In a Behavioral Interview, the interviewer poses questions to learn how you have behaved, and predict how you might behave, under particular circumstances. These questions allow the interviewer to: gauge your interest and motivation; evaluate your decision making strategies; evaluate your work experience; assess your ability to manage your time and to plan; evaluate your leadership abilities or potential; assess your risk taking and problem solving skills; and determine your self awareness.
Dartmouth Career Services provides in-depth information on what to expect in a behavioral interview and how to prepare: Interviewing Strategies (PDF)
More on Behavioral Interviewing
(Adapted from Colorado School of Mines Career Center “Interview Preparation” Handout)
Many companies use a technique called behavioral interviewing which is premised on the notion that your past performance is the best predictor of your future performance (e.g. what did you do, tell me about a time when...). This technique has been proven to be the most effective way to evaluate a candidate since it is fact, based on past behavior, rather than a subjective judgment by an interviewer based on theoretical answers (what would you do if.). Companies seek what they call STAR answers:
- Situation, or
- Task, leading to the
- Actions taken or not taken by the applicant, and the
- Results or changes caused by these actions.
Interviewer: Give me a specific incident in which you had to address a team member problem.
Applicant: Situation/task: During my summer job, I had to provide engineering support for experienced operations personnel, but the plant foreman would not allow Operations to make a change I recommended. Action: I sat down with the foreman and sought her assistance. Result: Once we reviewed my plan and revised it to address her concerns, the plan was implemented. Companies devise their behavioral questions to address your past performance based on common dimensions needed by most employers.
Highest Ranked "Dimensions" Requested by Companies
- Practical Learning
- Analysis/Problem Assessment (defining)
- Judgment/Problem Solving (solving)
- Planning and Organizing/Work Management
- Motivational Fit
Think in advance of anecdotes or stories that demonstrate your strengths as exhibited in past behaviors in each dimension. Use the questions below to prepare. Sometimes you may not have an example or behavior which addresses a company's specific question. If that happens, keep cool, smile, and ask if you could comeback to that question or just take a few moments to think about the question. Chances are the interviewer will have several ways of approaching that dimension and will just move on. But don't be surprised if you feel stressed by behavior-based questions; good preparation will help you feel more confident.
(listed by corresponding "dimension" each question is designed to measure)
- What difficulties have you encountered in trying to communicate technical information?
- Tell me about a time when you were most persuasive in overcoming resistance to your point of view.
- Give me an example of an argument, which you lost, and what you did about it.
- Describe a course in which you felt challenged.
- How did you do, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Describe a time when you had difficulty learning something complex.
- Tell me about a time when you were able to treat a negative experience as a learning opportunity?
- Give me an example of a time when you first resisted a change at work and then accepted it.
- Have you ever recognized a problem before your boss or others in your department/team?
- Describe the most difficult trouble-shooting challenge you have had.
- Describe the biggest problems you have faced in the recent past.
- What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
- What kinds of decisions do you tend to make rapidly, and which ones do you take more time on? Give some examples.
- Tell me about a decision you have made which was the wrong one, and what you did about it.
- Give an example of a time when you used logic to solve a very difficult problem. What decision have you had to think about the longest before deciding what to do? Why was it difficult?
- What were the alternatives? Was it a good decision in the end?
- Have you held leadership roles in extracurricular activities? How did you lead? Give an example.
- Describe a situation in which you had to influence another student or peer to cooperate with you. What did you say?
- Describe a situation where you were able to help out a peer or team member.
- Which bosses have you worked most effectively for? Why? Which bosses have been the hardest to work for?
- Describe an incident where you had a clash or disagreement with someone in your work/school.
- Give me an example of a time when you were able to work effectively with a person from a cultural background that was very different from yours.
- Have you ever been in a group with an uncooperative or unproductive person? How did you handle the situation?
- Describe the last time you were criticized by your instructor or boss. What was the situation? How did you handle it? How do you get along now?
- What do you do when someone else takes credit for your idea?
- Give an example of ways you have found to make your work easier.
- Can you think of a situation you had to handle in which old solutions didn't work?
- Describe a situation where you were able to make a difference... where something was accomplished that would not have been if you weren't there.
- Give an example of doing more than is required in your current classes.
- Tell me about your most innovative project or assignment. What did you do that was resourceful? How did it turn out?
- Tell me about a project you initiated.
Planning and Organizing/Work Management
- Tell me about a time when your course load was heaviest. How did you get all your work done?
- If you are balancing a part-time job with full-time school, how do you prioritize your activities?
- We have all had occasions when we were working on something that just "slipped through the cracks." Can you give me an example of when this happened to you? Cause? Results?
- Describe how you've gone about learning a new technical skill.
- What information is available for your career search and how have you used it?
- What are your standards of success in your school?
- What have you done to meet these standards?
- What conditions are most frustrating to you?
- Have you ever worked on a project you didn't enjoy?
- Describe the last goal you set for yourself that you feel particularly proud of. What happened?