Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Tips to Ace a Behavioral Interview

This blog post was written by Peer Career Ambassador, Shreya Shah ‘20.

Interview Season is here! As you start preparing, I want to provide you with some guidance on how to ace behavioral interviews that has helped me in the past. These are some tips and tricks on behavioral interviews for most industries.

1) Research the company
If you applied to a specific company and have been selected to interview for them, more likely than not, you have some familiarity with what the company does. However, this is not enough for understanding a company in time for a behavioral interview. You need to conduct additional research by looking around the company website, watching YouTube videos or checking out social media posts made by the company, searching for updates on any current news regarding the company, and check reviews on Glassdoor to read about the culture from current employees. Some companies specialize in a niche product or service. In this case, understanding the value proposition, usage, and types of product/services offered is important. You will most likely be asked a question regarding what you know about the company’s products (i.e. Bloomberg Terminal function for Bloomberg L.P. and Clouds Provided by Salesforce and their function for Salesforce.com).

2) Annotate the job description and your resume
To get a better picture of the job functions and the specific skills required to perform them, you should print out the job description for the position you are interviewing for, along with your resume. You can start by reading the job description thoroughly and highlighting any acronyms or areas you are unsure about. You can then research what those mean or list out questions specific to your position which you can bring up during the interview.

You should also understand the skills required for your position. You can annotate and read through your resume to see which skills for this job you may have gained through a previous experience. Annotating your resume is also important because interviewers often ask specific questions regarding your past experience(s).

3) List out your skills, competencies, and *smart weaknesses*
It is critical to list out your personal skills and highlight those that match up with the skills requested by the position you are applying for. I would also connect these skills with experience or short anecdotes on when you utilized each specific skill.

Furthermore, you can make a list of areas you want to develop or jot down “smart weaknesses.” Whenever a job interviewer asks for your greatest weakness, you should avoid saying anything that goes against the qualities of the candidate they are looking for. For example, if you are applying to a marketing position which involves blogging, I would avoid saying that your weakness is “writing.” Instead, I would list general “smart weaknesses” which included previous weaknesses which you have gradually improved upon, highlighted with examples. Phrases like “improving how I delegate tasks as a leader” or “learning how to say no” are also strong responses, if applicable, because they suggest a positive quality of taking on responsibility.

4) Jot down these typical behavioral interview question and take notes on how you would answer them (STAR methodology is effective)
Some typical questions asked in behavioral interviews are…
● Tell me a time you ran into an obstacle or challenge. How did you deal with this situation?
● If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be and why?
● What make you a perfect candidate for _____ position and why?
● Tell me a time you led a group. What are the qualities of a good leader?
● Tell me a time you worked on a team. What did you learn from this experience?
● Talk about a time you ran into a disagreement or differences? How did you deal with this situation?
● Talk about a time you had to change your course of action. How did you feel and why?
● Do you have any experience balancing several projects or tasks with tight deadlines?
● What do you think is your greatest weakness and why?

The list of questions are endless, but the ones included above are those typically asked in behavioral interview rounds. You might get some occasional questions that relate more specifically to your past experience or your potential job. I would recommend the STAR methodology as you think of answers to these questions. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This will help you break down your question by allowing you to discuss specific examples where you were required to perform different functions. You can then discuss what you did in this situation and the end result or final product of your personal efforts.

5) Think about questions to ask the interviewers
Hiring managers and interviewers want to know how curious you are and asking them questions allows you to know if the position is right for you! Do not just force yourself to ask a question if you can’t think of something. Go with your gut and ask about something that was brought up in the conversation or anything you have always wanted to know about the company or team. These questions should not be personal and should rather showcase your enthusiasm.
Some typical questions you can ask at the end of your interview are…
● What is your favorite thing about working on ___ team?
● What does your day-to-day look like?
● What is the best part about working for ____(company)?
● I have read about the company culture and found out ____. However, I wanted to hear more about how you feel as a current employee? How would you describe the company culture?
● What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your role?
● Are there opportunities for professional development outside your role?
● What are your favorite qualities in an intern?

You do not need to ask these questions, but these may answer any concerns you may have with the job opportunity. Of course, you should feel free to tweak around the questions to match up to your conversation or ask any new questions you may have. This list is just a starting point of several general questions you can ask at the end of your interview.

I hope these tips and tricks will be useful for your interview process preparation. Good luck and keep practicing!