Interview Tips: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

When you prepare for behavioral questions, you are more likely to succeed in interviews and land the job you want. Taking the following steps is recommended:

  1. Examine the job description thoroughly and understand the requirements of the position. Assess how your skills and experiences align with the job requirements.
  2. Research the company you are applying to and try to understand its values and work culture. Having a clear understanding of their working environment will help you prepare for questions. For example, “Why would you like to work at [Company Name]”?
  3. Reflect on the instances in your professional and personal life when you have demonstrated leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and adaptability. These experiences can be used to answer common behavioral questions. 
  4. Use the STAR method to ensure your responses are clear and structured, and so that the interviewer can better understand your problem-solving abilities. The STAR method stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. 
  5. Try to practice answering common interview questions for your field of interest. Online resources can be used to find common behavioral interview questions and practice answering them. 
  6. Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer about the company or the position. You can use this to demonstrate your interest and engagement in the interview (see examples below).
  7. Lastly, keeping calm and staying confident is key! Make sure you listen carefully to the questions and think about your answers before responding. 

What is the STAR method?

  • Situation: Describe the situation or problem you faced.
  • Task: Explain the task or objective that you had to accomplish.
  • Action: Describe the specific steps you took to address the situation or task. Be sure to focus on your own contributions and actions (not hypotheticals or someone else's actions).
  • Result: Explain the outcome or result of your actions, and how it impacted the situation or task.
Tip: The bulk of your answer should be focused on Action and Result. Remember that your responses should always be real-life examples, not hypotheticals. 

Examples using the STAR method

Question: “What is the professional achievement you’re most proud of?"

Situation: It was my first job out of college working as a software engineer at [Company Name]. My first task was to update one of our mobile applications for one of our products. My manager had very specific requirements for the app, and my team and I were facing several technical challenges to meet those requirements.
Task: My task was to lead the development team and find a solution to meet all of the required updates. 
Action: First, I conducted extensive research to understand all of the requirements and the technical challenges we were facing. I then led the team in brainstorming sessions to come up with innovative solutions that could address those requirements. As a team, we decided to incorporate a new technology that was not widely used in our company. It was actually a new technology that I used previously in my junior year internship, so I conducted several training sessions to help the team understand the new technology and its implementation in the project. I also made sure that the team manager was provided with regular updates and progress on the project. 
Result: As a result of our efforts, we successfully updated the mobile application and met all of the requirements. The app received positive feedback from our manager and end-users, and it was a great success. The innovative approach we took to overcome the technical challenges also helped us gain expertise in the new technology, which the team continued to use in future projects.

Question: “Can you give an example of a time when you had to overcome a challenge?”

Situation: During my junior year internship at [Company Name], I was tasked to create a marketing plan for a product launch that was struggling with engagement due to increased competition.
Task: To boost visibility and attract new customers, I was assigned to conduct market research and develop a detailed marketing plan.
Action: Due to my team's various commitments and deadlines for other product launches, it was difficult for us to coordinate our schedules to meet. To address this, I took the initiative to ask the team manager the level of priority that this project had which allowed me then to go back to the team I was working with on this to discuss expectations. Since it was the only product launch that was struggling, we had to work together as a team for a quick turnaround on our revised marketing plan.  
Result: Although we faced initial challenges, our team completed the marketing plan within a quick turnaround time. We received positive feedback and our strategies increased customer engagement and sales by over 30%. I learned that in the workplace, things change quickly and you have to learn how to adapt and act fast sometimes. Also, when working as a team, it is best for everyone to be on the same page because everyone has their own individual projects going on so it may take one person to bring everyone in. 

Question: “Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled the situation"

Situation: When I was an intern at [Company Name], I was working on multiple projects at the same time and had a tight deadline to complete a digital poster for a new product launch. 
Task: I was tasked with creating an impactful and visually appealing poster demonstrating the different aspects of the new product. 
Action: As a result of my workload with other projects, I overlooked the resolution requirements for the digital poster and designed images with low resolutions. I had a deadline and it wasn’t until the day before that I realized my mistake and panicked, but I quickly contacted my manager and explained what had happened. I apologized for my error and accepted full responsibility.
Result: My manager advised me to redo the poster using the correct requirements. I knew I had to stay up late, so I worked hard to submit the revised version before the deadline. It was my mistake that caused a delay and extra effort, but I learned the importance of double-checking requirements and managing my workload efficiently as a result.

List of questions you can ask your interviewer:

  1. What skills or qualities do you think are most important for success in this position?
  2. How does this position provide opportunities for professional growth and development?
  3. Can you describe the company culture and what it's like to work here?
  4. How does [Company Name] support and mentor new grads?
  5. What are some of the challenges that [Company Name] is currently facing?
  6. What is the most exciting initiative you are most excited about? 
  7. Is there any advice you would be able to offer me as someone starting out in [Industry Name]?
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