Behavioral Interviewing

As companies seek to identify employees that are the best fit for their organizations, they are investing more time and energy into building a challenging and predictive model of interviewing. Behavioral interviewing is such a model. A behavioral interview follows the premise that past behaviors will predict future behaviors. The interviewer is often comparing your answers to a set of expected outcomes and answers, which makes the interview situation more objective.

How to Tell Your Story

When answering behavioral questions, you must provide specific examples that backup what you are claiming about yourself. If you are asked about your leadership skills, you will need to provide a specific example showcasing your leadership and be able to provide details of what you did and what resulted from your leadership effort. Listed below is a breakdown of how to tell a story using the “Situation,” “Behavior” and “Outcome” format for answering interview questions.  Follow this format to best formulate an answer that provides the employer with enough information to assess your skills.


Begin by introducing the situation or scenario of the story to the employer
“During my Design class, I was assigned to complete a specific section of the final project.”
Behavior Provide specific examples of what you did in the story to lead to the final result; be sure to highlight your specific actions
“To complete XYZ task, I delegated tasks, coordinated schedules and collected resources.”
Outcome End the story by explaining what resulted from your efforts or what the outcome was of the story
“As a result of our hard work, we placed 1st in the class and earned a letter grade of an A+.”

Behavioral Interview Questions

The behavior-based interview questions are formatted in statements that typically start with “describe a circumstance when,” “tell me about a time when” or “think about an instance in which”.  The questions can focus on areas such as leadership, decision-making, problem solving, analysis skills, adaptability, communication skills, and more.  The following is a short list of sample behavioral interview questions:

  • Describe a project or goals that caused you frustration.
  • Describe a scenario in which you took initiative rather than waiting to be told what to do.
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a situation where your professional/technical expertise made a significant difference.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  • Tell me about a goal you set and how you accomplished it.
  • Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed.
  • Tell me about a time you helped resolve conflict in a team.
  • Tell me about a time you were a leader of a group.
  • Tell me about a time you were forced to make an unpopular decision.

For additional behavioral interview questions, please review the resource section.

Brainstorm and identify examples from your past based on the various sample questions you could face during an interview.  Summarize these stories into a chart or use a more narrative format. See below for a list of topics from which to come up with examples:

  • Adaptability
  • Analysis Skills
  • Communication
  • Initiative
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Leadership
  • People Skills/Relationships
  • Problem-Solving
  • Time of Failure

Recommended Resources

Web Resources and Articles


  • The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-Based Interview Style, by Linda Matias
  • Interview Magic: Job Interview Secrets from America’s Career and Life Coach, by Susan Britton Whitcomb
  • Competency-Based Interviews: Master the Tough New Interview Style And Give Them the Answers That Will Win You the Job, by Robin Kessler
  • The Five-Minute Interview, by Richard H. Beatty
  • Mastering the Job Interview: Your Guide to Successful Business Interviews, by Alexander Chernev

If you have not reviewed the Question and sample Answer section, please review the tips for preparing for an interview.