Interview Resources

The information provided below is to give all of you the best insight possible into the interview portion of the entry-level testing process. Click here to print a copy of this information.

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new, but widely used mode of job interviewing. The behavioral interview technique is used by employers to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors in order to determine their potential for success. This approach is based on the belief that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. In fact, behavioral interviewing is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive. The interviewer identifies desired skills and behaviors and then structures open-ended questions and statements to elicit detailed responses. A rating system is developed and selected criteria are evaluated during the interview.

Behavioral vs. Traditional Interviewing

Behavioral-based interviewing provides a more objective set of facts to make promotional decisions than other interviewing methods. Traditional interview questions ask you general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” The process of behavioral interviewing is much more probing and works very differently.

In a traditional promotional interview, you can usually get away with telling the interviewer what he or she wants to hear. Even if you are asked situational questions that start out, “How would you handle XYZ situation?” you have minimal accountability because the interviewer can’t really predict if you would react the way you said you would if that particular situation ever arose. In a behavioral interview, however, it’s much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character. When you start to tell a behavioral story, the behavioral interviewer typically will pick it apart to try to get at the specific behavior(s). The interviewer will probe further for more depth or detail such as, “What were you thinking at that point?” or, “Tell me more about your meeting with that person,” or “Lead me through your decision process.” If you’ve told a story that’s anything but totally honest, your response will not hold up through the barrage of probing questions.

What to Expect in a Behavioral Interview

Behavioral-based interview questions generally start with any one of the following phrases:

  • “Tell me about a time when you…”
  • “Describe a circumstance when you were faced with a problem related to…”
  • “Think about an instance in which you…”
  • “Tell me how you approached a situation.”

When your interview is behavioral-based, you should expect a structured interview with set questions, as opposed to a conversational style of interviewing. The interviewer is probably evaluating you against a profile of desired behaviors considered necessary for success. You will receive follow-up questions that probe for more details and attempt to evaluate the consistency of your answers. Some of the questions may have multiple parts, and the interviewer will generally take notes during your answers.

Areas of Evaluation

Some of the most common behavioral questions evaluate such attributes as:

  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Communication
  • Skills
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills Adaptability

The STAR Method

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the situation you are describing.

  • Situation: Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
  • Task: What goal were you working toward?
  • Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project, but what you actually did. Use the word “I,” not “we” when describing actions.
  • Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy about taking credit for your behavior. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Make sure your answer contains multiple positive results.

Make sure that you follow all parts of the STAR method. Be as specific as possible at all times, without rambling or including too much information. Oftentimes interviewees have to be prompted to include their results, so try to include that without being asked. Also, eliminate any examples that do not paint you in a positive light. However, keep in mind that some examples that have a negative result (such as “lost the game”) can highlight your strengths in the face of adversity.

Sample STAR Response

  • Situation: Advertising revenue was falling off for my college newspaper, The Review, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
  • Task: My goal was to generate new ideas, materials, and incentives that would result in at least a 15% increase in advertisers from the year before.
  • Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of  The Review circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a School of Business Administration professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
  • Result: We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20 percent over the same period last year.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

  • Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions, especially involving coursework, work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.
  • Prepare short descriptions of each situation; be ready to give details if asked.
  • Be sure each story has a beginning, middle, and end, i.e., be ready to describe the situation, including the task at hand, your action, and the outcome or result.
  • Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
  • Be honest. Don’t embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
  • Be specific. Don’t generalize about several events; give a detailed accounting of one event.
  • Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split-second decision. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed. Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).

Remember the Basics

While behavioral interviews can make you more anxious than other traditional interviews, remember to stick to the basics.

  • Listen carefully.
  • Be prompt.
  • Be well-groomed.
  • Have a firm handshake.
  • Maintain direct eye contact.
  • Be enthusiastic and smile!