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Behavioral Interview Preparation

“Tell me about a time when you were on a team, and one of the members wasn’t carrying his or her weight.” If this is one of the leading questions in your interview, you could be in for a behavioral interview. Based on the premise that the best way to predict future performance is by past behavior, this style of interviewing is common.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Review the job description for which you are interviewing, and take note of the skills/qualifications required. It’s likely that the interviewer will ask you questions based on those “competencies.” For example leadership, problem-solving, or teamwork. Think about examples of situations where you have demonstrated those “competencies” and be prepared to discuss them in detail. Utilize the P.A.R. Approach (Chapter 3 of the Career & Internship Guide) to prepare short stories for each situation; be ready to provide additional details if asked.

  • Recall situations from your coursework and work experience that show favorable traits such as leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning and customer services.
  • Be sure that the outcome reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
  • Be honest. Don’t embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
  • Be specific. Don’t generalize about several situations; give a detailed account of one situation. Prepare examples of situations involving skill clusters such as leadership, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, customer service, coping with stress, and organization/planning.

Behavioral Interview Sample Question/Response

To the question of “Tell me about a time when you were on a team and a member wasn’t pulling his or her weight.”

“I had been assigned to a team to build a canoe out of concrete. One of our team members wasn’t showing up for our lab sessions or doing his assignments. I finally met with him in private, explained the frustration of the rest of the team, and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He told me he was preoccupied with another class that he wasn’t passing, so I found someone to help him. He not only was able to spend more time on our project, but he was grateful to me for helping him. We finished our project on time and got a ‘B+.’”

The interviewer might follow-up with: “How did you feel when you confronted this person?”; “What was your role?”; “At what point did you take it upon yourself to confront him?” You can see it is important that you do not makeup or “shade” information and why you should have a clear memory of the event.