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How to Prepare for a Behavioral Job Interview

What Is a Behavioral Interview? How to Prepare, & Sample Questions

This post was originally published by The Balance Careers and was written by Alison Doyle.

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Credit: Getty Images via The Balance Careers

What is a behavioral interview? Candidates for employment often ask what the difference is between a regular job interview and a behavioral interview. What should you do to get ready if the employer is going to ask you behavioral-based interview questions?

In many ways, a behavioral interview resembles other types of job interviews. There isn't a difference in the actual format of the job interview. You will still meet with an interviewer and respond to interview questions. The difference is in the type of interview questions that they will ask you.

Review information on the difference between behavioral and traditional job interviews, examples of questions, and how to handle a behavioral interview.

What is a Behavioral Job Interview?

Behavioral-based interviewing is interviewing based on discovering how the interviewee acted in specific employment-related situations. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future, i.e., past behavior predicts future performance.1

Behavioral vs. Traditional Interviews

In a traditional interview, you will be asked a series of questions that typically have straightforward answers like "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" or "How do you handle a challenge?" or "Describe a typical workweek."

In a behavioral interview, an employer has decided what skills are needed in the person they hire and will ask questions to find out if the candidate has those skills. Instead of asking how you would behave, they will ask how you did behave.

The interviewer will want to know how you handled a situation, instead of what you might do in the future.

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions will be more pointed, more probing, and more specific than traditional interview questions:

  • Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.

  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.

  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.

  • Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?

  • What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handle it.

  • Have you had to convince a team to work on a project they weren't thrilled about? How did you do it?

  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? How?

  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.

Follow-up questions will also be detailed. You may be asked what you did, what you said, how you reacted, or how you felt during the situation you shared with the hiring manager.

The Best Way to Prepare

What's the best way to prepare? It's important to remember that you will not know what type of interview will take place until you are sitting in the interview room. So, prepare answers to traditional interview questions.

Then, since you don't know exactly what situations you will be asked about if it's a behavioral interview, refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. You may be able to use them to help frame responses.

Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved problems or performed memorably. The stories will be useful to help you respond meaningfully in a behavioral interview. You can research the STAR interview response technique, which offers a way of answering behavioral interview questions. (More on this in a moment.)

Finally, review the job description, if you have it, or the job posting or ad. You may be able to get a sense of what skills and behavioral characteristics the employer is seeking from reading the job description and position requirements.

Tips for During the Interview

During the interview, if you are not sure how to answer the question, ask for clarification. Then use the STAR technique, being sure to include these points in your answer:

  • A specific situation

  • The tasks that needed to be done

  • The action you took

  • The results, i.e., what happened

It's important to keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers. The interviewer is simply trying to understand how you behaved in a given situation.

How you respond will determine if there is a fit between your skills and the position the company is seeking to fill. So, listen carefully, be clear and detailed when you respond, and, most importantly, be honest. If your answers are not what the interviewer is looking for, this position may not be the best job for you.

The Bottom Line


The key difference is that in a behavioral interview, you will be expected to provide an anecdote illustrating your past behavior.


Describe the situation that you were in; explain the task you had to complete; describe the action you took; close with the result of your efforts.


Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification before you answer.


Answer truthfully and don’t obsess over being “wrong.”

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