Behavioral Interview: Why Are Employers Using Behavioral Job Interviews Now?

Seems to be one of the hot new trends  – not that the idea is all that new. In many ways, behavioral interviews (and behavioral interview questions) have been the way of the world for many many moons. But now they put a name to it making it sound all scientific and formal –  and as a result scare the hell out of people!

Don’t worry. What you need to do for a behavioral interview is not all that different from handling regular interview questions and answers… except maybe a bit more focused on what they’re specifically looking for – and on helping them get to the conclusion you are exactly the person they want to add to the company.

So how do you handle behavioral job interview questions?

Here are a couple of really good links with information about behavioral interviews and how to handle them:

Behavioral Interviewing Strategies for Job-Seekers (Quintessential Careers by Katherine Hansen)


Behavioral Interview ( by Alison Doyle)

Basically behavioral interviews look to how you’ve handled things in the past to try to predict what you’ll be like as an employee for your new employer. Actually, in a good interview, you should be trying to show employers that yourself anyway.

While ideally in a job interview you want to aim your answers toward the vision of who you will be when you work for them, these interviews try to get at who you were and how that might translate to the new job.

Things employers might look at in a behavioral interview

  • How did you handle problems?
  • What attitude do you have toward your past work experiences?
  • How do you talk about former colleagues and bosses?
  • What innovations did you bring to the workplace?
  • Did you create new solutions?
  • Did you ever help turn things around?
  • Did you bring in business proactively (if this applies) or wait to be asked to do that?
  • How do you handle change?
  • Are you open to learning new things?
  • Are you open to taking on new challenges?
  • How do you handle the unexpected?
  • Do you focus on what can’t be done or what can?
  • How do you deal with goals and deadlines?
  • Were you a team player?
  • Could you also work autonomously?
  • What were you like in general on a day to day basis?

I think you get the drift now. Who are you as a person and as a potential employee based on how you acted in the past. And how you were perceived. And how you perceived others as well as the job itself.

So what should you do if you have a behavioral interview?

If you have a behavioral interview coming up (or even if it’s just a plain old interview), think about how to aim your answers in a way that shows your strengths. Also have stories that show how you look any weakness straight in the eye and turn things around. Let them see some of your thought process when you talk about how you handle things. Let them see how you commit yourself fully to whatever you do. And show them how you direct yourself toward finding solutions and looking for ways to make things better for your boss, your colleagues and the company itself.

And as always, come prepared with real life stories that are clear, easy to grasp, not too long, and put you in the best light. In the end, you want to use your real life stories – being real is critical – to paint a picture of the you any boss would want to have.

Good luck!

Just found this on Susan Ireland’s Job Lounge:

Best Job Interview Preparation: The Behavioral Resume

And if you’re curious about the original comment I got asking about how to handle a behavioral interview:

How to Tell If a Job Interview Went Well


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. I apologize that this doesn’t have a whole lot to do with behavioral interviews and that I posted this comment on the “thank you letter” post you did, but I wanted to post my situation here since I figured this was a recent post, and I am very grateful if you can give me some words of advice.

    Two weeks ago I had an interview for an internship at a vintage boutique. Phone calls were the main form of communication and I prepared very hard for this interview and thought I did really well. The woman I talked to seemed to like me and everything and said that while she did have two other interviews to do, she thought I would be a good fit.

    I had the interview on Friday Oct. 2 and she said she would get back to me on Wednesday. I haven’t heard from her yet!

    I tried to call on Wednesday, no answer, then I called last Monday, nothing! I wish employers would at least call you and tell you if you got the job or not, to me this is rude.

    I checked with my references to see if anyone had followed up with them, and they had not been contacted. What’s going on here, should I just move on?!

    I don’t want to come off as a pest so I’m not going to do anything else. Can you please give me some advice as to what might be going on.

    About the thank you letters, I send a thank you email to her a couple of days after the interview, and my teacher who is a human resources manager said that a thank you letter or card can really make a different, and many people in my class shared experiences of how a thank you letter helped them get a job.

    So who’s right? I don’t know?

    I’ve been unemployed for two years and all this stuff about cover letters, thank you letters, follow ups, etc. just gets so annoying, I just want a job and an internship to get my career going.

  2. Hi Mya!

    I know how frustrating all this is. Since I try not to repeat myself all over the blog, you will find most of what you want to know in this post as well as in the over 450 comments!

    How to Tell If a Job Interview Went Well

    As for thank-you letters, there is a difference of opinion in the world of HR professionals as to how much of a difference a thank-you letter actually makes, but most of us agree it’s a good idea to send one. Honestly…if a person isn’t right for the job, no thank-you letter will get them an offer. And if a person gets one after sending a thank-you letter and thinks that’s what got them the job, they’re probably mistaken. But there are always exceptions, so might as well be on the side of sending one!

    Don’t give up. It takes a while, but persistence – like the kind you showed in getting me to answer 😉 – will pay off. Also, make sure your resume and cover letter are really doing you justice. I have some posts on that too and maybe they can help.

    Best of luck, Mya! Please let us know what happens.

    – Ronnie Ann

  3. Thank you so much for replying to me! I’m really glad to have found this blog, I think it will really help me with my job hunting skills. I am still a bit upset about not hearing from them yet, but I feel better about it now.

    My weekend will defiantly be spend digesting this blog with a nice hot latte! Please keep posting, this kind of information is a big help to people like me.


  4. Hi again Mya!

    As you’ll see from your reading, you are definitely not alone. It can be a frustrating process no matter how much you know, but the more you know the less upsettling it all will feel. Have fun digesting. 😉

    – Ronnie Ann

  5. Those are always the hardest questions to answer – when someone asks you how you felt about your previous boss for example. I’ve had some truly terrible bosses before and it’s hard no to lie but at the same time I don’t want to bad-mouth them to a potentially new boss. Tough call.

  6. True, Polina! Absolutely right about not bad-mouthing the old boss, since the new boss interprets that as how you’ll one way talk about them.

    Best you can probably do is say something non-committal like “oh…he was pretty good. In fact I remember this one time…” and then complete it with the most positive story about yourself you can come up with. I know it’s hard, but the key is to turn it into a good story about you if you can manage it. Or if there is a story where there was a time you disagreed, but managed to find a solution that worked…that’s good too.

    Thanks for bringing up an important point. Best of luck should you ever be given this question! And if anyone else has some good answers, please feel free to share!

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