Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral Interviews (also called Critical Thinking Interviews) are simply questions about how you make decisions. While these types of questions can occur in any interview conversation, they are more likely to be asked when you're applying for positions that require making critical business decisions. The employer wants to understand how you think and what that means regarding the quality of your decisions—something that isn't readily evident on a resume or LinkedIn profile.

People follow a basic logical process when making decisions. When asking questions about your decision-making skills, the interviewer is looking for how you come to a final determination. Different occasions require different thought processes. The behavioral interview is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have a logical and rational thinking process and that when required, you can make bold yet not impulsive decisions. 

Applicants demonstrate sound logic and analytic skills by:

  • Using available info – Basing your thought process on the information currently at hand.
  • Analyzing – Understanding how to break complex issues into components.
  • Critical Thinking – Considering the outcomes of varying courses of action.
  • Investigating – Reviewing conclusions from different sources of data.
  • Acting – Making some decisions without complete information; don't hesitate to act and able to make sound decision patiently, but promptly.
  • Responsibility – Not putting off making a decision to avoid conflict or ‘getting it wrong.'  
  • Reflection – Demonstrating the ability to understand the "lesson learned" from previous decisions with negative results.  

Here are the types of questions that you can expect:  

  • Describe a time when you communicated something and had to go back later and revise or change your original communication.
  • Tell me about a time you had to decide between planning and acting.
  • Give me an example of how your work habits change when you don't know what exactly to do.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision and the information available was entirely inadequate.

Here is the structure to use when framing your answer using the STAR method:

  • Situation: 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. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
  • Task: What goal were you working toward?
  • Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project, but what you did. Use the word “I,” not “we” when describing actions.
  • Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy about taking credit for your behavior. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Make sure your answer contains multiple positive results.

Digital Resources:  

The Muse:  30 Behavioral Interview Questions You Should Be Able to Answer

The Muse:  The Interview Technique You Should Be Using

The Muse:  How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"

Graduate Career Services downloadable PDF:  STAR Method for Behavior Interviews