What Every Candidate Should Know About Behavioral Interviews

by Matt Kirkman

Behavioural Interview

Whenever you’re invited for an interview, you’re always advised to prepare. But with employers using different types of interviews, the right kind of preparation is essential if you want your meeting to go well. One form of interview that is very popular with hiring managers who want to assess candidates from a broad range of backgrounds is the Behavioral Interview. It’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare for this type of interview if you want to perform well.

What is a Behavioral Interview

As its name suggests, the Behavioral Interview is designed to examine the behavior of a candidate in certain job-based situations, to see if they demonstrate the necessary abilities for the job opening. Also referred to as Competency-Based Interviews, these allow the employer to examine whether or not a candidate has the relevant competencies to do the job, and to what degree they’ve demonstrated these competencies in their previous experience. By using a Behavioral Interview to examine each individual’s competencies instead of simply considering their previous experience, employers are able to assess candidates from completely different backgrounds for the same position.

Competencies tend to vary depending on the type of role being recruited, and simply demonstrating a particular set of competencies doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be offered the job. Employers also want to understand the level you have attained for each individual competency too. In this type of interview candidates are typically assessed on a scale of 1 to 5 for each of the different competencies the interviewer is looking for, with the different levels looking something like this:

  1. Basic understanding
  2. Limited experience
  3. Practical application with some guidance
  4. Advanced application under own initiative
  5. Expert, with the ability to develop the competency in others

Of course, scoring a candidate for a particular competency might not possible if they failed to demonstrate it in any way, and they would be marked as zero or not applicable.

Tips for Behavioral Interviews

If you’ve been called in for a Behavioral Interview, one of the first things you need to do in order to prepare effectively is to try and find out which competencies the employer is going to be assessing. Most companies will have a detailed job description which they will make available to candidates. This job description should outline the competencies required and the level to which they should be demonstrated. If you are unable to find out this information, the responsibilities section of the job description should give you a good idea of the competencies required, at least enough for you to prepare effectively.

Once you have identified the particular behavior that the interviewer is going to be looking for, it’s time to look back at your recent work experience. Identify specific situations that you’ll be able to talk through in the meeting which demonstrate the required competency to the highest possible level in answer to the questions the interviewer is likely to ask.

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Practical experience that will demonstrate the necessary behavior to the interviewer is one thing, being able to clearly and concisely outline the relevant situation and your actions is another. The simplest and most effective way of answering Behavioral Interview questions is to use the STAR model, which stands for:

  • Situation - provide the interviewer with some basic background
  • Task - what was the particular goal that you were hoping to achieve
  • Action - what specific steps did you take to try and achieve that goal
  • Result - what was the outcome of the action you took

Using the STAR model gives you the best opportunity to talk about your experience in a way that will demonstrate the behavior the interviewer is looking for, as well as your thought process and reasons for deciding on the particular course of action you took.

Performing well in a Behavioral Interview comes down to providing clear examples that demonstrate the appropriate proficiency in the competencies the employer is looking for. Understanding which competencies the role requires, what level of proficiency the interviewer is looking for, and which examples from your experience provide the best evidence that you possess the necessary competency to the required level, is the best preparation for this type of interview.

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