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3 Steps to a Successful Behavioral Job Interview

You've finally gotten through the bot-driven selection process and gotten a call for a job interview. The company wants you to come in for a one-hour interview in 5 days. They tell you the interview is a behavioral interview and that you don't need to prepare anything in advance. The recruiter confirms the time and date and location of the interview, and then the call is over.

Now what?

What is a behavioral interview?

Before we dive into the three approaches, let's define a behavioral interview. In this type of interview, the interviewer or interviewers ask about how you've handled something in the past or how you think you might handle a fictitious situation they share with you. Questions are usually open-ended and begin with statements like, "Tell me about a time when..." or "Share an example of...".

What are they looking for in a behavioral interview?

First, they are looking for you to present yourself authentically and truthfully. I coach clients all the time that the only wrong answer in an interview is one that is untruthful. Be yourself. The interviewer(s) are trying to figure out if you're a good fit for their organization.

Likewise, you're trying to find out if the organization is a good fit for you. Nearly all behavioral interviews will include a time when you can ask questionsof the company or organization. Use that time wisely!

Most importantly, a company you would like to work for is not attempting to trick you or trip you up in an interview. If you feel like you're being tricked or anything else feels off, then listen to your intuition if you're able and keep looking for another organization.

How do I prepare for a behavioral interview?

You are preparing for your next behavioral interview with every project you lead, every action you do, and every result you can measure in your work. The key to this is capturing those, organizing them into a framework for this specific job, and then delivering that framework in the interview.

Step 1: Capture your Achievements

Behavioral interviews are a time for you to concisely tell the stories of your work. It is a time to brag (albeit appropriately humbly). To do these things, you must know what your achievements are.

There are four well documented methods for gathering these stories - all of them focus on three things:

  1. Telling the story of the problem, challenge, opportunity, etc. (be concise!)

  2. Explaining the actions you took

  3. Presenting the results of your actions

You can find more about these methods under the acronyms using a Google Search:

  • PAR: Problem, Action(s), Result(s)

  • SOAR: Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results

  • CAR: Challenge, Action(s), Result(s)

  • STAR: Situation, Task(s), Actions(s), Results(s)

TIP!: Check back here next week for a free download you can access to capture these items for the future. That document will also be a part of my Facts of Life Book Course ( along with more than 40 other downloadable files to help you keep track of all of life's most important information.

Until my free download is ready, you can start by brainstorming a list of the problems, situations, obstacles, and challenges you've faced in your life. The vast majority of these should be work related, but it's also appropriate to talk about education, volunteer work, and other meaningful experiences in your life.

Once you've got that list, let's frame up the story you want to tell in this interview just a bit.

Step 2: Develop Your Story

When you walk into a job interview, you want to have three to five talking points, framed in the format above - story, actions, results - that you WILL use the questions you are asked to tell. How do you do this?

Inevitably, you'll be asked at least one of the following - and probably than one:

  1. Tell us about a time you had to solve a difficult problem at work?

  2. Tell us about a challenging situation with a previous supervisor. How did you handle the situation?

  3. How do you handle stressful situations/competing priorities at work?

  4. Tell us about a mistake you made and how you handled it?

  5. What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

As you prepare for the interview, think about how the items from your story, actions, results list could be used to address each of those questions. Practice that answer until it feels comfortable for you.

What talking points do you focus on? Review the job description, the company profile and any other research you can do in advance of the interview. From that research, develop a picture of whom you would hire for this job. What characteristics do they have? What are they like? Look for your stories that fit into those characteristics and focus on delivering those in your interview.

Step 3: Deliver

You've gathered your stories, actions, and results. You've framed your talking points. Now what?

Now it's time to deliver in the interview.

From my experience, nothing beats doing practice interviewing with a coach. If that's not an option for you at this time, try looking up behavioral interview questions on the Internet and ask a friend you trust to give you honest feedback to conduct a couple of practice sessions with you. Use time to practice in the mirror AND on your cell phone camera. Watching a recording may be uncomfortable, but I've picked up on some of my own nervous ticks using that tool.

Finally, if you have the opportunity in the interview to summarize your interest in the position, have a one to two minute summary ready to go. This question should summarize your talking points and should help the interviewer(s) recall your stories and leave them with a positive impression.


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🦋 Are you ready to take your career to the next level? If so, it might be the perfect time for you to work with an executive coach. Schedule a free, no-obligation session to see if working with me as a coach could benefit you. Many organizations will pay for executive coaches as well, so your employer might invest in you to take this next step.


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