What is Behavioral Interviewing? [Interviewing]

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is a popular approach to screening job candidates. It is based on a philosophy that assessing a candidate’s past behavior and experiences is a reliable indicator of his/her response to identical situations in the future.

Traditional Interviewing v/s Behavioral Interviewing

Screening candidates gives interviewers a glimpse into an applicant’s characteristics, skills, and experiences to determine their fit for a position. Unlike a traditional interview, which poses hypothetical questions, in behavioral interviews interviewers ask questions intended to elicit concrete examples that reveal whether the candidate demonstrated particular behaviors or skills in the past.

For example, instead of asking a candidate, “How will you deal with a team member who was not pulling his weight on a project?” as in a traditional interview, an interviewer using the behavioral interviewing technique may ask, “Describe a project where one of your teammates was not pulling his weight. What did you do? Did he change?”

Behavioral Interviewing Process

Typically, prior to the interview, an interviewer identifies a set of behavioral traits and characteristics he/she believes is essential for success on a particular assignment. He/she then selects a series of questions structured as follows:

  • Describe a time when you had to …. What did you do?
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to …?
  • Tell me about a situation in the past …

An interviewer may question the candidate’s responses and probe further:

  • What was the outcome?
  • Did you consider …?
  • How did the other person react?

Quite often, an interviewer structures questions such that a candidate cannot note the particular personality trait the interviewer seeks. Instead of allowing the candidate to theorize or generalize about events, the interviewer expects three details of each experience: (1) what was the situation, (2) how did the candidate deal with the situation, and, (3) was what the outcome.

The 'STAR' Technique to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Describe a situation when your team members disagreed with your ideas or proposal on a project. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem before anybody else on your team. What was the nature of the problem? How did you handle it? Did you ask for help?
  • What has been your most creative solution to a problem?
  • Give an example of when you had difficulty getting along with a team member. What made this person difficult to work with? How did you deal with the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you have had to reject a customer’s request. What reasons did you give? How did you communicate?
  • What was a constructive criticism you received recently? How did you respond to it? Did your relationship with this person change?

For more questions, see my compilation of job interview questions.

For more on how to impress an interviewer by discussing your credentials and accomplishments in terms of personal success stories, see my article on the STAR technique.


  1. Jillian Jackson says

    What if you haven’t experienced the situtation in question? Need to know how to handle this!

  2. Mark Espel says

    I would like to know the answer to Jill’s question.”What if you haven’t experienced the situation in question? Need to know how to habdle this!”

  3. Rick Britt says

    What if you haven’t experienced the situtation in question? Need to know how to handle this!

  4. TyIer E says


    It seems to be me that you want to do the best you can to minimize the risk of staring them blankly in the face and saying “I don’t know how to answer that question” or “I can’t think of anything right now, sorry” (although it wouldn’t be the end of the world if this happened.) Some tips that I would recommend would be:
    1) Practice a lot of Behavioral Interview Questions so that you have a large bank of anecdotes fresh in your mind, so that there will be a lot of questions for which you have already thought of an answer and a lot of different memories to choose from when you’re trying to think back.
    2) Think about how the question can apply, even in a small or related way. Ex. “I can’t think of any situations where I have team members disagree with me, but there was a situation where a teacher of mine disagreed with…” or “There wasn’t just one time when this occurred, but I would always have to reject the request to ride the roller coaster twice in a row when I worked at the state fair and …”
    3) If you can’t answer the question they were asking for, try your best to give them what they want. Ex. “I actually have not received a lot of constructive criticism recently, but I have always been a firm believer of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again,’ and so I think that I would be able to handle constructive criticism in a very positive way,” or “I can’t recall any situations where I discovered a problem before anyone else on my team, but in general, I always try to tackle a projects in a very organized and coordinated way, making sure everyone involved meets on a regular basis to communicate any situations that might arise.”

    Hope that helps! Good luck out there!

  5. Lupe Sanchez says

    I just had my first behavioral interview. It was nerve wrecking. I got stuck with a question like this ” Tell us about a situation in the work place where you agreed to disagreed”. My mind went blank. I could not think of anything. I responded with an answer that now that I think about it does not make sense. I went on to say that the staff requested the CEO for staff meetings and he said no and everyone was find with his answer. The panel interviewing me would immediately write down something on their note pads. How much weight does this carry in the hiring process since I have the experience?

  6. margaret smith says

    We alway try to think of the “homerun” answer when they can be simple. If you can’t think of anything at all! Make it up and dont deviate. oh ya and practice, practice, practice

  7. sarita allen says

    I have not been on a STAR interview and I’m a bus operator and nervous about the questions that the interviewer will ask and I would like to answer the questions with no problem. Can you give me some advice?

  8. Robin Nordstrom says

    If you have worked customer service either on the telephone or in person, you have had this situation happen! It does not matter what the issue was, you had to have handled it one way or another, just keep this in the forefront when you are interviewing. Try to remember the When, Where, Why and What! When and where it happened, why would be the reason and the whay is the the solution you gave them.

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