How to Ace a Behavioral Interview

You’ve been prepping answers to tough questions and doing a lot of company research before your big interview next week. But, you just can’t seem to shake the feeling that this interview might be more of the “behavioral” variety – and that makes you nervous.

Having responses ready for commonly asked questions and knowing which questions you want to ask the employer are important success factors for any interview. But what about those questions like, “Describe how you’d handle…” or, “What would you do if…”?

Here’s how to handle those tough behavioral questions: Just think STAR

Share a Situation.

The situation doesn’t always have to be something that occurred in a previous position – it can be from any relevant scenario in your life.

Tips for this portion of your STAR response:

  • Choose something real – not hypothetical
  • Keep your situation relevant and if possible, recent
  • Be specific – stay away from generalized descriptions 
  • Give detail so that the interviewer can visualize the scenario

Identify the Target.

As you are describing the situation to the interviewer, be sure to clarify the goal you were trying to achieve. It is essential that you state a specific objective so that the end result can be easily linked to the “target” part of your response. For example, “My goal was to grow consumer engagement on Twitter by 50% from the start of Q1 to the end of Q2.”

Describe the Action That You Took.

Portray what you did to hit your target in that situation. This is also the best time to explain:

  • Why you chose a specific action or process
  • Alternative courses of action you could have taken

The interviewer will be looking for skills like your ability to reason and problem-solve to come up with an optimal solution.

Frame the End Result.

Share the outcome of your actions and tie them back to the target you identified earlier. What if you didn’t achieve your goal? That’s okay! This part of the STAR interview is meant to showcase not only what you’ve accomplished but also what you’ve learned in a given situation. You can even use what you’ve learned to share how you might do things differently the next time around.

If this all sounds too simple, that’s because it is! Using this approach will highlight how you’ve handled past situations and allow you to give thoughtful, thorough, and precise responses (without babbling!). If you have the experience needed for the role, your explanations will help land you the job.

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