The Past is the New Present: Preparing for a Behavioral-Based Interview

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The Past is the New Present: Preparing for a Behavioral-Based Interview

What exactly is behavioral-based interviewing?

Behavioral-based interviewing is a style of interviewing that many companies and organizations use in the hiring process. The basic premise behind behavioral interviewing is this: The most accurate predictor of future performance is past behavior in a similar situation.

It provides a more objective set of facts upon which to make employment decisions than other interviewing methods provide. Traditional interviewing may ask you to respond to general statements, such as “Tell me about yourself.” Behavioral interviewing poses much more probing questions and thus works very differently.

The “STAR” Technique: a good approach to responding to behavioral-based questions.


(Describe the situation.) or


(What needed to be done?) Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past.


(What did you do?) Describe the action that you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did—not the efforts of the team. Don\’t tell what you might have done; tell what you actually did.


(What happened?) How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?


A few pointers:

  • During the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed. Tell about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Tell briefly about the situation, the task at hand, the specific action that you took, and the positive result or outcome (STAR).
  • Always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure that you answer the question completely.
  • Your interview preparation should include identifying examples of situations in which you have demonstrated the behaviors desired by a given company/organization/agency.
  • Prepare success stories. The stories should represent your skills, qualities, and characteristics. Always give examples of your strengths and successes.

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