All interviews can be daunting, whether they’re case interviews, technical interviews, or behavioral ones. But while the others require more industry knowledge and preparation, behavioral interviews can be surprisingly easy to prepare for, if done so properly. The following 5 steps should provide you with an effective framework to structure your behavioral interview preparation and set you up for success.
Do Your Research
When walking into a behavioral interview, often the best thing you can be is prepared. You should have a firm understanding of both the company as a whole and the role you’re applying for within it. Information sessions are often one of the best ways to get this information and ask relevant questions, so keep an eye on the “Events” tab in Handshake throughout the recruiting process to see if any companies you’re interested in will be visiting Grounds. If the company isn’t holding an information session, LinkedIn can be a great resource for finding UVA alumni that work at the company, perhaps in the particular role you’re applying for, and reaching out to ask for an informational interview. Taking a quick inventory of the company's website, Glassdoor page, or LinkedIn homepage can also be a great way to get a feel for who the company is and what they do. Finally, be sure to familiarize yourself with the job description, so that you can speak to your strengths for the particular job opening and easily articulate why you’re interested in the role. Oftentimes, the recruiter’s name and email will be featured on the Handshake job listing, so you can reach out and ask clarifying questions about the specifics of the role. At the end of your research process, you should be able to easily and confidently answer the questions, “What attracts you to X company?” and “Why are you interested in X role?”
Nail Down Your Narrative
In addition to being able to talk about the company and the particular job, you should also have a firm grasp of your narrative — who you are, why your past experiences are relevant, and what you hope to achieve post-graduation. The easiest way to do this is often to take a look at your resume and see how you have progressed throughout your undergraduate career. Ask yourself about what you learned in each role, both technically and in terms of what you want from a job. Being able to weave together a story about how your past experiences have shaped your ambitions for the future, and how you can achieve these new goals at the company you’re applying for, is a huge piece of being successful in a behavioral interview.
Know the Questions That Are Coming
While no two behavioral interviews are ever exactly the same, there are some commonly asked questions that you should prepare for in advance. These interview questions come up in interviews again and again, so practicing them and having solid answers ready-to-go will serve you well throughout the recruitment process.
Some questions to anticipate:
- “Could you walk me through your resume?”
- “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”
- “Tell me about a time when… you failed/you worked with a team/you solved a complex problem/etc.”
- “Tell me about yourself.”
If the answers to these questions aren’t coming to you immediately, check out this article with more questions, and explanations of how you can approach crafting an answer to each one.
Remember the STAR Method
When answering any behavioral question, it’s best to filter your answer through the STAR Method. This approach to answering questions requires you to begin by first describing the situation you were in, the task you were presented with, the action you took, and the result that you achieved. This framework can take what would have otherwise been a standard and unfounded answer into something that makes you memorable and helps you stand out from other applicants. Learn more about the STAR Method and how you can use it.
Have Your Own Questions Ready
Inevitably, most interviews conclude with the interviewer asking if you have any questions for them. This is your chance to ask intelligent questions, prove that you’ve done your research, and to learn more about the nuances of the role you’re most interested in. If you’re particularly adverse or keen to travel, ask about the amount of travel required for the job. If you want a job that doesn’t dominate your schedule, ask about work-life balance. If you want to work at a place where people are particularly laid-back or professional, then ask about company culture. There’s no strict list of “right” and “wrong” questions to ask, but make sure that the questions you’re asking aren’t generic enough that they could easily be answered by a quick Google search. Also, be sure to ask about things that you’re actually interested in — this as an opportunity to take on the role of an interviewer and decide whether this is the right job for you.
Now, let’s imagine that it’s interview day — you’re sitting in the student waiting area on the 4th floor of Scott Stadium, your palms are sweaty, and you’re taking one last glance at the job description. Before you walk into your interview, take a moment to take a deep breath. Do some power posing if you need to. The interviewer already knows that you’re a qualified candidate — you’ve already made it past the hurdle of sending in a resume and cover letter. So, just go in there, be confident, be honest, and be yourself!