Encountering Behavior-Based Interview Questions

More and more employers are conducting a different type of interview than they did five or 10 years ago. Known as “behavior-based interviews,” these interviews are filled with behavior-based questions designed to elicit patterns of accomplishments relevant to the employer’s situation. They are specific and challenge interviewees to provide concrete examples of their achievements in different types of situations. Such interviews are based on the simple belief that how a job candidate has responded to certain types of situations in the past is a good predictor of how that person will behave in a similar future situation. Behavior-based questions are likely to begin with some variation of:

  • Give me an example of a time when you . . .
  • Give me an example of how you . . .
  • Tell me about how you . . .

This is an opportunity for you to sell your positives with an example or two. Briefly describe the situation, enthusiastically explain what you did (adding information as to why if you think this would not be evident), and indicate the outcome.

Obviously you want to select examples that promote your skills and have a positive outcome. Even if the interviewer asks about a time when something negative happened, try to select an example where you were able to turn the situation around and something positive came out of it. For example, if asked, “Tell me about a time you made a bad decision.” Try to identify an example where:

  • Even though it wasn’t the best decision, you were able to pull something positive out of the situation.
  • Although it was a poor decision, you learned from it and in the next similar situation you made a good decision or know how you will handle it differently the next time a similar situation arises.
  • It was bad decision but the negative outcome had only minor impact.

In other words, try to pull something positive — either that you did or that you learned — out of even a negative experience you are asked to relate. As you prepare for your interview, consider situations where you:

  • Demonstrated leadership
  • Solved a problem
  • Increased company profits
  • Made a good decision/made a poor decision
  • Handled change (not money, but changing events)
  • Handled criticism
  • Met a deadline/missed a deadline
  • Worked as part of a team

Add to this list other behavioral questions you think of that apply to the job for which you are applying. For example, if the job includes making presentations, expect questions about a speech where you achieved your goal or conversely about a time when your speech failed.

More Interview Articles

Check out our Behavior Based Interview section with more information on how to answer these questions.
Take a look at Common Interview Questions that follow the Behavior-Based model.
Appearance tips and advice – How to dress for an interview.
How about the toughest Interview Question of all: What salary are you looking for?
Read more tips on how to write a Military Resume.

Excerpt from From Army Green to Corporate Gray
by Carl S. Savino, Major USAR and Ron Krannich, PhD
© 1999 Impact Publications


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Military-to-Civilian Transition Resume Service – Online Service

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Federal Government Jobs – Tips and advice on how to find a Federal Job

Prepare for the Interview

Corporate Interview – Overview on how to prepare for your corporate interview
Behavior-Based Interviews Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing
Interview Questions – Prepare for the typical corporate job interview questions
Communications – Get some advice and tips from the pros on how to communicate better

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