Behavioral interviewing is an interview format that focuses on learning about a candidate’s past experience and how it relates to the vacancy. - IMAGE: Pixabay

Behavioral interviewing is an interview format that focuses on learning about a candidate’s past experience and how it relates to the vacancy.

IMAGE: Pixabay

Worried about preparing for your next interview? Are you stressing how to formulate the perfect response to questions like, “What mythical animal best describes you and why?” Or maybe outlining the next five years of your career plan, knowing that it’s pure fiction, because you really have no idea what you’ll be doing in the next six months — you are looking for a job after all. 

What if I told you that traditional interviews were being replaced in favor of a different format — one that works in your favor and takes most of the stress out of preparing for the interview?

What is Behavioral Interviewing and How is it Different From a Traditional Interview?

Behavioral interviewing is an interview format that focuses on learning about a candidate’s past experience and how it relates to the vacancy. Unlike traditional interview that focus on asking questions about your work history along with theoretical questions that present a scenario or problem to solve, behavioral interview questions are structured by asking candidates to give specific examples of these experiences: what happened, what you did about it, and what was the outcome. It’s what you did compared to what would you do. 

Research into learning patterns has shown that we will repeat an action or pattern of behavior if it has worked for us in the past. So, if you approached a situation in a certain way and were satisfied with the result, chances are that you will do the same thing again if presented with a similar situation. The best predictor of future performance is past performance.

As the candidate, this is good news. Behavioral interviewing will set you free — free from worrying whether you answered a question correctly and free from endless hours of trying to think of every possible theoretical question that an interviewer might ask. Every behavioral interview asks for an example of something that you did. There is no right or wrong answer, only your answer. 

There are inventories of hundreds of behavioral interview questions out there, but there are some key categories that are asked in most, if not all, interviews. And they are all answered the same way: CARE.

What is CARE?

CARE is the acronym interviewers use to remember what information to capture when we are noting the answer to an interview question. We need all four elements to know that we have complete evidence of a behavioral competency in the interview.

Context: What was the background or situation? Set the scene. Where were you working, and what was the role and organization? This can be personal or professional, and interviewers are typically open to hearing examples from school, internships, or personal experience from more junior candidates. 

Action: What did you do or think in response to the situation? Explain the sequence of events. This is the bulk of the response and can be an explanation of what happened next or what action you took in response to the context.

Role: What was your specific responsibility in terms of the action taken? Highlight your role in the solution. While we all work with other people, they are not the ones interviewing for this job, you are. Make sure your response clearly articulates what you were responsible for doing.

Effect: What was the result or outcome of the action that you took? Conclude your answer with a summary of what happened. Try to pick an example that had a positive outcome - something that you’re proud of. 

Common Behavioral Interview Questions

While the specific questions asked may vary somewhat, most interviews will cover the following broad categories of behavioral questions, plus one or two competencies that are specific to the job.

1. Working style: The interviewer wants to understand how you prefer to work, and if they can replicate that at their organization.

2. Solving a problem: The interviewer is trying to determine how you approach problem solving and if that will fit in with how they work at this company.

3. Resolving conflict: The interviewer is trying to discern how you respond to interpersonal issues and if it aligns with their values.

4. Overcoming adversity: The interviewer is trying to determine if you share a common understanding of adversity and what is expected to overcome it.

Your Questions

As the final portion of the interview, your interviewer will most likely ask if you have any questions for them. This is your chance to find out if this job and this organization will be a good fit for you. Ask questions about what they feel is needed to be successful in the job, how work is done, and decisions are made, and how careers are developed. Decide what’s important to you and frame the questions accordingly. 

Here are some great questions that we’ve been asked by candidates. 

  • What has been your experience with the company? How have development opportunities been presented to you?
  • How would you describe the leadership style here?
  • What do you think will be the greatest challenge in this job in the first six months?
  • How much will I be expected to work autonomously or as part of a team?

Jen L’Estrange, the founder and managing director of Red Clover, an outsource HR firm, is fanatical about helping companies clearly define their people strategies and achieve their change goals.