPC, is the Director of Center for Career Development at Westminster College.

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